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Friday analysis - Mercedes' advantage narrows in the heat

18 Jul 2014

Sweltering track temperatures that rose as high as 58 degrees Celsius made life difficult for the teams and drivers as they tried to assess the performance of Pirelli’s soft and supersoft tyres and get to grips with running their cars without Front-and-Rear Interconnected suspension (FRIC). In the end, Mercedes emerged on top once more, but their advantage was narrower than many expected…

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, 1m 19.196s, P2/1m 18.341s, P1

Nico Rosberg, 1m 19.131s, P1/1m 18.365s, P2

Rosberg admitted that it was a difficult day adjusting the F1 W05 Hybrid to running without FRIC, but by the end of it both he and Hamilton felt that they were getting somewhere. The latter said his car still needed work on the balance. Apart from qualifying in Austria, this was the smallest gap the dominant Silver Arrows have had over their opposition, but it remains to be seen whether the removal of FRIC has harmed them more than others.

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 19.697s, P4/1m 18.443s, P3

Sebastian Vettel, 1m 20.097s, P6/1m 19.248s, P8

Ricciardo said that Red Bull got everything out of the RB10 that it had to give today, and that he was pretty pleased to be so close to the Mercedes duo - the gap between him and Hamilton was only 0.102s in FP2. Vettel looked racy for a while in both sessions but again ended up behind his team mate. Neither he nor Ricciardo felt that the removal of FRIC hurt them much.

Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 20.210s, P8/1m 18.887s, P4

Fernando Alonso, 1m 19.423s, P3/1m 19.329s, P9

Raikkonen lost a valuable soft-tyre run in FP1 because of a water pump problem, but at least was feeling little effect from his Silverstone shunt. And he bounced back with fourth fastest time in FP2. Alonso had no problems, and agreed with the Red Bull drivers that losing FRIC didn’t make much of a difference in performance and only required a small amount of personal driving style adjustment.

McLaren

Kevin Magnussen, 1m 20.105s, P7/1m 18.960s, P5

Jenson Button, 1m 19.833s, P5/1m 20.221s, P7

Magnussen tried a very different rear wing in FP1. It was part of a new raft of aero changes, and McLaren had produced it ahead of schedule. He said that his MP4-29 felt really good without FRIC, while Button said he had more to come and that he’s looking forward to trying one of the new rear wings on his car tomorrow.

Williams

Felipe Massa, 1m 20.542s, P11/1m 19.024s, P6

Valtteri Bottas (pm only), 1m 19.385s, P10

Susie Wolff (am only) 1m 20.769s, P15

Massa said that Williams had made a strong step between FP1 and FP2 and was very happy with progress. Bottas spent FP2 getting up to speed after sitting out FP1 when Wolff drove his car. She had to creep back to the pits on her initial out lap with an electronic throttle pedal problem but once that was fixed got up to speed very quickly and ended up only two-tenths of a second off Massa. They were running slightly different programmes, but this was the most impressive performance by a woman driver in F1 since Desire Wilson in the Eighties. She provided the team with plenty of feedback on the FW36 in its FRIC-less guise. The team did a strong job all day, which was reflective of their spirit after they were roused at three in the morning because of a fire at their hotel.

Sauber

Adrian Sutil, 1m 20.505s, P10/1m 19.417s, P11

Esteban Gutierrez (pm only), 1m 20.504s, P18

Giedo van der Garde (am only), 1m 20.782s, P16

All three drivers were focused on maintaining consistent lap times as they worked through set-ups and tried different configurations. Though he was quicker than usual, Sutil complained of understeer.

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat, 1m 20.337s, P9/1m 19.452s, P12

Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 20.586s, P12/1m 19,760s, P15

Kvyat was his usual matter-of-fact self and seemed happy enough with his day, but Vergne complained about the balance of his STR9.

Force India

Sergio Perez, 1m 20.598s, P14/1m 19.581s, P13

Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 20.592s, P13/1m 19.593s, P14

Generally both drivers reported constructive days, though Hulkenberg felt he could have gone quicker had the balance of his VJM07 been better and had he not run into yellow flags on his best lap.

Lotus

Pastor Maldonado, 1m 21.854s, P18/1m 20.158s, P16

Romain Grosjean, 1m 21.603s, P17/1m 20.358s, P17

The big deal for Lotus came when Grosjean’s DRS failed to close going in to Turn 2 in FP1, which certainly got his attention. Otherwise it was a normal Friday of tyre assessment and set-up work for the team beyond the need to readjust the E22 to running without FRIC.

Marussia

Jules Bianchi, 1m 22.982s, P20/1m 21.328s, P19

Max Chilton, 1m 23.299s, P22/1m 21.898s, P21

Both drivers struggled to get their cars balanced without FRIC, and the problem was worse here than it had been when Chilton tested at Silverstone last week. They felt they were making some progress by FP2, however.

Caterham

Marcus Ericsson, 1m 23.256s, P21/1m 21.870s, P20

Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 22.572s, P19/1m 23.728s, P22

Caterham had a pretty bloody day. Ericsson was instructed to shut his engine down early in FP2, but got going later when his CT05 had been recovered. Kobayashi was happy with his car’s balance once understeer had been dialled out in FP1, but had to abandon ship when a fuel leak set fire to his machine as he was exiting the Sachskurve in FP2. He then supervised the marshals’ firefighting activities.