Category Archives: Free Practice Report

Mercedes Return To Top Of The Timesheets In FP3

Mercedes showed that they appear to have retaken their stronghold over the rest of the field when they clocked the two fastest laps of FP3, over half-a-second clear of their closest rival.

It was Nico Rosberg who had the run on his team-mate when teams finally got a chance to complete some dry-weather practice before Sunday’s Grand Prix. The German was the only man to break into the 1m 33’s while Hamilton set a lap over two-tenths slower. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was the best of the rest as he led the Williams duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa. Bottas had sat out the rain-affected FP2 knowing the rest of the weekend would be dry, and appears to have suffered no disadvantage in return. The Ferrari drivers were sixth and eighth, with last-time race winner Vettel 1.2s shy of the Mercedes drivers. Verstappen took seventh for Toro Rosso while Grosjean taking ninth and Sainz rounding out the top ten – the latter completing the most laps of anyone this morning.

Nico Hulkenberg in eleventh led an extremely close group of drivers where only four-tenths of a second separated eleventh to seventeenth. Button, in twelfth, looked strong at his engine supplier’s home race, but the Briton missed out on any low-fuel running as the team rebuilt a broken floor on the McLaren. Ericsson was thirteenth for Sauber while FP2 leader Daniil Kvyat couldn’t better fourteenth. Pastor Maldonado brought his Lotus to fifteenth ahead of Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez for McLaren and Force India respectively. Felipe Nasr finished eighteenth while the Marussia drivers of Will Stevens and Alexander Rossi took their usual spots at the back of the grid for Marussia.

Mercedes look to have stood back up and dusted themselves off after being trampled on in Singapore. Although still leading the Championship by 41 points, Hamilton will be keen to exert his dominance and return to the top of the podium. The question of qualifying therefore is can Rosberg beat Hamilton to the front of the grid?

Free Practice Three results:

  1. Nico Rosberg
  2. Lewis Hamilton
  3. Daniel Ricciardo
  4. Valtteri Bottas
  5. Felipe Massa
  6. Kimi Raikkonen
  7. Max Verstappen
  8. Sebastian Vettel
  9. Romain Grosjean
  10. Carlos Sainz
  11. Nico Hulkenberg
  12. Jenson Button
  13. Marcus Ericsson
  14. Daniil Kvyat
  15. Pastor Maldonado
  16. Fernando Alonso
  17. Sergio Perez
  18. Felipe Nasr
  19. Will Stevens
  20. Alexander Rossi

Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Team.

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Kvyat Stays Ahead Of Mercedes In FP2

Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat stayed ahead of the Mercedes duo when he clocked the fastest lap of the second practice session ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.

Kvyat had recorded the second fastest time in the morning’s opening session when Toro Rosso rookie Carlos Sainz had topped the time sheets, with the Mercedes drivers of Rosberg and Hamilton taking third and fifth. After their surprise lack of speed at last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, all eyes were on the Silver Arrows to see if, as Vettel had predicted, they could bounce back to their usual dominance. Indeed, Rosberg was only 0.023s shy of Kvyat’s time, yet Championship leader Hamilton was over half a second behind his team-mate. Daniel Ricciardo sandwiched the Mercedes men with a time good enough for fourth, while the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, and the Toro Rosso pairing of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen slotted into fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth respectively. Verstappen’s running was delayed as the team searched for a lost bolt on the rookie’s car, and thus completed the least laps of any running driver – 5.

Felipe Nasr clocked ninth, almost a full second ahead of Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado who rounded out the top ten. Fernando Alonso had a delayed running when his car was reassembled by the team, meaning he came out during the heaviest rain period which left him down the order in 17th. His team-mate drove a time good enough for twelfth while Romain Grosjean – whose ties with Haas are getting stronger as the week progresses – settled in for fifteenth. Felipe Massa was twentieth for Williams, while team-mate Bottas chose not to participate and so did not complete a lap. The Manor drivers of Will Stevens and Alexander Rossi, the latter celebrating his 24th birthday today, filled out the final places on the time sheets.

Although Kvyat has outpaced both Mercedes drivers so far this weekend, and Rosberg has kept far ahead of team-mate Hamilton, the fact that the rest of the weekend will be dry means realistically we can’t predict who’ll take pole on Saturday afternoon. Tomorrow morning’s FP3 session, when the teams trial the dry tyres and prepare for Qualifying, will give us a much better idea of how the grid may take shape.

