It may only be a Friday, but such is Mercedes’ dominance and reliability this season, Sebastian Vettel topping the FP2 timesheet is somewhat of a talking point – particularly given the German’s reliability issues which curtailed in first session and truncated his second. However, Vettel’s messy day summed up today’s running up and down the field, as countless drivers not only found the limit but exceeded it, on the small but mighty circuit filled with challenges. Lewis Hamilton in particular was one of those who regularly took to the run-off area, with the most costly occasion coming when the Briton was one corner away from recording a representative qualifying simulation run.
Ferrari’s Mixed Day
It was a curious day at Ferrari, filled with promising moments but also unfortunate events which hampered running. Sebastian Vettel’s side of the garage in particular both endured and enjoyed throughout FP1 and FP2. The first session was somewhat of a non-event for the German, after a transmission issue bound him to the garage after just 20 minutes of running and while his FP2 ended with a similarly broken car, this powertrain drama did not come before Vettel had narrowly edged Nico Rosberg off of top spot.
Clearly, the day was filled with some promising times from the SF15-T, even if it did demonstrate its flaws. Vettel will hope that the reliability issues which arose today will not reoccur later on during the business end of the weekend, particularly considering that Ferrari look strong.
How strong compared to the competition is yet to truly be ascertained. Lewis Hamilton’s short run performance remains a mystery as the Briton suffered a snap of oversteer at the final corner on his qualifying simulation run in FP2 – the result being an unrepresentative time. His FP1 running was similarly rough around the edges, as he twice took to the tarmac run-off on adventures at turn eight and turn one.
However, Hamilton fans should fear not. The championship leader had a similarly tough time on Friday in Canada, before dominating proceedings on Sunday. It is therefore not rare to see him exceed the limit of adhesion as he dials into a circuit. Today was simply textbook Hamilton – heading into a weekend over the limit and gradually pulling everything into shape by Saturday afternoon – or at least this is what he will hope is in store over the next 24 hours.
Lotus and Force India Impress
Two teams that certainly did deliver today were Lotus and Force India. The midfield pairing have been citing this weekend as an opportunity for a double points finish, with the power dependent nature of the circuit potentially highlighting the strength of their Mercedes powertrain and overall package.
Both have enjoyed productive days. Pastor Maldonado reached the heights of P4 in FP2, ahead of the stumbling Hamilton. Meanwhile, Romain Grosjean, who made way for Jolyon Palmer once again in FP1, managed to finish the day in seventh – an impressive feat given the lost mileage in the morning.
Force India were similarly high on the timing tower, but more impressive was the team’s mileage. Nico Hulkenberg managed 49 laps in the second session, while Sergio Perez was only narrowly behind with 46. However, reliability has certainly been one of the team’s advantages this season. The new aerodynamic pieces are expected in next week’s test, but for now, Force India can expect a good weekend to come, with the circuit layout reducing the price they pay for running outdated aerodynamic parts.
McLaren Mechanical Headaches
McLaren’s day was unquestionably character building – but then again, most of their day’s since February have been just that. The Honda powertrain proved vulnerable once again today, as both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button suffered from power related issues.
For Alonso, his fifth engine was fitted prior to their morning’s running, which meant that Alonso’s silent return to the garage within the first ten minutes of FP1 was not on the road map. The issue was not a terminal one for the Honda powertrain so Alonso does not face a 30 place grid penalty as oppose to the 20 which he does still contend with. Jenson Button on the opposite side of the garage faces a similar grid penalty, meaning that it is likely to be a lockout of the back row for McLaren Honda – something that we did not imagine to saying after eight rounds of the 2015 campaign.
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.308
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 0.627
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1.051
5 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1.232
6 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1.241
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1.323
8 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1.424
9 Felipe Massa Williams 1.489
10 Sergio Perez Force India 1.504
11 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1.547
12 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1.603
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1.630
14 Jolyon Palmer Lotus 1.649
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1.758
16 Jenson Button McLaren 2.519
17 Fernando Alonso McLaren 2.871
18 Will Stevens Marussia 3.536
19 Roberto Merhi Marussia 5.058
20 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 5.283
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:09.600
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 0.011
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 0.260
4 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 0.314
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.537
6 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 0.560
7 Romain Grosjean Lotus 0.667
8 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 0.756
9 Felipe Nasr Sauber 0.895
10 Sergio Perez Force India 0.985
11 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1.031
12 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1.086
13 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1.144
14 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1.146
15 Felipe Massa Williams 1.411
16 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1.917
17 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 2.076
18 Jenson Button McLaren 2.319
19 Will Stevens Manor 2.922
20 Roberto Merhi Manor 3.494