|© AP Photo/Frank Augstein
For the second straight session, Nico Rosberg emerged as the quickest driver after he claimed the top time in final practice for the British Grand Prix on Saturday, tipping Mercedes as the team to beat in qualifying later in the day.
The German clocked a time of 1 minute 31.487 seconds around the Silverstone circuit in dry conditions with the sun making repeated appearances throughout the course of the 60-minute outing.
Rosberg was followed by teammate Lewis Hamilton, just 0.146 seconds slower stamping Mercedes’ almost dominant one-lap pace, but covering the race distance on Sunday still carries plenty of question marks.
Red Bull has been strong at the British GP since 2009 and could emerge as the only challengers to Mercedes in qualifying after Sebastian Vettel went third quickest. The defending champion however was well over half a second off the leading pace.
Vettel’s teammate Mark Webber was in fourth ahead of Lotus’ Romain Grosjean and Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo in a session where several drivers struggled to master the track.
Fernando Alonso could do no better than seventh as he struggled to find grip in his Ferrari, painting a prospect which could dent his chances of closing the gap to the leader in the championship this weekend.
The same went for Kimi Raikkonen, who was nearly a second slower than Rosberg’s time in eighth. The only solace is that Lotus’ ‘device’ that boosts straight-line speed could pay dividends on Sunday.
The Force India pair of Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta rounded up the top ten.
McLaren’s woes continued and added to Pirelli’s problems this season as well after Sergio Perez’s left-rear tyre blew out early in the session after the Mexican driver exited the Copse corner.
"The tyre exploded," Perez reported over the radio referring to the shredded hard compound resulting in a red flag to allow marshals to clean up the debris.
The incident damaged the floor of Perez’s car and consequently lost considerable track time as the team repaired it in the garage.
Perez, who spun later at Becketts, was 18th in the charts while teammate Jenson Button was further up in 12th but nearly 1.5 seconds slower than the top time.
Felipe Massa too lost track time towards the late stages after his Ferrari was confined in the garage with a suspected engine problem. The Brazilian though completed 16 laps in the session and was 15th in the charts.