Webber makes the best of the wet to top FP3

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Mark Webber has finished fastest in the final practice session for the Brazilian Grand Prix after running well in the wet conditions that meant any truly meaningful running ahead of qualifying was impossible.

Webber’s time of 1:27.891 saw him finished ahead of both Lotus drivers as many – including teammate Sebastian Vettel – opted to curtail their running in favor of saving a set of tires.

With the rain that marred yesterday’s practice sessions failing to dissipate on Saturday morning, it was another session of running on the intermediate and wet tires. Esteban Gutierrez was the first driver to venture out into the spray and post a time, whilst a number of other drivers opted to only go out for an installation lap in order to save their tires for the later sessions when rain was also forecast. However, the teams opted to remain in the pits until there was a break in the weather to allow for some meaningful running.

A slight break in the weather prompted the teams to get out on track, and Marussia’s Jules Bianchi soon overthrew Gutierrez at the top of the timesheets with Chilton slotting in to third place. Valtteri Bottas – keen on building on his points in Austin – enjoyed a couple of minutes at the top before Sebastian Vettel emerged from the pits and went quicker than the Williams driver before running wide due to the rain on his next lap. Lewis Hamilton was the first driver to dip below the 1:30s mark with a lap that saw him move up to P1, and conditions continued to improve with every lap that went by.

With just under ten minutes remaining, the crossover point came and allowed drivers to go out on the intermediate tire. Mark Webber took advantage of this to go to the top of the timesheets with Bottas and Nico Hulkenberg within a second of the Red Bull. However, some of the drivers opted to stay in the pits and wait for qualifying to get out on track to save tires. Romain Grosjean and Heikki Kovalainen proved Lotus’ pace in the wet to move up to P2 and P3, but ultimately, no one could beat Webber at the top.

Webber will be hoping to continue this form across the course of his last grand prix weekend before he retires from Formula One.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.