Friday analysis - McLaren ahead, but rivals pace unclear 03 Aug 2007
As usual, the truth of Friday practice wont truly emerge until qualifying on Saturday, but the first day of running at the Hungaroring was particularly difficult to judge. Part of the reason for this is the low-grip nature of a circuit that is not often used, which means that it is always slippery on the first day.
The other factors were a light rain shower and McLarens Lewis Hamiltons spin with five minutes of the afternoon session left, because that stopped a lot of people getting their last quick run in on Bridgestones super-soft tyre.
The fact that Fernando Alonsos lap, set 40 minutes into the afternoon session, held up as the fastest tells the story. People got on in the middle of the session with trying both the soft and super-soft tyre options, ready for all-out blasts that never came.
McLaren were happy with their day. Alonso is optimistic and said he already likes the feel of the MP4-22 and that they covered a lot of ground today, while Hamiltons spin hardly changed much in the overall scheme of things.
Renault had a good afternoon, with Heikki Kovalainen running the fastest until Alonso usurped him. The team were very happy with their new front wing in Nurburgring, and here they have the car making better use of its tyres. The result was a well balanced machine, and a solid understanding of the difference in the two types of tyre.
The key here is to stop the super-soft tyre graining. The in-car TV camera footage frequently showed how left front tyres appeared to be the soft compound (without the white central stripe). However, though teams can run whichever of the two compounds they wish to on Fridays, they cant mix sets.
Thus when three of the tyres appeared to have a white stripe and you couldnt see a stripe on the fourth tyre it was either a) because there was pick-up in the groove which was obscuring the stripe or b) excessive wear. Whether it was a) or b) depended on the position of the tyre in question on the car. For this track, for the front left, the disappearance of the white stripe was most likely due to heavy wear.
Williams thought they used their time well, and while Alex Wurz lost time to an electrical fault in the morning, Nico Rosberg was pretty happy with his fourth fastest time and the direction in which they are going. BMW Sauber came here expecting to be quite strong, and but for a problem with graining, were quite happy with their progress.
At Ferrari there were mixed opinions. Kimi Raikkonen, sixth, said there was a lot more work to do on the set-up of his car as he wasnt happy with the handling in either session, but seventh-fastest Felipe Massa said he was happy with his day. Both had off-track moments, and the Finns best chance on super-soft tyres was hampered by traffic, so we will have to wait until qualifying to see what the F2007s can really offer this weekend.
Toyota were content with ninth and 11th best times, for Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher, while at Red Bull Mark Webber stopped with an electrical problem in the morning but had a reliable run in the afternoon. The light rain shower towards the end of the session saved David Coulthard two sets of tyres, which may prove to be an advantage tomorrow.
Anthony Davidson had nothing to complain about, but a small mechanical issue hampered Super Aguri team mate Takuma Sato. They were 15th and 17th respectively, with Sato sandwiching the Hondas. Jenson Button, 16th, said his day was reasonable, and that his time wasnt representative as he hit traffic and yellow flags while running on new tyres at the end. Rubens Barrichello, 18th, struggled with oversteer.
The Toro Rossos require more work on their set-ups, while at Spyker Adrian Sutil had a normal day as newcomer Sakon Yamamoto struggled on his first experience of the F8-VII.
Tomorrow is another day, to use that most hackneyed of all Formula One expressions, but quite a few people will be grateful for more grip on Saturday morning as they hone their machinery for qualifying. As in Monaco, the latter is absolutely crucial on a track where passing is so difficult.