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Friday analysis - (not so) calm before the storm

07 Nov 2014

In many ways, Friday’s performances in Sao Paulo were academic, given the poor weather forecast for the rest of the weekend. Both sessions were run in dry conditions which enabled teams to do all of their tyre and track surface evaluation programmes.

Drivers commented favourably that the resurfacing had eliminated many of Interlagos’s infamous bumps, but a damp track caused a few headaches in the morning especially as oil was still seeping from the new bitumen, while very high track temperatures - 53 degrees Celsius - in the afternoon also made things difficult. Some reported graining, especially on the soft Pirellis. Three red flags also added to the challenges faced. We take a team-by-team look at day one in Brazil…

Mercedes

Nico Rosberg, 1m 12.764s, P1/1m 12.123s, P1

Lewis Hamilton, 1m 12.985s, P2/1m 12.336s, P2

There were no real problems here, and those that were tyre-associated are likely to be repeated for the remainder of the weekend, so both drivers were chipper. Rosberg was happy; Hamilton said he didn’t quite get a good lap together, but that it didn’t really matter since it was practice.

Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 14.114s, P8/1m 12.696s, P3

Fernando Alonso, 1m 13.742s, P4/1m 13.122s, P7

Raikkonen had a horrible time in the morning, with two big spins, but his car seemed transformed in the afternoon as he got the front end working the way he wanted. He got closest to the Mercedes. Towards the end of FP2 Alonso brought out the second red flag when his F14 T rolled to a halt between Turns 3 and 4 and caught fire. However, it was of minor concern as the engine was known to be close to the end of its mileage, and the flames were quickly extinguished.

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 14.197s, P10/1m 12.956s, P4

Sebastian Vettel, 1m 14.902s, P14/1m 13.333s, P9

Ricciardo was quite happy and believed the Red Bull has the potential to make the second row of the grid if it’s dry tomorrow, or possibly the first if it’s wet. Vettel put on a brave face, omitting to go into detail about shift problems he’d reported over the radio in FP2 which are currently being investigated.

Williams

Valtteri Bottas (pm only), 1m 13.035s, P5

Felipe Massa, 1m 13.811s, P5/1m 13.099s, P6

Felipe Nasr (am only), 1m 14.522s, P12

There were no real worries at Williams, where all three drivers felt that the FW36 had competitive dry-road pace. But now they are preparing the cars in expectation of rain for the rest of the weekend.

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat, 1m 13.723s, P3/1m 13.254s, P8

Jean-Eric Vergne (pm only), 1m 17.171s, P17

Max Verstappen (am only), 1m 13.827s, P6

Kvyat was very quick in the morning but said his car became ‘undriveable’ towards the end of the afternoon session, most likely because of the effect of the high track temperature on the tyres. Verstappen did an excellent job in FP1 - his best yet - but when Vergne took his car back for FP2 he suffered a complete electrical black-out very early on, bringing out the first red flag.

McLaren

Kevin Magnussen, 1m 14.136s, P9/1m 13.479s, P10

Jenson Button, no time, P17/1m 14.209s, P16

Magnussen was in the top 10 in both sessions, but Button lost all of the morning running when his MP4-29 lost all power as he crept into the pits early on. He then complained of vibrations in the afternoon, and that he had been sent out in traffic and was thus unable to get a good run on the soft Pirellis.

Lotus

Pastor Maldonado, 1m 14.034s, P7/1m 13.497s, P11

Romain Grosjean, 1m 15.109s, P15/1m 13.714s, P12

Lotus had a much stronger day than usual, with Maldonado in particular looking racy as he got up with the Toro Rossos, the Ferraris and Magnussen’s McLaren in his E22 in FP1, and wasn’t far off them in FP2. Grosjean was less happy in FP1, but got closer to his team mate in FP2.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 14.678s, P13/1m 13.882s, P13

Sergio Perez (pm only), no time, P18

Daniel Juncadella (am only), 1m 16.030s, P16

Hulkenberg got what he could out of his VJM07, which seems to have lost some of its pace from previous races of late, while Juncadella blotted his copybook with a shunt in the Turn 8 Laranjinha corner in FP1. That meant a long repair session, necessitating a lengthy front-end rebuild. A heat sink problem with the Mercedes powertrain didn’t help, either, and both factors stymied Perez’s afternoon session. The Mexican has been given a seven-place grid penalty here for what the stewards described as a ‘reckless’ move on Sutil in Austin.

Sauber

Esteban Gutierrez, no time, P18/1m 13.902s, P14

Adrian Sutil, 1m 14.434s, P11/1m 14.204, P15

Gutierrez struggled with ERS problems all day, and brought out the third and final red flag when his C33 stopped out on the circuit with further trouble. Sutil struggled with understeer all day.