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Friday analysis - Mercedes remain clear favourites

09 May 2014

Mercedes’ rivals may have hoped that various updates would bring them closer to the championship leaders in Spain on Friday, but sadly for them there was little sign of that materialising. At least perfect weather in both sessions enabled the teams to conduct their outright pace runs on Pirelli’s hard and medium compounds, and then to do their race running. We take a team-by-team look at day one in Barcelona…

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, 1m 27.023s, P1/1m 25.524s, P1

Nico Rosberg, 1m 28.168s, P5/1m 25.973s, P2

Hamilton said he’d had the best Friday he could remember in a long time after dominating both sessions. Rosberg had an ERS cooling problem in FP1, but came back strongly in FP2. Even more worrying for the Silver Arrows’ rivals than the practice pace was the race-simulation speed of the newly renamed F1 W05 Hybrid; Hamilton in particular was a second faster than Red Bull and Ferrari.

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 27.973s, P3/1m 26.509s, P3

Sebastian Vettel, 1m 30.942s, P20/No time

Red Bull had yet another mixed day that did not yield the performance improvement that had been hoped for via Renault’s revised power unit. Ricciardo had by far the better day with third fastest time in both sessions, but he ended up a second down on the Mercedes. Vettel’s first outing in the chassis that he had used in initial testing was simply a disaster. Electrical problems stymied him after half an hour in FP1, and resultant damage to the wiring loom left him unable to run at all in FP2. It was, as Vettel said, a small failure with big consequences, and the team remain on their back foot. Frustration was evident throughout the camp.

Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, 1m 28.128s, P4/1m 27.121, P4

Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 28.337s, P6/1m 27.296s, P5

Alonso complained about the general lack of grip as the circuit continued to get rubbered in, Ferrari’s lack of downforce relative to 2013, and the conservatism of Pirelli’s tyre choice, and stressed the need to get the F14 T balanced overnight. Raikkonen was happier to be on the pace.

McLaren

Kevin Magnussen, 1m 28.423s, P7/1m 27.788s, P6

Jenson Button, 1m 27.891s, P2/1m 27.811s P7

McLaren brought only small aero upgrades, and Button said that the MP4-29 is very sensitive to temperature aerodynamically, hence the struggle in FP2 relative to FP1 when he had been second fastest. He suggested that his FP2 time was closer to McLaren’s true potential than his FP1 time. Magnussen described the upgrade as a small step in the right direction.

Williams

Felipe Massa, 1m 28.791s, P10/1m 27.824s, P8

Valtteri Bottas (pm only), 1m 28.698s, P14

Felipe Nasr (am only), 1m 29.272s, P14

Williams were buoyed when their upgrades either met or exceeded expectations, though both Massa and Bottas said there were still some rear-end grip problems that needed to be resolved. Bottas said he was buoyed by the thought that he didn’t have all the updates that Massa did, meaning that his FW36 should be quicker tomorrow. Once again, tester Nasr played his part in gathering data on the upgrades during his FP1 run.

Lotus

Pastor Maldonado, 1m 28.744s, P8/1m 27.866s, P9

Romain Grosjean, 1m 29.944s, P17/1m 29.493s, P17

Maldonado gave Lotus a major boost with top 10 times in both sessions, but he had to stop as a precaution at the end of FP2 when the telemetry highlighted imminent gearbox problems. Grosjean reported engine troubles in both sessions but also had brake issues and never got going quickly.

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat, 1m 28.792s, P11/1m 28.049s, P10

Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 28.859s, P13/1m 28.246s, P12

Kvyat looked strong in both sessions, but while Vergne was little slower he ran out of luck at the end of FP2 when the right-rear wheel parted company with his STR9 after his final tyre change. The team’s failure to secure the wheel properly means the Frenchman will drop 10 grid places for Sunday’s race.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 28.828s, P12/1m 28.074s, P11

Sergio Perez, 1m 28.779s, P9/1m 29.129s, P16

While Hulkenberg said his day had been “positive,” Perez described his as “challenging,” as the pair chased performance from their VJM07s. Overall they did 100 laps and had decent race pace, prompting deputy team principal Bob Fernley to describe it as “productive.”

Sauber

Adrian Sutil, 1m 29.688s, P15/1m 28.284s, P13

Esteban Gutierrez (pm only), 1m 29.105s, P15

Giedo van der Garde (am only), 1m 30.440s, P18

Sauber had their new lightweight chassis, which pared 15 kg off the first iterations of the C33. Van der Garde reported oversteer because of braking problems during downshifts, which put him off the road at one stage, while Gutierrez said that he lacked confidence in the car’s balance when he took it over in the afternoon. Sutil, however, said that despite some minor issues he felt the new chassis was a step forward.

Marussia

Jules Bianchi, 1m 29.820s, P16/1m 29.991s, P18

Max Chilton, 1m 30.748s, P19/1m 31.148s, P19

Both cars used new front suspension, while Chilton’s was equipped with the latest aero package after Bianchi had validated it in FP1. The Frenchman looked hooked up in both sessions, but Chilton struggled with an engine problem initially in FP2 then understeer in FP2, before losing his rear mini wing and right at the end slid off the road into the gravel in Turn Four.

Caterham

Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 30.997s, P21/1m 31.338s, P20

Marcus Ericsson, 1m 31.421s, P22/1m 31.586s, P21

Both drivers battled with understeer as the team struggled to get the cars set-up for the demanding track.