2014 US Grand Prix: Friday Analysis

Sideways Action Stateside

Classic American road cars may be known for having much more power than grip, but it was the Formula 1 cars which demonstrated plenty of tail happy traits throughout FP1 and FP2. Keeping everything on the straight and narrow was Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, who topped the timesheet’s in both sessions. However, it was not a perfect day for Mercedes as reliability gremlins and minor mishaps ensured that neither driver will take anything for granted in the remaining races. 

Tank-Slapping

Grip was at a premium yesterday for a number of reasons. Albeit, there was sufficiently more purchase than the freshly laid surface provided in 2012, high degradation and damp astro-turf caused many of the issues. Towards the end of FP1, the significant levels of tyre wear meant that the likes of Fernando Alonso and Valtteri Bottas found themselves snaking away from traction zones and demonstrating how difficult it will be towards the conclusion of stints during Sunday’s race. The rate of tyre drop-off could be an influential factor and a one stop is looking more and more ambitious. 
Lotus were perhaps the team suffering the most from degradation, yet a poor balance was a contributory factor to their spin-filled day. Both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonando suffered two spins, with the former performing a particularly montage friendly drift at Turn 4 – something that we are more accustomed to seeing on an arcade racing game as oppose to a Formula 1 circuit. It seems that the Enstone squad are set for a challenging weekend.  
Meanwhile, several cars found that the astro-turf certainly failed to provide enough grip, following the heavy rain which fell in the early hours of Friday morning. Adrian Sutil was the first to suffer a major moment on the exit of the ever-challenging Turn 19, which is fast becoming one of my favorite corners on the calender. Its off-camber, fast entry means that drivers struggle to judge just how much speed they can carry through the apex – Sutil found the limit and went sufficiently past it. The well-defined tyre markings will provide a reminder for him for the remainder of the weekend. 

14 Out Of 17

With Lewis Hamilton topping the Friday timesheet, the Brit has now controlled 14 of the 17 Friday’s so far this season. However, would we expect anything less? He was and still is regarded as the faster of the dueling duo in terms of natural ability, and Rosberg’s strength lies in growing into a weekend. This is highlighted by their fortunes on a Saturday afternoon – admittedly, Hamilton has suffered several issues during qualifying outings, but nevertheless, Rosberg’s tally of pole’s is unquestionably impressive.
One aspect of Friday’s running which proved particularly intriguing was the margin between the Mercedes and their competitors. It seems that Red Bull are the next best outfit, with both Ricciardo and Vettel, (who focused on long run performance throughout the day on account of his being barred from starting on the grid,) posting highly respectable times. Their runs were very consistent. It remains to be seen just how fast the Williams are, yet their long run pace was severely hampered by what seemed to be significant levels of tyre wear.
For now, it seems highly probable that today’s qualifying will be a classic shoot-out between Hamilton and Rosberg. The German suggested that he has “pace in his pocket”, while the Englishman denounced that his hydraulic leak was nothing to be “too concerned over” in decidedly sanguine fashion. Both men are therefore confident ahead of yet another crucial Saturday.
FP1 Timesheet
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:39.941 
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:40.233 
3 Jenson Button McLaren 1:40.319
4 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:40.887 
5 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:40.987 
6 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:41.065 
7 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:41.463 
8 Felipe Nasr Williams 1:41.545
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:41.722 
10 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:41.785
11 Felipe Massa Williams 1:41.907 
12 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:41.965 
13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:42.329 
14 Adrian Sutil Sauber 1:42.333 
15 Sergio Perez Force India 1:42.359 
16 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:42.516 
17 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:42.598 
18 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:43.229    
FP2 Timesheet
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:39.085
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:39.088 
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:40.189 
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:40.390
5 Felipe Massa Williams 1:40.457 
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:40.543 
7 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:40.631 
8 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:40.641 
9 Jenson Button McLaren 1:40.698
10 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:40.800 
11 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:40.828 
12 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:41.054
13 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:41.110
14 Sergio Perez Force India 1:41.123
15 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:41.158
16 Adrian Sutil Sauber 1:41.332
17 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:41.420 
18 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:43.980
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