Friday analysis - could RBR challenge BMW as 'best of rest'?
Confidence emanated from McLaren at Indianapolis on Friday evening, but it is guarded confidence after Ferrari chased the silver arrows in the afternoons second practice session for the US Grand Prix.
Regarding the times, yes, both sessions P1, on top, is good fun, Fernando Alonso said. Its good to build the confidence for tomorrow. But we know Fridays are unfortunately not too important, and well see tomorrow. What is good from today is the car is working well, and we are once again competitive here. But it will be close. I think the Ferraris have improved from Canada. Theyre extremely quick, and they will be very strong tomorrow for qualifying and for the race, as well.
With second place Lewis Hamilton was satisfied that his first day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had gone well, even though the grip levels were low and the MP4-22 was sliding around a lot.
At Ferrari there is a mood of optimism again at the prospect of being able to pull some of the gap back to McLaren. Felipe Massa wasnt sure that whether they can win this weekend, but said: I think is definitely going to be better than Canada because our car seems much more competitive and much more happy. Im happy with the balance I found today and with our grip and the pace we had today compared to Canada.
BMW Sauber also have high hopes. But Nick Heidfeld wasnt as quick in the afternoon as he had been in the morning when he split the McLarens, and he wasnt happy about that. The result is not bad, but if you look at the gap up to the front is too big, especially on a circuit like here, where the times are normally very close together. I was unhappy with the balance this morning and still am because it is just sliding too much.
Team mate Sebastian Vettel acquitted himself well on his way to 11th overall, right in the thick of the very closely matched middle group.
There was good news and bad for Red Bull, with David Coulthard setting sixth fastest time but Mark Webber stopping on the circuit with another transmission failure after setting the 12th quickest lap. Both found the RB3 tricky to drive when they wound off the downforce in order to generate straightline speed. The same went for the Toro Rosso drivers. Tonio Liuzzi was 13th, close to his Red Bull stablemates, and Scott Speed 18th after a momentary glitch in the pits when his dashboard monitoring systems gave him a spurious reading.
Once again the Williams FW29 looked good, with Nico Rosberg setting seventh fastest time and Alex Wurz 16th after only doing the afternoon session. The Austrian lost further track time due to an oil leak, but Rosberg was well pleased with the set-up progress they made.
Heikki Kovalainens late run brought Renault the eighth fastest time, while Giancarlo Fisichella languished in 15th only two-tenths slower. Both admitted that they were confused by the lack of grip in the morning, and serious understeer, and felt that they made some progress later in the day. Nevertheless, the mood was a little less buoyant than it was in Montreal.
The Hondas were ninth and 10th, with Rubens Barrichello just ahead of Jenson Button. While the Brazilian honed the balance of his RA107, the Englishman continued to complain about understeer in the slower corners until a solution was finally arrived at in the afternoon.
Anthony Davidson was Super Aguris leading runner in 14th, with Takuma Sato 19th. The main problem in this camp was the need for the Englishmans engine and gearbox to be changed in the morning, otherwise things went smoothly.
The Toyotas were particularly hurt by the lack of grip, which left Jarno Trulli 17th and Ralf Schumacher 20th, while at Spyker the only significant problem was Adrian Sutils spin at the end of the morning session. Otherwise they had a normal set-up Friday, with the German 22nd, and Christijan Albers 21st.
The weather will remain consistent on Saturday, and with the track now rubbering in the times will fall further as the grip level continues to rise. On todays showing, qualifying should feature a strong fight between McLaren and Ferrari, with BMW Sauber defending the next best position from Williams and, possibly, Red Bull.