Free Practice Two Results:

  1. Daniil Kvyat
  2. Nico Rosberg
  3. Lewis Hamilton
  4. Daniel Ricciardo
  5. Sebastian Vettel
  6. Kimi Raikkonen
  7. Carlos Sainz
  8. Max Verstappen
  9. Felipe Nasr
  10. Pastor Maldonado
  11. Nico Hulkenberg
  12. Jenson Button
  13. Marcus Ericsson
  14. Sergio Perez
  15. Romain Grosjean
  16. Felipe Massa
  17. Fernando Alonso
  18. Will Stevens
  19. Alexander Rossi
  • Valtteri Bottas (No Time)

Image courtesy of Red Bull/Getty Images

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Japanese Grand Prix: Sainz Quickest In Rain-Affected FP1

Toro Rosso rookie Carlos Sainz was the fastest man during Friday morning’s practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix, marking the first time the Spaniard has topped a session.

The unexpected speed in extremely wet conditions saw him clock a fastest lap over half a second clear of second quickest Daniil Kvyat in the sister Red Bull car. With Mercedes’ surprise lack of pace at last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix fresh in their heads, Rosberg and Hamilton recorded third and fifth respectively, with Ferrari’s meddler and Championship contender Sebastian Vettel wedging his way into fourth.

The torrential rain saw limited running from those who ventured on track, with eight drivers – including Daniel Ricciardo, Fernando Alonso and Lotus reserve driver Jolyon Palmer – deciding to stay in the shelter of their garages. Max Verstappen brought the other Toro Rosso to sixth, over 1.5s shy of team-mate Sainz’s session-topping time. Kimi Raikkonen took the second Ferrari to seventh while Williams’ Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas coasted to eighth and tenth, and Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr placed ninth and eleventh. The slowest driver to clock a lap was McLaren’s Jenson Button with a lap over six seconds slower than that of Sainz’s effort.

The order of practice cannot give too much scope to how Qualifying might play out. The conditions were far too heavy to even set a time for most of the session, and the latter part of the running saw drivers tip-toe the circuit for fear of losing control – and valuable parts on the car. Bottas, for example, went off at the ultra-fast 130R corner while Felipe Massa skipped through the gravel earlier in the lap.

Sebastian Vettel predicted this week that Mercedes would return to their strong hold over the grid this weekend, but judging from the times he seems to be holding them honest. With a dry qualifying and race predicted, the major players’ pace is still to be seen.

Free Practice One results:

  1. Carlos Sainz
  2. Daniil Kvyat
  3. Nico Rosberg
  4. Sebastian Vettel
  5. Lewis Hamilton
  6. Max Verstappen
  7. Kimi Raikkonen
  8. Felipe Massa
  9. Marcus Ericsson
  10. Valtteri Bottas
  11. Felipe Nasr
  12. Jenson Button
  • Daniel Ricciardo (NT)*
  • Nico Hulkenberg (NT)
  • Sergio Perez (NT)
  • Fernando Alonso (NT)
  • Pastor Maldonado (NT)
  • Jolyon Palmer (NT)
  • Will Stevens (NT)
  • Alexander Rossi (NT)

*NT = No TIme

Image courtesy of Scuderia Toro Rosso/Getty Images.

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Rosberg Stays Fastest In FP2, But Hamilton Gets Closer

Nico Rosberg continued his strong morning showing by staying on top of the timesheets in FP2. His lead over team-mate Lewis Hamilton was more than halved, however, and Hamilton finished just a tenth shy of Rosberg’s time with the soft-compound runs completed in the afternoon.

With the track ‘rubbered in’, i.e. having more grip, after the first session, drivers began to push the limits a little harder on their laps. Alonso stand-in Kevin Magnussen was one of these drivers, but he stretched the limits too far and he skipped through the gravel at turn 5 before clouting the barriers as a result. The Dane was left with only a battered ego as a red flag was thrown to recover the damaged McLaren.

Other drivers who pushed the limits were a bit luckier: Carlos Sainz spun and continued at T15, Pastor Maldonado slid off-track at the same spot and his Lotus team-mate hobbled through the gravel at T3.

