Ricciardo fastest in wet final practice

19 Apr 2014 05:01

Australia's Daniel Ricciardo pushed his Red Bull to the fastest lap time during a wet final practice session on Saturday for the Chinese Grand Prix.

With championship leader Nico Rosberg and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton opting not to set any flying lap times in the miserable damp and cold conditions but instead perform pit stop practice and preserve tyres, there were some unfamiliar names near the top of the timings board.

Felipe Massa in the Williams, an impressive sixth fastest on Friday, continued to show great pace with second place in 1 min 54.492 sec, and Romain Grosjean in the Lotus was third with a 1:54.514.

The rain meant Ricciardo's time of 1:53.958 on intermediate tyres was more than 15 seconds down on his best from Friday.

Again he outpaced his illustrious teammate and four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, who suffered problems with his own Red Bull and sounded dejected over the team radio as he could only manage 1:56.233 for 11th spot.

His engineer reported back that it was an energy recovery system (ERS) fault and that they "would hope to fix it with software".

Persistent rain and a thermometer hovering around 13 degrees Celsius (55 Fahrenheit) meant that most drivers and teams opted to run only a handful of laps to preserve their wet tyres for qualifying later in the day.

The teams are allowed only four sets of intermediate tyres and three sets of full wets for the entire weekend.

With a forecast of dry conditions for Sunday's race, the teams were mindful not to waste any more tyres than necessary ahead of the serious business of qualifying later in the afternoon.

Mercedes drivers Hamilton and Rosberg, who between them have won all three races this season, did not set a lap time. It was the same story for Ferrari's Fernando Alonso who had been fastest in first practice on Friday.

His team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who had been starved of laps Friday because of mechanical issues, did complete four laps and was fifth fastest in 1:55.062.

A fraction ahead of him in fourth was Force India's Nico Hulkenberg (1:55.032), who currently stands in third place in the drivers' world championship standings.

Grosjean's Lotus teammate Pastor Maldonado had endured a miserable weekend, spinning and then crashing heavily into a wall at the pit lane entrance in Friday's practice.

On Saturday things were looking up at last as Maldonado had completed 12 laps, the most of anyone in the field, in his rebuilt car and posted the sixth fastest time (1:55.228).

But his terrible luck continued when his garage detected an engine problem and ordered him to stop out on the track.

His engineers were then facing a race against time to repair the power unit with qualifying due to begin just two hours later.