Category Archives: Free Practice Report

Hamilton Quickest In Opening Practice

Lewis Hamilton took the top spot during Friday morning’s free practice session ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix. The Briton’s lead from team-mate Nico Rosberg, which was nearly two tenths, is the first step in his mission to win this weekend’s Grand Prix and reel in Championship leader Rosberg. With the two Mercedes men taking up their usual position at the top of the time sheets, it was Kimi Raikkonen who proved to be the best-of-the-rest as he lapped six-tenths shy of Hamilton’s quickest effort, with his Alonso a further four tenths behind, in fourth. Vettel was fifth for Red Bull as Kevin Magnussen finished the session in sixth. Jean-Eric Vergne was seventh, just ahead of former team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who dedicated some of his run plan to drifting around the circuit when his tyres ‘hit the cliff’. Jenson Button complained about a complete lack of rear grip but brought his McLaren to ninth, while Massa rounded out the top ten.

Esteban Gutierrez took eleventh, almost poetically symbolic of the struggle Sauber are having in scoring a point this season, with former Sauber driver Nico Hulkenberg in twelfth. Daniil Kvyat lapped in thirteenth, and Maldonado in fourteenth, while Valtteri Bottas was surprisingly down the order in fifteenth. Sergio Perez’s Force India leads the Lotus of Grosjean and the Sauber of Sutil (the latter spinning in the final seconds of practice), with Kamui Kobayashi leading team-mate Marcus Ericsson, and the two Marussias of Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi. Chilton finished ahead of Jules, particulalry impressive as he had time for only one flying lap following a fire on his installation lap saw him park in the pits and walk back to the garage. During the later stages of practice, Marussia tried to get him out, but it wasn’t until the fourth attempt that he successfully got back out.

So, for now, the advantage is held by Hamilton at a circuit where he has enjoyed success before, in comparison to the less successful memories his team-mate has of the track. However, with three consecutive races of botched Qualifying, Hamilton will need to take full advantage of practice to find the perfect set up to ensure he has the edge come Saturday afternoon.

Free Practice One results:

  1. Lewis Hamilton
  2. Nico Rosberg
  3. Kimi Raikkonen
  4. Fernando Alonso
  5. Sebastian Vettel
  6. Kevin Magnussen
  7. Jean-Eric Vergne
  8. Daniel Ricciardo
  9. Jenson Button
  10. Felipe Massa
  11. Esteban Gutierrez
  12. Nico Hulkenberg
  13. Daniil Kvyat
  14. Pastor Maldonado
  15. Valtteri Bottas
  16. Sergio Perez
  17. Romain Grosjean
  18. Adrian Sutil
  19. Kamui Kobayashi
  20. Marcus Ericsson
  21. Max Chilton
  22. Jules Bianchi
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Hamilton Leads Rosberg In Second Practice

Lewis Hamilton took the top spot on Friday afternoon, swapping positions with Nico Rosberg who took the other Mercedes to the top of the time sheets during the morning practice session. Although Hamilton’s edge over Rosberg will give him some fuel for mind games, in reality very little separates the two racers – specifically two-hundreths of a second – which points to a tight fight for pole and the race win this weekend, excluding any technical gremlins like the ones which have cost Mercedes in the past few races.

Daniel Ricciardo took up his usual position as best of the rest, ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen who was under extra pressure to make up for lost time due to a water pump issue during the morning session. McLaren star Kevin Magnussen took fifth while Button in seventh sandwiched Williams’ Felipe Massa in sixth. Sebastian Vettel was eighth for Red Bull and Fernando Alonso ninth for Ferrari, with Valtteri Bottas filling out the top ten.

The rest of the grid fell in behind the Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and Williams pairings, all of whom appear to be increasingly close. Slightly far back was Adrian Sutil in eleventh for Sauber and Daniil Kvyat twelfth for Toro Rosso. Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg were uncharacteristically far down for Force India, ahead of the STR9 of Jean-Eric Vergne who himself was flanked by the Lotus duo. Bianchi proved fastest of the back-markers, with Kamui Kobayashi far off the pace due to a suspected battery fire which broke out half an hour into the session and ended his running prematurely. With enough of a challenge already, Kobayashi may now face a penalty if there has been damage to his gearbox or engine.

