Lewis Hamilton made the most of his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg`s difficulties by bouncing back to top the times in Saturday morning`s final free practice session for Sunday`s Belgian Grand Prix.
The defending two-time world champion and current series leader delivered a fastest lap of one minute and 48.984 seconds in the closing minutes of an hour`s action overshadowed by concerns about the safety of the Pirelli tyres following Rosberg`s high-speed tyre failure on Friday.
Pirelli eased the worries with a statement confirming they had no issues with the integrity of their tyres. They said the tyre failure was a puncture caused by a foreign body.
Rosberg, whose wife Vivian is expecting their first child at any time, was second fastest in final practice, nearly half a second behind Hamilton, who leads the title race by 21 points with nine races remaining. Rosberg`s car was repaired overnight.
The Ferrari pairing of four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel and Finn Kimi Raikkonen, who re-signed for another year with the team on Wednesday, were third and fourth ahead of Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India and Australian Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull. Ferrari are celebrating their 900th race this weekend.
Russian Daniil Kvyat was seventh in the second Red Bull ahead of German Nico Hulkenberg in the second Force India, Finn Valtteri Bottas and his Williams team-mate Brazilian Felipe Massa.
An overnight investigation by the Italian rubber company concluded that the failure, as Rosberg went through the Blanchimont corner at around 320 kph, was caused by something puncturing the tyre.
Pirelli said they were confident there was no structural problem in the tyre that had led to Rosberg`s blowout. Pirelli`s racing team boss Paul Hembery said: The damage is consistent with an external source."
This, the Mercedes technical chief Paddy Lowe said, meant that a "foreign body" had caused the puncture.
In turn, following an anxious drivers` meeting on Friday evening, the race organisers had overnight removed the so-called "sausage" kerb at Raidillon, the left-hander that forms the last part of the famous Eau Rouge corner.
It was stressed that this had no direct connection with the accident that saw the 30-year-old German sent into a frightening full-spin.
Pirelli issued a statement in which they said: "There are no signs of structural integrity issue of the tyre, neither on other tyres used by Mercedes nor on tyres used on other vehicles.
"Video footage shows a tyre problem on Rosberg`s car, which is consistent with an external cut into the tyre structure."
Lowe added: "It does seem to be a one-off incident and the evidence appears to be pointing towards a foreign body from the outside causing a cut."
osberg was set the first timed lap in the session before being overhauled by Hulkenberg, Hamilton and Ricciardo until the final minutes when, taking the softer tyres, Hamilton took control.