The Sauber drivers finally graced the track – their morning running hampered by the looming threat of Giedo van der Garde’s court case – but while Felipe Nasr’s first practice as an F1 driver was fairly straightforward, a problem on his left-rear tyre slowed Marcus Ericsson’s progress as he had to spend the rest of the session in the garage.

The Manor drivers were the only other team who failed to get their drivers on track for FP1 – and they had no success in getting drivers out for FP2. The team must completely reinstall software on the cars, meaning they will likely miss the Grand Prix on Sunday. Manor drivers Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi could do nothing but stand idly by as their cars were tinkered on.

Felipe Massa also missed the session as a water leak discovered before FP2 began restricted his car to the garage. The other Williams, piloted by Valtteri Bottas, went fifth fastest behind the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. Although the Scuderia drivers temporarily went first and second when they swapped to the softer compound Pirelli, it seems already that Mercedes should claim the front row for themselves in Qualifying tomorrow.

Free Practice Two results:

  1. Nico Rosberg
  2. Lewis Hamilton
  3. Sebastian Vettel
  4. Kimi Raikkonen
  5. Valtteri Bottas
  6. Daniil Kvyat
  7. Carlos Sainz
  8. Pastor Maldonado
  9. Romain Grosjean
  10. Nico Hulkenberg
  11. Felipe Nasr
  12. Sergio Perez
  13. Jenson Button
  14. Max Verstappen
  15. Marcus Ericsson
  16. Kevin Magnussen
  17. Daniel Ricciardo (NT)
  18. Felipe Massa (NT)
  19. Will Stevens (NT)
  20. Roberto Merhi (NT)

NT = No Time

Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Team.

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Rosberg Quickest In Opening Australian Practice

Nico Rosberg launched his challenge at Lewis Hamilton’s Championship crown by going fastest in the first practice session of the 2015 season, at Albert Park.

Although it was the Toro Rosso and Ferrari drivers who charged eagerly onto the track when practice began, it was nine minutes before Rosberg set the first timed lap. Hamilton’s first effort seconds later went slower, and Nico’s second effort went faster than his first.

The on-track action was typical of what could be expected in the first practice session of the year. Plenty of drivers went out on track, and plenty of drivers returned to the pits to have their cars disassembled by their crew. Both McLaren drivers, for example, were out of their respective machines with over half-an-hour left in the session, as Honda engineers fiddled with the new engine.

Romain Grosjean spent a chunk of his session watching his car being pulled apart by Lotus mechanics who decided the floor needed to be changed – a laborious and time-consuming task which requires a lot of bodywork removal.

Grosjean can take consolation from the fact he made it to track, though, while neither Sauber nor Manor managed to get a car out for a single lap.

Sauber presumably chose not to run their car for fear of a legal bite from Giedo van der Garde’s team. The Dutchman claims to have paid for a seat in 2015 before Sauber gave Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr a drive for the season. Van der Garde has challenged this in an Australian court and won, meaning Sauber will have to let him drive. However, without a Superlicense, which all drivers must posses, Van der Garde will likely have to wait until Malaysia before he lines up on the grid. Both Nasr and Ericsson sat in their cars for the bulk of the session, albeit not driving, almost as if afraid Van der Garde would steal their seat if they got out of the car.

Down at Manor, formerly Marussia, there were no legal issues holding them back: the cars just simply aren’t prepared. Having missed pre-season testing, Manor are having to battle through a myriad of technical issues to get their car out on track. Team CEO Graeme Lowdon told Sky Sports that it’s not clear if they will make FP2 – or even the race – so Malaysia could be the team’s first on-track appearance.

There were no big incidents to report, rather the usual opening session niggles to get out of the way. Daniel Ricciardo spun into the slow T15, while Max Verstappen took a wobble through the fast T1 chicane. Soon afterwards Valtteri Bottas showed off his driving skills when he stopped his Williams sliding into the gravel with some sexy opposite lock. Sebastian Vettel also pushed the limits through the super-fast T11/T12 but paid the price for his daring when he hobbled through the gravel trap on the exit of T12.