Free Practice Two results:

  1. Lewis Hamilton
  2. Nico Rosberg
  3. Daniel Ricciardo
  4. Kimi Raikkonen
  5. Kevin Magnussen
  6. Felipe Massa
  7. Jenson Button
  8. Sebastian Vettel
  9. Fernando Alonso
  10. Valtteri Bottas
  11. Adrian Sutil
  12. Daniil Kvyat
  13. Sergio Perez
  14. Nico Hulkenberg
  15. Jean-Eric Vergne
  16. Pastor Maldonado
  17. Romain Grosjean
  18. Esteban Gutierrez
  19. Jules Bianchi
  20. Marcus Ericsson
  21. Max Chilton
  22. Kamui Kobayashi

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team. 

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Rosberg Fastest In Opening German Practice

Nico Rosberg was the quickest man in the opening practice session ahead of the German Grand Prix at the Hocekenheimring. Returning to the track for the first time since 2012 due to the track’s co-hosting of the German round with the Nurburgring, F1 drivers had to adapt both the 2014 spec cars and the sudden loss of the FRIC (Front-Rear Interconnected) system which was banned this weekend. The loss of FRIC was expected to make the cars harder to drive and thus lead to an excess of off-track excursion.

Indeed, it seemed drivers had a hard time keeping their cars within the white lines – particularly at the first and last corner – something which could see a driver having a lap time deleted during Qualifying. This morning’s quickest man, Rosberg, was one of the many drivers exceeding the track limits, slipping straight off track at turn 2 when he out-braked himself halfway through the session. Felipe Massa was another man who became familiar with the extremities of the track, going aggressively wide at turn 1, while Kevin Magnussen played chicken with the gravel trap at turn 11.

Realistically though, the off-track trips were more due to an unfamiliarity with the track rather than a sudden mechanical drop-off in performance caused by the loss of the much talked about FRIC system.

The two Mercedes men, for example, were expected to be reeled in somewhat, but the duo ended the session firmly in front, over two-tenths ahead of Fernando Alonso who himself lead from Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. Jenson Button was fifth for McLaren as he aims to repeat his impressive performance from the British Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel and Kevin Magnussen was behind him, followed by Kimi Raikkonen for Ferrari, Daniil Kvyat for Toro Rosso and Adrian Sutil, whose position at Sauber looks to be increasingly unstable as talk has surfaced that he could be replaced by Giedo van der Garde presently.

Van der Garde was driving in place of Gutierrez in the other car today and ended the session sixteenth for the Swiss outfit, while Susie Wolff also got a run in FP1. Following her disappointingly short running at Silverstone due to a mechanical issue, she was keen to get some good laps under her belt today – but her gearbox thought otherwise and stopped up shifting about thirty seconds into her installation lap. The team managed to recover the session and get her back out on track, where she eventually went within two-tenths of her team-mate, Felipe Massa.

Free Practice One:

  1. Nico Rosberg
  2. Lewis Hamilton
  3. Fernando Alonso
  4. Daniel Ricciardo
  5. Jenson Button
  6. Sebastian Vettel
  7. Kevin Magnussen
  8. Kimi Raikkonen
  9. Daniil Kvyat
  10. Adrian Sutil
  11. Felipe Massa
  12. Jean-Eric Vergne
  13. Nico Hulkenberg
  14. Sergio Perez
  15. Susie Wolff
  16. Giedo van der Garde
  17. Romain Grosjean
  18. Pastor Maldonado
  19. Kamui Kobayashi
  20. Jules Bianchi
  21. Marcus Ericsson
  22. Max Chilton

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team. 

 

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Vettel Quickest As Mercedes Avoid Rain-Affected Practice

The rain came down on the Silverstone circuit before the third practice session got underway, leaving teams sheltering in their garages and hoping that the track would dry itself. In the first fifteen minutes, no one circulated for a timed lap, but Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton all did installation laps, the latter conducting practice starts at the end of the pitlane.

Finally, Marcus Ericsson led Kamui Kobayashi across the line to record first and second, before being beaten by the Toro Rosso duo and split by the Marussia of Jules Bianchi. Daniil Kvyat had a big sideways moment coming out of the final corner but skilfully held control of the STR9 and stayed out of the wall. Romain Grosjean came a lot closer to tearing the nose cone off his car when he lost control out of the same corner and spun sideways across the line, while setting the second fastest lap. He too managed to regain control, with a few inches to spare, and went on his way.

Daniel Ricciardo jumped to the top of the timesheets when he set his first lap, and was then beaten by Vettel, also on his first lap. Lewis Hamilton came out to exert his dominance, and was half-a-second up on Vettel’s time until he went wide at Stowe corner, to the chuckles of team-mate Nico Rosberg in the garage.

