MONTMELO – Nico Rosberg sent out a warning to Mercedes teammate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton ahead of qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix by finishing at the top of the timesheets in final practice.
Rosberg posted the fastest time on both tire compounds, finishing the session in P1 with a quickest lap of 1:26.021 ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in second place.
The early prime tire runs during FP3 saw Rosberg set the pace for Mercedes, going almost two-tenths of a second faster than Hamilton in the sister car, whilst Ferrari found itself a further half a second back before making the switch over to the option compound.
Although the Italian marque managed to cut the gap down to less than 0.2 seconds on the medium tire, it was unable to overhaul Rosberg at the top of the timesheets. Hamilton had been gunning to match his teammate’s time, only to lock up in the final sector and drop down to third on the final timesheets behind Rosberg and Vettel.
Valtteri Bottas finally proved Williams’ pace by finishing fourth, six-tenths behind Rosberg, whilst Kimi Raikkonen lagged home in fifth place ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Felipe Massa.
Following setbacks on Ricciardo’s car on Friday, it was Daniil Kyvat’s turn to take a hit at Red Bull. The Russian suffered a water leak on his car at the start of the session, restricting him to only running in the final 20 minutes.
Lotus also endured a difficult FP3 on Friday morning, with Romain Grosjean complaining over setup problems on his car has he finished outside of the top ten. Hamilton also made a rare mistake, spinning at turn three halfway through the session after running wide onto the astroturf.
Continuing its good form from Friday, Toro Rosso got both of its drivers inside the top ten once again as Max Verstappen finished eighth ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr. in tenth. Kvyat split the duo in P9.
With Rosberg topping two of the three practice sessions so far this weekend, the German will be hoping to carry this good form into qualifying and end Hamilton’s perfect pole position record in 2015.
You can watch qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix live on CNBC from 8am ET.
Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.
If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.
“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”
The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.
Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.
But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.
“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.
“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”
Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.
If #F1 wants to start looking around for an American driver, Colton Herta has a suggestion for where that search should start. https://t.co/71PVeu6aBj
Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.
A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.
“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.
“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”
During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:
–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;
–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;
–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”
–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.
“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”