LIVE COMMENTARY: 2012 BELGIAN GRAND PRIX - SATURDAY PRACTICE
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As it happened: Saturday practice
By Geoff Creighton and Emlyn Hughes
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Hello everyone and welcome to AUTOSPORT Live for continuing coverage of round 12 in this year's FIA Formula 1 world championship - the Belgian Grand Prix from Spa-Francorchamps.
Yesterday's pair of practice sessions were largely washed out, leaving the teams with just 60 minutes to set-up their cars for the demanding 7.004km Ardennes circuit.
Teams have a lot of work to get through this morning. Both types of Pirelli slick tyre need to be evaluated, as well as perfecting the car set-up and running with both low and high fuel. It promises to be an interesting hour.
Friday's post-practice news centred on Mark Webber, who was handed a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change. The Australian is Fernando Alonso's closest challenger in the championship and this turn of events could give the Ferrari driver even more breathing space in the points race by the end of this weekend.
Webber gets gearbox change grid penalty
Weather conditions are a marked contrast to yesterday, as we wait to get going in final practice. The rain has gone and there was a brilliant sunrise over the Wallonia region this morning.
Dry and mainly sunny conditions are expected during today's on-track action. It will remain relatively chilly, however, with air temperature only reaching 15 degrees Celsius during qualifying, while a light breeze will continue from the north.
Teams will finally get an opportunity to test Pirelli's medium and hard rubber on a dry circuit, but face plenty of challenges in squeezing the tyre evaluation into this final frantic hour of practice.
Grip levels remain low after yesterday's deluge and it is still chilly - with both factors adding to the already high demands on the rubber here.
With just one allocated set of each compound, race engineers will need their drivers to make the most of the running this morning. Limited laps of this lengthy circuit are available to find a balance in the dry - while the track evolves considerably - along with a measure of durability to shape the race strategy.
Track temperature is up to 20 degrees, as we approach the start of this important 60-minute session.
Drivers are gearing up for a busy hour, with plenty work ahead to evaluate the medium and hard compound tyres this morning.
The final hour of practice begins at Spa.
Kobayashi and Perez in the Saubers lead a train of cars out of the pits.
Vergne, de la Rosa, Karthikeyan, di Resta and Senna join the early runners on track.
Maldonado and Schumacher are next out to check the condition of their cars this morning.
Webber and Rosberg head out, with Hulkenberg joining them in short order.
Both McLaren and Ferrari send their drivers for an immediate installation effort.
Vettel is last out onto the circuit. It is as we expected, with all 24 cars on track for an early check.
Some drivers may go straight into a run here, with Kovalainen one of the first to continue on to a second tour.
Vergne and Senna are among those to cross the line and start a second tour.
Vergne was the first to come through and this looks like the beginning of a meaningful run straight out of the box.
Raikkonen and Grosjean are also on to a timed lap, with the Lotus team forced to abandon its rear wing stalling device with the lack of time
Vergne rounds the Bus Stop chicane and gets the ball rolling with 1m58.079s.
Kovalainen slots in second quickest to Vergne's early marker.
Senna tops the early runners with a time of 1m57.562s.
Webber is next to move to the head of the list, with a time of 1m56.957s.
Maldonado pops up into third spot, just behind team-mate Senna, with a lap of 1m57.824s.
The Lotus pair slot in behind the two Mercedes in the early times, with the pair of Caterhams at the tail of the order.
Vettel moves into third, splitting the Williams pair with 1m57.753s.
Vergne continues on for a second timed lap and moves back up to second quickest with a time of 1m57.001s.
Senna retakes the top spot with 1m53.647s.
Lots of teams confident in their overnight installation of race components, with half the field now having set an early time.
Webber also goes on for a second lap and he moves back to the front with a time of 1m55.686s. He is second to Senna.
Senna stays out and goes even quicker - 1m52.562s - to put three seconds between himself and the rest of the field.
Williams team-mate Maldonado is up to second spot with a lap of 1m55.608s.
Both Marussias are back on track after checks in the pits, with the team keen to evaluate new developments this morning.
Webber is now third with di Resta fourth, Hulkenberg fifth and Ricciardo in sixth spot.
