P3: Red Bull fastest as rain arrives

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Red Bull served notice of the threat they could pose to Mercedes in a wet British GP qualifying session after Sebastian Vettel led Daniel Ricciardo in a soggy Practice Three at Silverstone – but neither Lewis Hamilton nor Nico Rosberg set a timed lap.
Following glorious weather on the opening day of the British GP weekend on Friday, it was the kind of leaden skies which perennially dog the showpiece race weekend in Northamptonshire which arrived in increasingly large and threatening numbers on Saturday morning.
Although there were plenty of puddles around the high-speed lap for the start of final practice, the rain had actually stopped by the start of the one-hour session, although few drivers actually chose to take to the track in the opening 15 minutes. Indeed Rosberg, on an early out lap, pitted after reporting that the track conditions were in a relative no-man’s land; neither wet enough for intermediate tyres or dry enough for slicks
By mid-session the rain started falling steadily again and this actually encouraged drivers were to re-emerge and start setting some timed laps, with the opening efforts in the mid-high 1:57s – 20 seconds off Friday’s dry pace.
Having showed Mercedes-challenging pace in wet qualifying sessions at the start of the year, it was World Champions Red Bull who eventually proved fastest with Vettel posting a time of 1:52.522 to outpace team-mate Ricciardo by a tenth of a second. Incredibly it represented the first time this year that the quadruple World Champion had topped the timesheet in any race weekend or test session.Runaway championship leaders Mercedes, meanwhile, were left to prop up the timesheet although that was a wholly misleading picture given neither Rosberg and Hamilton posted a time after each aborting timed laps which, up until the final sector, had been on course to better the Red Bull benchmark.
But while Rosberg came into the pits on his own volition, and never returned thereafter with just four laps on the board, Hamilton was forced to adandon his run after outbraking himself at the end of the Hangar Straight and running through the gravel. The Briton, however, wasn’t alone in being caught out by the conditions.
More significantly, however, for Hamilton was that the rain meant he lost the chance to catch up on the long-run simulations he missed when his W05 suffered an engine problem in Practice Two. The Briton and his engineers had planned to change his usual P3 schedule to concentrate on heavier-fuel runs, but the rain meant he will now go into Sunday’s race – which is currently forecast to be dry – without that crucial first-hand experience.
While Mercedes may not welcome the likely prospect of a wet qualifying session later on Saturday given the conditions negate their large power advantage, the final P3 timesheet suggests some of 2014;s strugglers certainly will.
Lotus, who have scored just eight points all year, claimed third and fourth places with Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean respectively – despite the latter earlier spinning on the pitstraight – while Adrian Sutil took fifth for point-less Sauber.
Daniil Kvyat, who had a wild moment of his one over the slippery Astroturf at the final corner, was sixth ahead of McLaren pair Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button. Like Mercedes, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso decided not to set a timed lap.
Marussia, meanwhile, endured a session to forget as Britain’s Max Chilton’s car required a gearbox change which will trigger a gearbox change and Jules Bianchi crashed late on at Stowe.
Watch the 2014 British GP live on Sky Sports F1. Our extensive coverage of the Silverstone race weekend continues with Qualifying from midday on Saturday.

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