Nico Rosberg marked himself out as the prime candidate for another F1 pole position after topping the final hour of practice at the British Grand Prix, but the Saturday morning session was marred by the return of tyre problems for Pirelli.
Having set the pace on a Friday masked by mixed conditions, Rosberg repeated the feat on a more favourable dry track as he headed a Mercedes 1-2. His fastest lap, a 1min 31.487secs effort that was eight-tenths faster than he had gone on day one, bested team-mate Lewis Hamilton
by just over a tenth as the Silver Arrows put their tyre wear concerns on hold, temporarily at least.
Hamilton, having reported that his car was still not to his liking on Friday, seemed happier this time around, and could even have topped the times save for a mistake on what was set to be his best lap of the morning.
The lead pair were comfortably ahead of the rest, with third-placed Sebastian Vettel
fully half a second behind Rosberg's benchmark. Red Bull
appeared to be best of the rest, with Mark Webber
backing his team-mate up in fourth spot, recording a near identical time to the German in the process.
Romain Grosjean rounded out the top five for Lotus, before Daniel Ricciardo continued his strong start to the weekend with another top six showing for Toro Rosso. That put the Australian ahead of Fernando Alonso, with Kimi Raikkonen
and the Force Indias of Adrian Sutil
and Paul di Resta completing the top ten.
Alonso's deficit to the front, which amounted to nearly a second, was a surprise given that Ferrari
usually produces a car suited to the sweeps of Silverstone, but his woes – which included failing to improve on the supposedly faster medium tyre option – were nothing compared to team-mate Felipe Massa
who, having crashed out on Friday afternoon, was hobbled by engine gremlins that sidelined him midway through the hour, and left him 15th overall.
While the blustery conditions caught several drivers out, particularly early in the session, the biggest headache was at Pirelli, which suffered another very public failure despite the well-reported changes to the construction of its tyres.
This time, McLaren's Sergio Perez was the victim, the Mexican having his left rear disintegrate exiting the high-speed Copse corner. Although he managed to save the moment, the flailing carcass damaged the floor and bodywork around it, giving the McLaren
mechanics some unexpected work. Incredibly, they succeeded in getting Perez back on track – only for the Mexican to lose the car at Becketts on his first flying lap...
The #6 car had been inside the top ten at the time of its delamination, which Perez insists was not the result of hitting a kerb, but wound up 18th overall when the clocked tick down. McLaren
team-mate Jenson Button
was twelfth fastest, behind the second STR of Jean-Eric Vergne, with Pastor Maldonado
and Nico Hulkenberg
filling the gap back to Massa.