Nico Rosberg (1:33.254) remained dominant in the final practice session of the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix weekend, with Sebastian Vettel second fastest and mark Webber third. Fourth and fifth fastest, Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher were unable to get closer than a half second to the German’s fastest lap time. Despite the haze and somewhat windy conditions, the session was fairly typical for a final practice. Jenson Button ended up sixth fastest, with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa tenth and sixteenth fastest, respectively.

Hamilton and Rosberg each took a turn at the top of the timesheets on Friday, with Hamilton (1:33.572) going fastest overall in the morning practice and Rosberg (1:32.816) in the afternoon. The German, still on a high from last weekend’s win in Shanghai, was a half second faster than second-fastest Webber in the second practice and nearly seven tenths faster than Hamilton’s time earlier in the day. Vettel, Di Resta, Rosberg, and Button joined Hamilton in the top five for the morning while Vettel, Hamilton, and Schumacher did so with Rosberg in the afternoon. Di Resta managed to jump his Force India so far up the timesheets by being the only driver to set his time on the softer tyre compound in the morning.

Though using those tyres then seemed odd, Force India did so to keep team personnel happy. After an incident on their way back to the hotel from the circuit the night before, apparently many FI team members wanted to be sure to leave the track during daylight hours. As such, the team ran not at all in FP2 and spent the time setting up for Saturday’s practice and qualifying. In other news, Maldonado will take a five-place grid penalty after Williams changed the gearbox in his car.

Session Start:
Vergne was the first to take advantage of the open track, heading out into the dusty smog that made the circuit look like Shanghai. Ricciardo, Perez, Glock, Pic, and others followed quickly. As the wind continued to stir up sand, the drivers went about setting an installation lap and waiting for someone else to begin clearing and adding grip to the circuit. Ten minutes elapsed before all the teams had actually set an install lap, with Massa and Hulkenberg the last two to do so. After sitting out PF2, Di Resta and Hulkenberg skipped returning to the garage like all the other drivers and went straight into lap times. The Scot (1:41.356) set the first time of the session, with Hulkenberg nearly five seconds quicker moments later. They were the only men on track, swapping fast times as they continued to lap.

15 Minutes Elapsed:
The Marussia drivers joined Force India in clearing the track with nearly the first quarter of the session over. Raikkonen did so as well, as teammate Grosjean followed a minute later. More drivers slowly began lapping again, leaving the garage in a steady stream. Around this time, Di Resta settled into the session best time of 1:35.384, two and a half seconds off Rosberg’s time from the afternoon before. The order on the timesheets shuffled as faster cars began completing timed laps, but there were no early blistering top times as the sun occasionally peeked through the hazy conditions.

Twenty minutes into the session, Grosjean (1:34.401) led Raikkonen by four tenths, as Di Resta, Perez, Kobayashi, Vergne, Hulkenberg, Senna, Ricciardo, and Kovalainen completed the fastest ten of the thirteen drivers to have set times. Webber’s first lap put him fourth fastest while both Rosberg and Schumacher locked up heavily in their turns while heading into the first turn. Vettel’s first lap was second fastest while Button managed eighth fastest, only to be supplanted by teammate Hamilton and others. Despite lockup, Schumacher soon set the second fastest time of the session with a very fast final sector. Vettel (1:34.225) replaced Grosjean at the top as the halfway point of the hour long session approached.

Vettel still led at that point, over the fastest ten of Grosjean, Schumacher, Webber, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Vergne, Button, Di Resta, and Hamilton. Alonso had just slotted into seventeenth on his first timed lap, with Massa twenty-second. By this point, two thirds of the drivers had returned to their garages for continued setup development, and all drivers had set a timed lap. During this middle portion of the session, teams continued to focus on longer race simulation runs, saving fast times for the final minutes.

Toro Rosso was the first to attempt the softer tyres with about twenty to go. Schumacher joined them, going considerably faster in the first sector as Ricciardo (1:34.197) went fastest of all. More and more drivers went out on the softer compound, leading to a shuffling of times and the order. Schumacher (1:33.796) quickly topped the timesheets, despite having lost a bit of time with some rear movement in the final sector. Rosberg took fastest from Schumacher by well over five tenths, though he was still slower than his FP2 time. Hamilton soon popped into second fastest on his soft tyre run, though he remained a half second slower than Rosberg.

15 Minutes Remaining:
After their first runs on the soft tyres, most drivers were back in the garage as the final quarter of the session approached. With fifteen minutes to go, Rosberg (1:33.254) led Hamilton, Schumacher, Ricciardo, Vettel (still lapping on the harder compound), Grosjean, Webber, Raikkonen, Vergne, and Button as the top ten. Alonso and Massa remained fifteenth and eighteenth, respectively. At that point, only Hamilton and Vettel were actually out on the track. The latter soon popped in for the soft tyre, rejoining immediately. Kobayashi, then Button, soon rejoined as teams waited for the precise second to simulate a quali session.

Button moved up to fourth as the fastest men began rejoining for the final ten minutes. Meanwhile, at Red Bull, Vettel had an overheating issue that required the removal of his engine cover. Raikkonen moved up to fifth on his fast lap while Hamilton, Ricciardo, the hot Vettel, Webber, Maldonado, Glock, de la Rosa, and Karthikeyan remained in the garage with just over seven minutes to go. Webber rejoined moments later, followed by Vettel. Alonso moved up to tenth on his first fast lap on the soft tyres.

5 Minutes Remaining:
Meanwhile, Massa remained unable to improve beyond fifteenth. Rosberg, Hamilton, Schumacher, Button, and Raikkonen remained the fastest five as the final five minutes began. Webber soon moved into second, still four tenths off Rosberg. Vettel copied his teammate, managing to get within two tenths of Rosberg, who looked rather Vettel like this weekend and the last. In the end, Rosberg led the Red Bulls, Hamilton and Schumacher as the fastest five.

Final Times for FP3, 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix:

  Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:33.254   14
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:33.401 0.147 14
3. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:33.663 0.409 15
4. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:33.782 0.528 16
5. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:33.796 0.542 16
6. Jenson Button McLaren 1:33.899 0.645 14
7. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:33.976 0.722 14
8. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:34.197 0.943 14
9. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:34.401 1.147 16
10. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:34.895 1.641 11
11. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:34.918 1.664 12
12. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:34.977 1.723 12
13. Sergio Perez Sauber 1:35.067 1.813 17
14. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:35.128 1.874 14
15. Paul Di Resta Force India 1:35.336 2.082 22
16. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:35.536 2.282 15
17. Bruno Senna Williams 1:35.623 2.369 16
18. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1:35.694 2.440 19
19. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:35.773 2.519 21
20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:36.532 3.278 17
21. Charles Pic Marussia 1:37.267 4.013 18
22. Timo Glock Marussia 1:37.654 4.400 18
23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1:38.973 5.719 11
24. Narian Karthikeyan HRT 1:39.221 5.967 9