Vettel changes that order immediately with a lap of 1m55.487s. He moves up to second temporarily.
McLaren and Ferrari remain calm at the moment, with Button now heading out to begin his first run.
Hulkenberg is next man through and into second place, with a lap of 1m55.097s.
Perez improves to eighth fastest with an improve 1m56.275s lap in his Sauber.
The early flurry of laps appears to be over as Vettel pits to work through a pitlane test.
Perez follows that up with an off at Les Combes, but has continued.
Yellows on the circuit and Nico Rosberg has ground to a halt in the Mercedes.
Rosberg has stopped just before the Fagnes chicane. He is pushed back behind the armco barrier by the marshals.
Rosberg climbs out of the car after just 13 minutes of the session. He will go into qualifying and tomorrow's race with little or no data.
Hamilton is now underway in his McLaren, with the Ferrari pair still in the garage and waiting for the track to improve somewhat.
No visible signs of damage or smoke coming from the car. Replays suggest some kind of transmission problem as he came downhill towards Pouhon.
Pic springs up to second fastest in the early times with a 1m54.231s lap, while team-mate Glock goes third.
Glock moves up further to second fastest in 1m54.185s as Marussia perhaps look towards qualifying pace
Vergne is out there on a second run, but he locks up heavily into Les Combes. He wastes that effort and will have to go again.
Senna is back into the pits at the end of an eight lap run. He still tops the list by 2.444 seconds over the Marussia pair.
Massa and Alonso get going in the pair of Ferraris, with the Brazilian joining the order in second fastest.
Alonso goes third fastest with his opening effort of 1m43.446s.
Raikkonen complains that his car is too stiff and urges the team to make changes to the Lotus.
Hamilton is now on a flying lap having passed through the pits several times in recent minutes.
Vergne gets a better lap next time round and moves into 16th spot with a time of 1m56.450s.
Alonso finally displaces Senna from the top of the times with a new best of 1m50.936s on medium compound tyres.
Vettel brakes too late for the Bus Stop chicane and heads for the escape road, before rejoining.
Button heads into the pits and thinks he needs to work on the balance of his McLaren.
Massa is trying hard tyres on his Ferrari and goes second fastest, just over a tenth slower than team-mate Alonso.
So it's Ferrari one and two now after 23 minutes, with Senna down to third, Pic fourth, Glock fifth and Hulkenberg rounds out the top six.
Schumacher is on track in the sole remaining Mercedes in this session. He improves to 16th with a time of 1m56.059s.
Alonso improves his best to a 1m50.690s as he enjoys the grip from the softer tyres.
Hamilton remains down in 20th and still lapping on a first run with the medium compound.
Raikkonen heads back to the pits for further adjustments on his Lotus.
Rosberg is back in the Mercedes garage and studying the data from the bank of monitors available to the engineers and mechanics.
A majority of drivers in the pits at the moment, with plenty of head scratching going on as drivers look to home in on a dry set-up.
Schumacher stays out on track, as he works through a medium tyre run. He reports an increasing amount of graining and remains 16th on the timesheet.
Hulkenberg and Maldonado head out to begin another run.
Pic and Glock are both back on track and setting even faster times on the medium compound.
Glock improves but is quickly beaten by Pic as they remain fourth and fifth on the jumbled timesheet.
Perez and Kobayashi are now trying the softer tyres on the Saubers.
Perez springs to the top of the order with a quick 1m49.637s lap in his Sauber.
Maldonado moves up to second quickest in the Williams, with a time of 1m50.352s.
Kobayashi joins his team-mate at the top of the order with a lap for second fastest.
Hulkenberg moves up one spot to sixth with a lap of 1m50.714s.
Button and Hamilton head out for a second run, with the pair currently 21st and 22nd in the order.
Grosjean is the next man to head the list as he takes medium tyres around in 1m49.580s.
Vergne leaps up the list to fourth place, after posting a time of 1m50.262s.
Webber moves to the top of the tree with a lap of 1m49.164s on hard tyres.
Di Resta also posts a significant improvement. The Scot is into fifth with a time of 1m50.117s.
Alonso has switched to the hard tyres and is back on track.
Button springs up to sixth fastest with hard tyres on his McLaren.
