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Webber quickest in shortened final practice session

NEWS STORY
08/06/2013

Mat Coch writes:

Red Bull may never have won in Canada however, Mark Webber showed it should at least be somewhere on the pace come Sunday after setting the best time in final practice. It was once again rain interrupted, and a shortened session thanks to repairs to a barrier following a support race crash.

Overnight rain meant it was a blank canvas that welcomed teams back to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and though the rain had stopped by the time practice commenced the skies threatened once again.

After the opening sessions on Friday both Mercedes and Ferrari looked strong, while Force India continued its fine form with Paul di Resta setting the best time in Free Practice 1. The first session was rain affected however in the afternoon teams were able to test the development Pirelli medium compound tyres as well as performing race simulations.

Lotus too had fared well, particularly Romain Grosjean who showed no ill effects of his eventful Monaco Grand Prix, though the cooler conditions were not playing to the strengths of the Enstone squad's car.

Damage to the barrier on the exit of the old Pit hairpin meant the start of the final practice session was delayed. A crash during one of the support races had heavily damaged the barrier which needed to be cut out and replaced before Formula One cars could take to the circuit.

Rules stipulate that a minimum of two hours is required between the third practice session ending and qualifying beginning, and with a global television audience due to tune in for qualifying the decision was taken to shorten this final session. Indeed, such was the damage to the barrier the session was reduced to just thirty minutes.

When the session finally got underway the pit lane resembled the M25 as a queue of cars lined up at the pit exit; the two Caterhams stealing Esteban Gutierrez's usual position at the head of the queue.

Short on time many drivers opted to launch straight into their programmes, rather than completing a sequence of installation laps as is the norm. Perez was the early pace setter on intermediate tyres, setting a 1:17.984 before being bested by Force India's Adrian Sutil on a 1:27.882.

Just five minutes into the session a dry line began to emerge, with race control confirming DRS could be used. The Sauber duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Gutierrez, both of whom had not had a good Friday, dropped times in to the 1:25 bracket while Valtteri Bottas lowered the best time another half a second to 1:25.126.

Back in the garage Red Bull was busy examining the rear of Mark Webber's car after the Australian completed an early run with flo-vis paint all over the rear bodywork, Adrian Newey being one especially interested observer.

Conditions remained slippery despite the emergence of a dry line around much of the circuit, nobody brave enough to make the switch to dry weather tyres while Giedo van der Garde ran off the circuit at Turn 3, bouncing over the grass.

Halfway through the session only half the field had set a time, most drivers having opted for two installation laps. The problem for most was the life of their intermediate tyres given qualifying is expected to be damp, and with only limited sets many preferred to save their tyres.

Not saving his tyres was Felipe Massa, who set a 1:23.492 to set the fastest time of the session before missing his braking marker, running off the dry line and taking to the grass on the exit of Turn 1.

With twelve minutes remaining Romain Grosjean had the circuit to himself. Even still the Lotus driver missed his braking maker into the final chicane taking to the run off after appearing to lose the rear of his car. Caution proved the better part of valour for the Frenchman and showed just how difficult conditions remained, even with a dry line emerging.

Some eight drivers had opted not to set a lap time with ten minutes remaining, though all had been on track at some point during the thirty minute session, Webber having completed just the single lap.

Five minutes from the end of the session teams began to experiment with slick tyres, many opting for supersoft tyres while Perez opted for the medium compound Pirelli. Times however were well down on those set on intermediates, the dry line found on all parts of the circuit. It meant times were some three seconds down in the first sector, and another two down in the less technical second sector.

An attacking lap from Massa did manage to set the fastest time, some seven tenths faster than the best time set on intermediate tyres before improving on his next lap. Webber too was on a march as the circuit began to improve, though with just ninety seconds left on the clock, and all cars on track, there was a lot of traffic to contend with.

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