Nico Rosberg regained the advantage over Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by going fastest in final practice ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix. The championship leader capitalised on a mistake from Hamilton on his option tyre run to finish eight tenths clear although the battle is expected to be much closer between the two in qualifying.
The Silver Arrows remained grounded for the opening 25 minutes while the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso set the pace in the low 1:28s but the home favourite was quickly bumped back to third once Rosberg and Hamilton emerged from their garages. Rosberg set the new benchmark with a 1:26.534 and an early switch to the medium compound saw him extend his lead over the Ferrari to two full seconds.
Hamilton looked set for an immediate response to his teammate on the option tyres, trailing by just 0.016s at the second checkpoint, but a snap of oversteer at the final chicane destroyed his lap and forced the Briton back into the pits.
After a brief impasse while Max Chilton’s car was cleared from the turn five gravel trap, the Marussia having gone straight on and become beached, Alonso fitted the softer rubber to tighten his grip on third, 1.3s back, while Felipe Massa took fourth for Williams on a 1:27.223. Romain Grosjean finished a superb fifth to confirm Lotus’ improvement with Kevin Magnussen leading the McLaren challenge in sixth.
Daniel Ricciardo was seventh in the quickest Red Bull ahead of Jenson Button and Pastor Maldonado while teammate Sebastian Vettel finally got his weekend up and running after his nightmare start on Friday. The world champion explored the limits of the Circuit de Catalunya, going over it slightly on the exit of turn four, but an early run on medium tyres ensured he rounded out the top ten.