SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS (Belgium) • Nico Rosberg walked away without injuries after a high-speed tyre blow-out during yesterday's second practice session, in which he clocked the fastest lap ahead of tomorrow's Belgian Grand Prix.
The German lost control of his Mercedes when the right rear Pirelli tyre exploded at around 320kmh at the Blanchimont corner.
"That was definitely not fun," said Rosberg, 30, whose wife is expecting their first child at any time.
"I think a tyre broke at the rear but I am not sure. Let's wait and see but it was at the maximum speed on the lap. So that is not good.
"There was no debris on the track... I had this happen once before in testing."
The session was suspended briefly while the car and debris were cleared from the majestic but testing circuit in the Ardennes forests.
On resumption, Swede Marcus Ericsson lost control of his Sauber and crashed heavily at the downhill Pouhon corner. The incident produced the red flags again for a third time in the day.
Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado had set the pattern during opening practice in the morning when he hit the barriers. He was unhurt.
Maldonado, living up to the "Crashtor" moniker that has kept his mechanics busy, brought out the red flags after 50 minutes.
A website chronicling the Venezuelan's status (hasmaldonadocrashedtoday.com) promptly changed its status from "Nope" to "Yes!" and reset the clock for the next update.
In both the afternoon accidents, the drivers were saved from more serious damage and possible injuries by the big run-off areas built into the circuit.
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton was unable to improve his time and finished the session second fastest behind Rosberg, as he had been in the morning. Then, both the Red Bull and Ferrari teams produced improved speed to threaten the champion team's supremacy.
The incidents highlight again the dangers that remain prevalent at one of the classic "traditional" long and high-speed F1 tracks.
Last year, Hamilton and Rosberg's rivalry turned acrimonious and resulted in a collision during the race.
Defending world champion Hamilton finally did one more lap on the medium tyres before the end of the session when he finished three-tenths adrift of Rosberg's best lap in 1min 49.385sec.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo was the third-quickest, seven-tenths behind, ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Daniil Kvyat.
The latter was a full second adrift of the fastest time.
McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button will start last in tomorrow's race after being hit with heavy grid penalties for changes to their Honda power units.
Alonso was given a drop of 30 grid positions, despite only 20 cars being entered for the race, while Button collected a marginally less draconian 25-place penalty.
The penalties were expected by both McLaren drivers.
They have endured a nightmare start to their team's new partnership with Honda, even if Alonso's punishment was greater than anything they had so far experienced.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
F1 BELGIAN GRAND PRIX
Practice 3: Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, 4.55pm