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Friday analysis - Perez surprises, Ferrari loom ominously

27 Nov 2015

Mercedes set the pace on the opening day of the 2015 season finale in Abu Dhabi, but for once it wasn't Ferrari who chased them - Force India, via Sergio Perez, led the way. The Scuderia weren't far behind however - and they also matched Mercedes almost blow for blow over their long runs. We take a team-by-team look at the opening day of action at the Yas Marina Circuit...

Mercedes

Nico Rosberg, 1m 43.895s, P2/1m 41.983s, P1
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 43.754s, P1/1m 42.121s, P2

Hamilton said he was quite happy with his car and has a few little tweaks to improve it for tomorrow, and Rosberg thought his team mate had not revealed his true pace. The German said he was struggling for straightline speed, however, as his engine has now accumulated pretty high mileage.

Force India

Sergio Perez, 1m 44.934s, P8/1m 42.610s, P3
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 44.751s, P6/1m 42.928s, P8

Perez was very pleased with his best lap in FP2, which was mighty indeed, enough to spring him into a surprise third. Hulkenberg couldn't quite match that, and had more issues with long-run tyre degradation than his team mate, but both were generally satisfied with the start Force India have made to the weekend.

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 44.893s, P7/1m 42.647s, P4
Daniil Kvyat, 1m 44.702s, P4/1m 42.798s, P6

Red Bull’s performance underlined their view that the RB11 is a now very strong chassis, with Ricciardo faster than anyone but Rosberg in the twisty final sector. Kvyat too was quick in that split, but like Ricciardo lost time in the first. 

Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel, 1m 44.742s, P5/1m 42.717s, P5
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 44.500s, P3/1m 42.849s, P7

Raikkonen was the Scuderia's fastest representative in FP1, but neither he nor Vettel could crack the top four in FP2. Ferrari are usually stronger on Saturdays, so they should be in the mix in qualifying even if they don't push Mercedes really hard. Sunday could be a different matter, with both Ferraris looking extremely strong over long runs.

McLaren

Fernando Alonso, 1m 45.865s, P14/1m 42.955s, P9
Jenson Button, 1m 45.773s, P13/1m 44.050s, P16

Alonso complained at one stage of loss of power in FP1, but ran strongly in FP2, finishing within one second of Rosberg. Button said he was troubled by locking brakes in the first session, and also had handling complaints in the second.

Lotus

Pastor Maldonado, 1m 45.314s, P9/1m 43.431s, P10
Romain Grosjean (FP2 only), 1m 43.929s, P15
Jolyon Palmer (FP1 only), 1m 46.501s, P18

Maldonado and Grosjean struggled a little with their E23s’ balance, while Palmer lost all but 10 minutes of FP1 as a water leak was fixed. The Briton's progress thereafter was hurt by a quick spin in Turn 18. Maldonado and Grosjean were particularly fast through the speed traps, with Grosjean reaching 322 km/h through the middle sector trap, the fastest of any driver.

Williams

Valtteri Bottas, 1m 45.603s, P11/1m 43.441s, P11
Felipe Massa, 1m 45.433s, P10/1m 43.506s, P12

As usual, Williams worked through various comparative processes, keeping their powder dry for tomorrow. Even so, their car looked a handful, particularly under Massa's guidance.

Toro Rosso

Max Verstappen, 1m 45.718s, P12/1m 43.662s, P13
Carlos Sainz, 1m 46.220s, P16/1m 43.854s, P14

Both drivers struggled, but while Verstappen thought he finally had a handle on direction for tomorrow, Sainz was deeply frustrated when his engine switched itself off - again - in FP2.

Sauber

Felipe Nasr, 1m 46.115s, P15/1m 44.116s, P17
Marcus Ericsson, 1m 46.407s, P17/1m 45.245s, P18

Both drivers struggled with their set-up, as they tried to make the tyres work on the C34s. They were mired down at the bottom of the timesheets as a result.

Marussia

Will Stevens, 1m 48.836s, P19/1m 46.450s, P19
Robert Merhi, 1m 49.888s, P20/1m 47.022s, P20

Marussia arrived at a decent set-up, and said there was just some fine-tuning required to ease some tyre graining. Stevens had the measure of the returning Merhi, enjoying a comfortable margin in both sessions.