THREE-STOP RACE LIKELY IN SPAIN

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg has clinched his third career pole position, ahead of his team mate Lewis Hamilton. Pole position was set on Pirelli’s P Zero White medium tyres, which have been nominated alongside the new P Zero Orange hard tyres this weekend.

Rosberg’s pole time of 1m20.718s on the medium compound was more than a second a half quicker than the 2012 pole position set by Williams driver Pastor Maldonado (1m22.285s) on last year’s soft, despite the fact that usage of the DRS was unlimited last season. Historically a strong qualifying performance is vital in Barcelona, as only once has the race been won from beyond the front row of the grid.

Ferrari driver Felipe Massa went quickest in the final free practice session this morning, sealing fastest time by just 0.006 seconds from Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen right at the end of the hour, using the medium compound.

Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “The teams had their preparation time for qualifying limited by wet weather yesterday morning, so there were still a number of question marks today. As expected we saw a considerable degree of track evolution, with this year’s pole time in Barcelona the fastest-ever since Pirelli came to Formula One in 2011. The teams have quickly got to grips with our latest evolution of the P Zero Orange hard, which should make it easier to maintain the tyres within the optimal working temperature range and so use a wider variety of strategies. With plenty of lateral energy through the rubber, an abrasive surface, and warm temperatures Barcelona is quite challenging for the tyres. We would expect to see three pit stops tomorrow – as was the case last year. The race has never been won from outside the front row, so it will be interesting to see if any drivers can reverse that trend through the use of strategy.”

The Pirelli mystery strategy predictor:

The fastest strategy for the 66-lap race seems set to be a three-stopper in Spain this weekend, as was the case last year. It goes as follows: start on the medium tyre, switch the medium on lap 16, medium again on lap 33 and a final stop for hard tyres on lap 50.

Alternatively, there is another effective three-stop strategy. Start on the medium tyre, switch to the medium on lap 17, switch to the hard on lap 34 and a final stint on the hard tyre from lap 50.

Fastest compounds in FP3:

1.  F. Massa  1m21.901s  Medium New
2.  K. Raikkonen  1m21.907s  Medium New
3.  M. Webber  1m22.044s  Medium New

Top 10 tyre use:

N. Rosberg Medium New 1m20.718s
L. Hamilton Medium New 1m20.972s
S. Vettel Medium New 1m21.054s
K. Raikkonen Medium New 1m21.177s
F. Alonso Medium New 1m21.218s
F. Massa Medium New 1m21.219s
R. Grosjean Medium New 1m21.308s
M. Webber Medium New 1m21.570s
S. Perez Medium New 1m22.069s
P. Di Resta Medium New 1m22.233s