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Alonso rules in FP3

NEWS STORY
20/04/2013

Ahead of today's sole free practice session, the air temperature is 31 degrees C, while the track temperature is 37 degrees.

Felipe Massa led a Ferrari 1-2 in yesterday's opening session however, it was Kimi Raikkonen who set the pace in the afternoon, ahead of the Red Bull duo.

Indeed, based on the evidence thus far Lotus, Ferrari and Red Bull have the edge while Mercedes and McLaren are struggling. In fact, Force India appears to be running better here than the Woking outfit and its Brackley rival.

As ever, it comes down to tyres, and Mercedes admits that what with balance and the hot conditions it is on its back foot. Ironic really, as it is the rears that are causing the most problems here.

Having opted to run its hard and medium tyres here, as opposed to the original plan which was hard and soft, Pirelli clams some drivers are able to complete more than 15 laps on the harder rubber which means some drivers could opt for a two-stop strategy and the rest three.

Interestingly, Massa and Rosberg, posted their quickest times on the harder rubber, the Brazilian's just 0.333s off Raikkonen's best on the options. That said, the Iceman made two mistakes on his hot lap, therefore we know he could have gone quicker.

The lights go green and Chilton heads the queue of eager beavers with Raikkonen among the early risers.

As the cars head back to the pits after an installation lap, Massa, who is running very slowly, is told that his GPS is not working. Elsewhere, Gutierrez posts the first time of the day, the Sauber driver crossing the line at 1:42.573. Next time around the Mexican improves to 39.592.

Ten minutes into the session all but Webber have been out. With only Gutierrez, Pic and Van der Garde having posted times it is unusually quiet, much like China.

Perez tells his team that conditions are a "little worse" than yesterday, with "more dust off-line".

Going quickest in all three sectors Pic posts a 36.015 as Webber heads down the pitlane.

As Webber goes quickest in the first two sectors, Grosjean heads down the pitlane, the Frenchman seeming to have lost some of his edge this year. Webber posts 33.875.

As Hamilton leaves his garage, followed by Perez, Raikkonen posts 34.105 to go second.

As Grosjean runs wide and Hamilton goes second (34.073), Button complains of a "beep" in his ear.

Ricciardo goes fourth (35.306) ahead of Button, Pic and Van der Garde. Alonso and Vettel wait resolutely in their garages.

A 33.762 sees Grosjean go quickest as Webber goes third (33.949), watched on by former Ferrari star Rubens Barrichello.

Next time around Grosjean improves to 33.464, while Alonso, on his first flying lap, goes second (33.620). Vettel is also on track.

Di Resta goes quickest in S1, however he loses time in S2. A strong final sector sees him go fourth overall, the Scot crossing the line at 33.820.

Moments later it's teammate Sutil's turn to go quickest in S1 however, unlike the Scot he maintain his pace in S2 finally crossing the line at 33.878 to go seventh. Vettel has gone second with a 33.531.

After a cooling down lap, Vettel ups his pace, going quickest in S1. At the line it's 33.348 sending him quickest by 0.116.

Approaching half-time, Gutierrez has completed the most laps (12) but remains twenty-second, 6.244s off the pace. Though teammate Hulkenberg is currently thirteenth the Saubers are clearly struggling here. Both Toro Rossos and Williams also off the pace.

It's Vettel, Grosjean, Alonso, di Resta, Rosberg, Webber, Sutil, Massa, Raikkonen and Hamilton, with no sign of the option rubber… yet.

Gutierrez is the first driver to switch to the option rubber as teammate Hulkenberg complains that he doesn't like his brakes.

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