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Friday analysis - Red Bull and McLaren among the surprises

10 Apr 2015

Consistent weather conditions enabled all of the teams to complete their tyre evaluation and aerodynamic programmes in Shanghai on Friday. As expected, Pirelli’s softer compound was getting on for two seconds a lap faster than the medium, though several teams encountered graining and everyone struggled for grip throughout the day as the track continued to rubber in. We take a team-by-team look at progress on day one in China…

Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 39.033s, P1/1m 37.219s, P1
Nico Rosberg, 1m 39.574s, P2/1m 38.399s, P5

Hamilton said that he was quite happy with his F1 W06 Hybrid’s balance compared to Friday in Malaysia, as well as with his race runs on the medium and soft rubber. But the one second advantage over Ferrari on the former was eroded to less than half a second on the latter. Rosberg, meanwhile, said he really wasn’t sure about their pace compared to the red cars. As a result, Mercedes expect to have another tough battle with them this weekend even though the track temperatures are half what they were when Ferrari won in Sepang.

Ferrari
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 40.661s, P4/1m 37.662s, P2
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 40.157s, P3/1m 38.339s, P4

There were lots of smiles at Ferrari today, and though there was also a lot of downplaying their chances of a second consecutive victory over Mercedes, there is a sneaking feeling that it could happen. Raikkonen was within half a second of Hamilton on the soft tyre in FP2, and did some very competitive race times on the mediums.

Red Bull
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 41.029s, P6/1m 38.311s, P3
Daniil Kvyat, 1m 41.097s, P7/1m 38.737s, P6

The Red Bull cars looked closer to the pace here, despite Kvyat suffering from a left rear brake fire. That led to failure as he slowed down for T14 while cruising to the pits, and the resultant impact with the wall tore off the front wing. On the positive side, Ricciardo was a solid third fastest in FP2.

Williams
Valtteri Bottas, 1m 41.303s, P9/1m 38.850s, P7
Felipe Massa, 1m 41.304s, P10/1m 40.423s, P17

Bottas had a trouble-free day in which he was able to evaluate some new aero parts for the Williams FW37. Massa, however, had a problem with his DRS which unsettled the back end of his car braking for Turn 14 in FP2, and damaged the front left endplate as he brushed the inside wall. To his annoyance that ruined the sole new front wing he’d been given for the weekend.

Sauber
Felipe Nasr, 1m 41.012s, P5/1m 39.032s, P8
Marcus Ericsson, 1m 41.918s, P14/1m 39.751s, P13

Sauber had a productive day. Nasr said he was much happier with his C34 after its Malaysian differential problems had been resolved, and was also pleased with a new front wing. Ericsson said that his car needed more work on the set-up, but that it felt good in race trim.

Lotus
Romain Grosjean (pm only), 1m 39.142s, P9
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 41.335s, P11/1m 39.444s, P11
Jolyon Palmer (am only), 1m 41.967s, P15

Lotus had a solid day, with Grosjean and Maldonado pushing hard and believing there is more to come. Palmer did a fine job in his FP1 debut, recovering quickly from a half spin on the slick surface to work down to within six-tenths of the experienced Maldonado on a track he’d never run before.

McLaren
Jenson Button, 1m 41.845s, P13/1m 39.275s, P10
Fernando Alonso, 1m 42.161s, P17/1m 37.743s, P12

McLaren sprang a surprise with Button 10th and Alonso 12th on a circuit that had not been expected to favour the new MP4-30. Alonso had a problem on his car which required replacement of the ERS system prior to FP2, but both drivers reported updates for this race were working as expected. Button said the car was nice to drive over a lap, but that its race runs weren’t so good, the opposite to the situation in Malaysia. He also said that other teams’ problems, especially with the red flag when Massa went off, may have skewed the list of times in McLaren’s favour.

Toro Rosso
Max Verstappen, 1m 41.575s, P12/1m 39.894s, P14
Carlos Sainz, 1m 41.112s, P8/1m 39.971s, P15

Both drivers looked very good in FP1, but their positions in FP2 were not aided by the red flag for Massa which ruined their short runs on the soft tyre. Nevertheless, they look in good shape for qualifying.

Force India
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 42.184s, P18/1m 40.151s, P16
Sergio Perez, 1m 42.141s, P16/1m 40.868s, P18

It was another tricky day for Force India. Hulkenberg was slowed in FP2 with an overheating gearbox, while Perez lost time in the same session with brake problems.

Marussia
Roberto Merhi, 1m 46.443s, P20/1m 42.973s, P19
Will Stevens, 1m 45.379s, P19/1m 44.564s, P20

For the first time Marussia got both their cars running strongly, though an engine electronics problem hampered Stevens for most of FP2 and saw him only get out again in the closing stages. He thus missed his run on the soft tyre.