|© AP Photo/Antonio Calanni
Three crashes marked the third and final practice session for the Monaco Grand Prix on Saturday which could potentially sideline the three drivers from qualifying later in the day.
It was an unusual session, which Nico Rosberg topped as he did in the two practice runs on Thursday, that saw several drivers getting out of shape in their cars, which included the German as well after the rear end of his Mercedes slid and the left-rear tyre kissed the barrier as he exited second Portier to head into the tunnel.
Rosberg, nevertheless, posted the fastest time of 1 minute 14. 378 seconds on that lap in the disruptive outing that ran in sunny conditions. Dark clouds, however, gathered far away from the circuit located in the French Riviera suggesting that showers could be likely later in the day.
Halfway into the session, Romain Grosjean clipped the barrier at the chicane at Turn 10 with his Lotus’ left-rear wheel, puncturing the tyre. The Frenchman, who had crashed in second practice on Thursday, returned to the pits for the car to be inspected for damage.
It, however, got worse for Grosjean after he lost control as he came too fast into Turn 1, hitting the barriers and bouncing across the track, with less than two minutes remaining in the session. As a result, the red flag marked an early end to practice in which he set the second fastest time, a good six-tenths slower than Rosberg.
Some 20 minutes earlier, Felipe Massa slipped wide to the left and into the guardrail at Ste Devote, his left front wheel almost coming clean off as smoke billowed out of the back of his Ferrari, and then flew nose-first into a crash barrier. Practice was interrupted by a red flag for a few minutes as marshals worked to have the stricken car removed from the circuit.
Massa handed his steering wheel to a marshal as he climbed out of the cockpit, giving the thumbs up to show he was fortunate to walk away unharmed after the heavy crash. But his mechanics face a race against time to get the car ready for qualifying. Teammate Fernando Alonso had crashed at Massanet in 2010 during final practice and consequently missed qualifying, starting the race from the pit lane.
After a crane had lifted Massa's Ferrari off the track, practice resumed a few minutes later - but it almost immediately came to halt as Adrian Sutil lost control at Massanet. Like Grosjean's crash, it also seemed to be a driving error.
Adrian Sutil ended up in the barriers of the sinewy circuit after his Force India zigzagged across the track at the end of Beau Rivage with the German losing control of his car at Turn 3. The German was unhurt but his hopes of a good result were dented, in a season where he has faced plenty of bad luck.
“Some strange looking accidents going on out there in FP3,” former Formula 1 driver and television pundit Martin Brundle mentioned on his Twitter page.
Defending champion Sebastian Vettel encountered traffic on his hot lap in the closing stages and ended up third on the charts in his Red Bull, 0.883 seconds off the leading pace.
Alonso was fourth, ahead of Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen, with the top six covered by a full second, as Monte Carlo's razor-thin street circuit again proved hard to handle.
Raikkonen had a narrow escape in the closing stages when his rear wheels locked up and he managed to stop his Lotus just in front of the wall. He had missed his braking point and ended up in the run-off area at Mirabeau at Turn 5. The Lotus driver was directed by the marshals as the Finn selected reverse to get back on to the track.
Mark Webber was seventh, followed by Paul di Resta and Williams’ Pastor Maldonado surprised with the ninth quickest time.
Sauber driver Nico Hulkenberg rounded up the top ten ahead of the McLaren duo of Sergio Perez and Jenson Button.
With inputs from the AP report by Jerome Pugmire