Apart from these few incidents, practice played its course in dry fashion, and finished with a Virtual Safety Car simulation. Nico Rosberg remained safely on top of the timesheets but, due to his 2014 performances, a Lewis Hamilton pole on Saturday cannot be discounted. One thing is clear already, though: the fight for pole involves only Mercedes.

Free Practice One Results:

  1. Nico Rosberg
  2. Lewis Hamilton
  3. Valtteri Bottas
  4. Carlos Sainz
  5. Sebastian Vettel
  6. Max Verstappen
  7. Felipe Massa
  8. Kimi Raikkonen
  9. Pastor Maldonado
  10. Daniel Ricciardo
  11. Daniil Kvyat
  12. Sergio Perez
  13. Nico Hulkenberg
  14. Jenson Button
  15. Kevin Magnussen
  16. Romain Grosjean
  17. Marcus Ericsson
  18. Felipe Nasr
  19. Will Stevens
  20. Roberto Merhi

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Bottas Quickest In Final Practice Session

Valtteri Bottas was the quickest man around Spa-Francorchamps this morning, putting himself two tenths clear of the next fastest man, race winner last-time-out Daniel Ricciardo. Following the pre-session rain, Bottas, like the rest of the grid, stayed in the shelter of his garage and willed others to go out to dry the wet track surface, a task which would essentially lead to wasted laps. The two Marussias and Kobayashi stand-in Andre Lotterer were the only three people to go out in the first half of the session, each setting a slow lap time before returning to the pits.

Eventually Esteban Gutierrez came out for Sauber following a long stint of track silence, and showed the others that the track had dried sufficiently, prompting the remaining drivers to emerge from their shelters. Following their first few flying laps, the usual suspects (Hamilton, Rosberg and Alonso) were near the top, but it was Bottas who held the top time provisionally. He traded the honour with the two Mercedes drivers and Fernando Alonso several times before putting in a session topping 1.49.465. As a reference, Jenson Button’s pole lap from 2012 was a 1.47.573.

Behind Bottas was Ricciardo who hopes to repeat his Hungarian Grand Prix victory this weekend and was himself followed by Championship leader Nico Rosberg, Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. Daniil Kvyat, who was one of the session’s leaders briefly, continued his impressive form and ended his session in seventh, only four tenths off the fastest time. Jenson Button was eighth while Felipe Massa and Jean-Eric Vergne rounded out the top ten. Sebastian Vettel finished thirteenth while Pastor Maldonado, who was hospitalised following a shunt during yesterday’s FP2 session, finished seventeenth. The Caterham duo filled out the bottom of the timesheets, nearly two tenths off the Marussias ahead of them.

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Hamilton Maintains Advantage In FP2

Lewis Hamilton maintained his advantage over Nico Rosberg as he finished practice on Friday afternoon with nearly three tenths over his team-mate. At a track where Rosberg has never finished about fourth but where Hamilton has won four times, the latter is looking to take victory in order to reel in the gap to his Championship-leading team-mate. The other Mercedes man was predictably second and held a four-tenth lead over the-best-of-the-rest Sebastian Vettel, whose pace became evident after he swapped to the softer, quicker tyre compounds mid-session. Fernando Alonso was three-tenths shy of Vettel, losing time to the Red Bull in the first two sectors where the several sweeping corners put the Red Bull at an advantage. Kevin Magnussen in fifth split Alonso from his team-mate in sixth, while Daniel Ricciardo narrowly took seventh from Williams’ Valtteri Bottas who looked a lot faster than he had this morning. Jenson Button and Felipe Massa finished ninth and tenth respectively, as they did in the first session.

The Toro Rosso duo narrowly missed out on the top ten and thus qualified eleventh and twelfth, Kvyat leading Vergne, who is celebrating his fiftieth Grand Prix this weekend. Nico Hulkenberg couldn’t better thirteenth while his team-mate Perez sandwiched former Force India driver Adrian Sutil, who finished fourteenth. Pastor Maldonado survived an early spin to finish seventeenth, but his team-mate was forced to sit out most of the session as his car underwent work in the Lotus garage. Esteban Gutierrez finished eighteenth, ahead of Kamui Kobayashi, who proved to be the quickest of the back-markers. The Marussias of Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton finished twentieth and twenty-first, leaving Marcus Ericsson to fill out the back of the grid.

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team. 

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