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Friday analysis - Mercedes resist Texan winds of change

31 Oct 2014

Both opening Austin sessions were run in cool but dry conditions which enabled teams to do all of their tyre evaluation programmes.

However, the increase in wind in the afternoon caused a few teams some significant headaches. They also experimented after each session with adhering to an FIA virtual safety car-mandated delta time for interventions; the reception was generally positive, though some felt that they had to spend too much time looking down at their steering wheels to ensure that they didn’t exceed the time. We take a team-by-team look at day one in Texas…

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, 1m 39.941s, P1/1m 39.085s, P1

Nico Rosberg, 1m 40.233s, P2/1m 39.088s, P2

Mercedes dominated both sessions, as expected, but both Hamilton and Rosberg complained of gear shift glitches in the afternoon - although the latter subsequently confirmed his issue was of his own inadvertent making. Hamilton's concerns were focused on the upshift from fourth to fifth. A hydraulic fault showed up on the telemetry so the team opted to end his running with 20 minutes remaining to investigate and rectify it.

Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, 1m 41.065s, P6/1m 40.189s, P3

Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 41.965s, P12/1m 40.543s, P6

Alonso said the change in weather conditions was harmful in the afternoon even though he was third fastest, while Raikkonen again complained of his car’s handling and also suggested over the radio that he could smell oil and suspected some clutch slip.

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel, 1m 41.463s, P7/1m 543.980s, P18

Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 42.598s, P17/1m 40.390s, P4

Ricciardo didn’t do a lot of running in FP1, but said he was happy with his RB10’s performance in FP2. Vettel’s engine change tonight means he’ll start Sunday's race from the pit lane. Red Bull were initially not going to run him at all in qualifying; the plan now is to run him in Q1 with a complete new powertrain after a gearbox issue in FP1, which means he’ll then start from the pit lane. He thus spent his day working exclusively on race set-up.

Williams

Felipe Massa, 1m 41.907s, P11/1m 40.457s, P5

Valtteri Bottas (pm only), 1m 40.828s, P11

Felipe Nasr (am only), 1m 41.545s, P8

Williams were happy with their performance in both qualifying and race trim and believe they will be competitive tomorrow. Nasr in particular was happy with his runs in FP1, the first time he’d been in the FW36 since Barcelona in May.

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat, 1m 40.887s, P4/1m 40.631s, P7

Jean-Eric Vergne (pm only), 1m 41.110s, P13

Max Verstappen (am only), 1m 41.785s, P10

All three drivers reported positively on their day’s running, the main thrust of which was to learn about tyre performance.

McLaren

Kevin Magnussen, 1m 40.987s, P5/1m 40.641s, P8

Jenson Button, 1m 40.319s, P3/1m 40.698s, P9

McLaren looked great on the medium prime tyre in the morning, less convincing on the soft option in the afternoon when the wind upset the handling of the MP4-29s. Unfortunately for Button, the need for a gearbox change has earned him a five-place grid drop, which will hurt a lot on this tight circuit.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 41.722s, P9/1m 40.800s, P10

Sergio Perez, 1m 42.359s, P15/1m 41.123s, P14

Both drivers reported favourably on some updates which they were able to assess in both sessions, and said they’d had positive days.

Lotus

Romain Grosjean, 1m 43.229s, P18/1m 41.054s, P12

Pastor Maldonado, 1m 42.329s, P13/1m 41.158s, P15

Lotus had a tough day, with both Grosjean and Maldonado having spins. The Frenchman tried a revised 2015 nose in place of the standard ‘tuning fork’ version with which Maldonado persisted.

Sauber

Adrian Sutil, 1m 42.333s, P14/1m 41.332s, P16

Esteban Gutierrez, 1m 42.516s, P16/1m 41.420s, P17

There were no problems here, apart from those created by the change in wind in the afternoon as both drivers sought to balance their cars.