Jules Bianchi made the same mistake a few minutes later, but at a much higher speed, and skidded into the tyre barriers at the end of hangar straight, ending his session prematurely. Adrian Sutil did a similar thing, too, but just about managed to get the car turned and out of the gravel.

Bottas, a driver who usually excels in the wet conditions, was the next to take to the track for the first time and went seventh provisionally. Jenson Button, a driver who also performs best in the wet, then put in a lap to also go seventh.

The rain had stopped by the time the session came towards the end, but the remaining water proved enough to catch a few drivers out – such as Sergio Perez who locked his tyres up into Stowe corner, or Nico Hulkenberg who suffered a nasty twitch which sent him wide at the old pit straight.

Although the two Red Bull drivers ended the session fastest, the two Mercedes drivers didn’t record a time, meaning this session is not representative. The Mercedes speed over Red Bull, before pitting, was strong enough to suggest yet another Mercedes 1-2 lockout in Qualifying – but will it be Hamilton or Rosberg who takes the glory?

Free Practice Two results:

  1. Sebastian Vettel
  2. Daniel Ricciardo
  3. Pastor Maldonado
  4. Romain Grosjean
  5. Adrian Sutil
  6. Daniil Kvyat
  7. Kevin Magnussen
  8. Jenson Button
  9. Valtteri Bottas
  10. Kimi Raikkonen
  11. Jean-Eric Vergne
  12. Felipe Massa
  13. Nico Hulkenberg
  14. Esteban Gutierrez
  15. Sergio Perez
  16. Marcus Ericsson
  17. Jules Bianchi
  18. Kamui Kobayashi

Image courtesy of Red Bull/Getty Images. 

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Hamilton Quickest In Silverstone Despite Early Retirement

The Mercedes duo swapped their order from this morning’s practice session and Lewis Hamilton took the fastest lap time, despite retiring with thirty minutes left on the clock. Closing the 0.7s gap which stood between leader Rosberg and Hamilton this morning, Hamilton finished the afternoon practice running with a lead of 0.2s.

Max Chilton and Valtteri Bottas were the first men to grace the track this afternoon and the opening minutes proved more straight-forward than the morning. Romain Grosjean eventually broke the relative peace by going off-road in his Lotus, although he managed to keep the nose of his car out of the barriers and returned to the track.

Lewis Hamilton wasn’t as lucky when he hit bad luck and, just four corners after coming out of the pits, he pulled over and climbed from his cockpit. Paddy Lowe confirmed that it was an oil pressure problem which triggered the engine shut-down, almost a mirror copy of Susie Wolff’s incident, but said that Lewis was not using his race engine today, meaning it will not affect his race.

Jean-Eric Vergne was the next man to return to the pits prematurely as, after thirteen laps of solid running, his front left tyre came loose and forced him to pull off the track. Only minutes later, Valtteri Bottas suffered a bizarre engine cover failure on the left hand side of his car, while Marcus Ericsson suffered one on the right hand side of his Caterham, the former pulling into the pitlane and the latter pulling his car off at the old pit lane.

With rain predicted for tomorrow but not Sunday, today is expected to be the last day of dry-running for the drivers before the race. Could his limited running cost Hamilton as he battles Rosberg for another home victory?

Free Practice Two results:

  1. Lewis Hamilton
  2. Nico Rosberg
  3. Fernando Alonso
  4. Daniel Ricciardo
  5. Sebastian Vettel
  6. Valtteri Bottas
  7. Jenson Button
  8. Kevin Magnussen
  9. Kimi Raikkonen
  10. Jean-Eric Vergne
  11. Felipe Massa
  12. Daniil Kvyat
  13. Esteban Gutierrez
  14. Pastor Maldonado
  15. Romain Grosjea
  16. Sergio Perez
  17. Nico Hulkenberg
  18. Adrian Sutil
  19. Jules Bianchi
  20. Kamui Kobayashi
  21. Max Chilton
  22. Marcus Ericsson

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

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Hamilton Back On Top In Monaco

Lewis Hamilton retook the honour of fastest man in Monaco when he topped the third and final practice session ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix. The Briton was behind Daniel Ricciardo for the bulk of the session but retook the top spot when he fitted the super-soft tyre compound. Ricciardo was only 0.050 behind the Championship leader as the session ended, hinting at a close battle for pole position between the two men. Also in with a shot at pole is Mercedes driver and last year’s race winner, Nico Rosberg, whose last run was cut short after the team took time to examine the back of his car, leaving him with less time on the super-soft compounds which will be used for the pole position lap. Sebastian Vettel was fourth in the other Red Bull, three tenths behind Rosberg and three tenths ahead of Fernando Alonso.