Massa improves for sixth fastest while team-mate Alonso has a major sideways slide through Turn 9.
Hamilton has improved to 11th in the order and is now testing hard tyres on his McLaren.
Senna improves with a lap of 1m50.363s, but others have upped their game in the last few minutes and the Williams driver finds himself in 13th.
Maldonado and Ricciardo post improvements. They run in ninth and 10th positions.
Massa is again quickest through the first sector, with the Ferrari proving strong along the long straight down to Les Combes.
Vettel jumps up the list to second spot and suddenly it is Red Bulls one and two. The German's lap was 1m49.292s.
Alonso, third fastest, tops the final sector as the Ferrari pair show pace in the opening and closing parts of the lap.
Button tells his McLaren team that he has lost a lot of front grip on his run with the harder tyres.
Vettel crosses the line in 1m49.599s but that lap does not yield an improvement. He remains in second spot, behind team-mate Webber.
Raikkonen is now up to fourth fastest in 1m49.523s and may be happier now with his widely-tipped Lotus.
Schumacher improves with a time of 1m49.921s and he's up to eighth.
Many drivers in the pits at the moment ahead of a final pre-qualifying attempt.
Flow-vis is quickly cleared from Alonso's Ferrari ahead of a final outing for the championship leader.
Maldonado heads out to begin a final run in the Williams. He is 12th on the timesheet. Di Resta also joins the racetrack.
Both Saubers are back out for a late run on the softer tyres.
Perez is now the fastest man through the twisting middle sector of the lap.
Perez tops the times with a new best of 1m48.850s.
Kobayashi flashes over the line and is just fractions down on his team-mate to go second fastest.
Less than six minutes to go and now it's the Sauber duo up front and of Webber, Vettel, Alonso and Raikkonen.
Medium compound rubber throughout the pack as the customary qualifying simulation takes place.
Maldonado crosses the line in 1m49.561s and he is up to eighth.
Di Resta also posts a significant improvement and moves up the order to fifth, with a lap of 1m49.382s.
Massa and Alonso have both set quick times in the first sector, but the latter has a major wobble at Curve Paul Frere.
Alonso holds it together despite that mistake to take the benchmark in 1m48.542s.
Karthikeyan improves to 20th fastest in the HRT with a time of 1m53.562s.
Massa ends up fourth fastest in his Ferrari.
Button finally show some signs of McLaren pace as he moves up to fourth fastest.
Schumacher is set to improve this time round. He crosses the line and goes only 12th quickest, with a time of 1m49.621s.
Ricciardo posts his best lap in the session and is 15th with 1m49.776s.
Raikkonen clocks the fastest middle sector time, where Lotus were expected to be strong this weekend.
Webber locked up at Les Combes and was forced to take to the escape road. He rejoined and is now on a hot lap.
Raikkonen moves up to second fastest in 1m48.683s.
Vergne improved at the same time as Ricciardo. The Frenchman posted 1m49.7190s and that places him 14th.
Hamilton has tumbled to 15th on the timesheet but is on an improving lap.
Glock and de la Rosa both improve their time, dropping Karthikeyan back to 22nd position.
The flag is out on a busy final practice session.
Webber completes that flying lap but it is seven-tenths off the best time.
Hamilton ends up 12th fastest after another relatively poor lap in his McLaren.
Senna crosses the line with a marginal improvement, but he remains in 17th position.
Vettel messes up the entrance to the Bus Stop chicane, ruining his last lap against the clock.
Drivers are again heading around to take the opportunity to practice a start from the grid.
Fernando Alonso tops final practice at Spa-Francorchamps with a best lap of 1m48.542s, 0.141s ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, with Perez third.
Kobayashi puts both Sauber entries into the top four, with Button fifth, Massa sixth, Webber seventh and Grosjean in eighth spot.
Vettel is a lowly ninth and di Resta rounds out the top 10 for Force India after a busy hour of action.
So we have Ferrari, Lotus and Sauber looking good, but will the order stay the same? Join us later for all the qualifying action from Spa.
15°C / 59°F
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Friday 31 Aug
Friday practice one
Friday practice two
Saturday 01 Sep
Sunday 02 Sep
The Belgian Grand Prix
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