The best strategy seems to be to do a banker lap on the softer-compound before setting a hot lap on the next lap. This isn’t ideal, however, as the top ten drivers start the race with the tyres they set their fastest lap on, meaning that they will be running tyres two laps more worn than the drivers starting eleventh or lower.

As for the uneasiness shown by drivers on Thursday as they got used to the characteristics of the 2014 machines on the tight and windy streets of Monaco, they seemed to have gotten to grips with handling the cars. Hamilton, for example, had a scary moment at the fast left-hand Tabac corner where he was forced to engage opposite lock to prevent a crash. Jean-Eric Vergne also had problems in the final seconds of the session, first out-braking into Saint Devote, before reversing out and then out-braking into Mirabeau.

That’s the extent of the track action before Monaco and no one is any closer to being the obvious choice for pole. Hamilton or Ricciardo do seem to be the obvious contenders but in Monaco, where a yellow flag is almost as common as a green flag, or where traffic can make or break a lap, anything can happen – and anyone can be on pole.

Free Practice Three results:

  1. Lewis Hamilton
  2. Daniel Ricciardo
  3. Nico Rosberg
  4. Sebastian Vettel
  5. Fernando Alonso
  6. Kimi Raikkonen
  7. Sergio Perez
  8. Nico Hulkenberg
  9. Jean-Eric Vergne
  10. Daniil Kvyat
  11. Kevin Magnussen
  12. Jenson Button
  13. Valtteri Bottas
  14. Felipe Massa
  15. Adrian Sutil
  16. Romain Grosjean
  17. Jules Bianchi
  18. Pastor Maldonado
  19. Esteban Gutierrez
  20. Kamui Kobayashi
  21. Max Chilton
  22. Marcus Ericsson

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

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Alonso Leads Hamilton In FP2

Fernando Alonso beat Lewis Hamilton to the top of the time sheets during today’s mixed-weather FP2 session. The Spaniard put in a late fast lap to beat the morning’s fastest man by 0.4s. The pace may not be representative, however, as Hamilton set a fastest first sector before meeting a slow Nico Hulkenberg and abandoning his lap. On his second attempt, he came across Marcus Ericsson’s Caterham in the barriers before the tunnel which caused him to abandon that lap too. His third attempt moved him to second, behind Alonso. Sebastian Vettel was third for Red Bull, seven-tenths behind Alonso, and three tenths ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne who took fourth for Toro Rosso. Valtteri Bottas was the first man to take to the track this afternoon and ended the session in fifth.

Bottas’ one lap run was after a fifteen minute wait as the teams waited for someone else to go out and dry up the track following a pre-session hail storm. After Bottas’ installation lap – and his unhappiness with the conditions – a twenty minute wait followed as no one dared venture out. Finally Adrian Sutil took to the track but returned without setting a lap while the Toro Rosso drivers came out. Daniil Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne had the circuit to themselves as they got to work beating their team-mate’s fastest lap, until the Ferrari’s also joined them. Raikkonen wasn’t out for long, however, as he exited Rascasse and couldn’t select a gear. He nursed his ill-sounding Ferrari back to the pitlane where his team confirmed that his gearbox had failed. As it was a practice unit, he will not be penalised.

In contrast to the quiet start to the session, the last ten minutes of FP2 looked like a Q3 session as each driver worked to get their run in. Traffic is always a problem in Monaco and, as I mentioned, Hamilton was affected twice in three laps. Alonso managed to get a particularly impressive lap down which Hamilton could not better. Rosberg, who shadowed Hamilton in the morning session, finished in twentieth. Despite the low result, it still seems that he could be involved in a four way battle for pole during Saturday’s Qualifying session. Will it be Hamilton, Rosberg, Alonso or Ricciardo starting Sunday’s race from the front?

Free Practice Two results:

  1. Fernando Alonso
  2. Lewis Hamilton
  3. Sebastian Vettel
  4. Jean-Eric Vergne
  5. Valtteri Bottas
  6. Sergio Perez
  7. Nico Hulkenberg
  8. Jenson Button
  9. Daniel Ricciardo
  10. Kevin Magnussen
  11. Felipe Massa
  12. Daniil Kvyat
  13. Adrian Sutil
  14. Pastor Maldonado
  15. Esteban Gutierrez
  16. Romain Grosjean
  17. Kamui Kobayashi
  18. Jules Bianchi
  19. Max Chilton
  20. Nico Rosberg
  21. Marcus Ericsson
  22. Kimi Raikkonen

Image courtesy Scuderia Ferrari. 

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