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Friday analysis - Tyre issue takes shine off Mercedes’ day

21 Aug 2015

Aside from Pastor Maldonado’s brush with the barriers, FP1 was a rather sedate affair as the teams and drivers got back up to speed following the summer break. FP2 by contrast was a much busier session, with drama and action aplenty. When the dust settled it was Mercedes who were once again out front - though it was anything but smooth sailing for the Silver Arrows…

Mercedes

Nico Rosberg, 1m 51.06s, P1/1m 49.385s, P1
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 51.324s, P2/1m 49.687s, P2

It looked like another great day for Mercedes as they established a decent margin of seven-tenths over Red Bull in FP2 - that was until Rosberg’s worry tyre failure approaching Blanchimont. Now there are concerns over the cause, which is being jointly investigated by Pirelli and the team tonight. If everything is sorted, however, it’s already hard to see the silver cars being beaten unless they beat themselves (perhaps at the start?), poor downshifts for Hamilton in the afternoon notwithstanding.

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 51.373s, P3/1m 50.136s, P3
Daniil Kvyat, 1m 51.960s, P6/1m 50.399s, P4

The speed of the RB11s was a genuine surprise on a power circuit where everyone reckoned the Renault power unit would create an inbuilt disadvantage. It seems that the team have really got their chassis and aero working well now though, and not just on slow circuits such as the Hungaroring but at high-speed tracks such as Spa too. Despite their promising pace, Ricciardo and Kvyat remain cautious about their chances still, with the Russian suggesting they could slip back in qualifying. But in truth the only dampener on Friday was Kvyat receiving a reprimand for lack of attention when he was released from the Red Bull pit into Felipe Nasr’s path in FP2.

Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 51.478s, P4/1m 50.461s, P5
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 51.866s, P5/1m 50.940s, P10

Ferrari had a tricky day. They hadn’t expected to come here and challenge Mercedes on sheer power despite some upgrades, but you can also bet they didn’t expect to get beaten by Red Bull. Tomorrow is going to be interesting for the Prancing Horse. Will they see an upturn in qualifying? Kimi Raikkonen, freshly signed to a new deal, is overdue a good quali performance and is a recognised master of Spa, so he’s well worth keeping an eye on.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 52.614s, P12/1m 50.461s, P6
Sergio Perez, 1m 52.423s, P9/1m 50.971s, P11

Hulkenberg, who loves Spa’s high-speed swoops, really got the hammer down in FP2 after Perez had looked good in FP1, so all the signs are that the Silverstone team should be in the fight for solid points on Sunday afternoon. The slippery VJM08 looks particularly good in the flat-out first sector, but less impressive in the others.

Lotus

Romain Grosjean (pm only), 1m 50.489s, P7
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 52.539s, P11/1m 51.317s, P15
Jolyon Palmer (am only) 1m 53.799s, P17

Lotus had an upset with Maldonado’s costly crash at Pouhon in the morning, but despite the E23 Hybrid looking very lairy on occasion Grosjean was able to give the team a boost with the seventh fastest time in the afternoon. However, it wasn’t all good news for the Frenchman, who received a reprimand for driving too slowly and impeding Hulkenberg during FP2. Palmer had deputised for Grosjean in FP1, making no mistakes as he assessed a new front wing.

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson, 1m 53.426s, P15/1m 50.709s, P8
Felipe Nasr, 1m 52.640s, P13/1m 50.928s, P9

Sauber looked good in the morning and, for fleeting moments, nothing short of great in the afternoon as Ericsson jumped to the top of the timesheets on soft rubber before being displaced by Rosberg. Both drivers were very happy with the latest version of the Ferrari engine, which the Scuderia first ran several races ago, so it was a shame that Ericsson later stuffed his C34 at Pouhon after pushing just a bit too hard. But on today’s form they should be able to fight for points on Sunday.

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz, 1m 52.421s, P8/1m 51.037s, P12
Max Verstappen, 1m 52.158s, P7/1m 51.117s, P13

Franz Tost’s boys looked strong in the morning, less so in the afternoon on a track that doesn’t suit the STR10. They need to understand the tyre performance better and find some short-run pace, but otherwise had a relatively positive day. The bad news is that Verstappen will get a 10-place grid penalty after an engine change this evening brings him up to six power units so far this season.

Williams

Valtteri Bottas, 1m 52.511s, P10/1m 51.250s, P14
Felipe Massa, 1m 52.653s, P14/1m 51.588s, P16

Williams set themselves an ambitious programme of front and rear wing development in FP1 and tyre work in FP2, so effectively did what they usually do and kept their true pace concealed. It’ll be interesting to see what they will achieve tomorrow at a track that should theoretically play to the FW37’s strengths.

McLaren

Jenson Button, 1m 54.225s, P18/1m 51.854s, P17
Fernando Alonso, 1m 53.502s, P16/1m 52.570s, P18

It was a disappointing day for McLaren on which the Mk3 Honda engine did not materially affect their overall position. Button had a problem with his unit’s ERS in FP1, and Alonso spoiled his best lap of FP2 with a big lock up going into the Bus Stop chicane. It was also confirmed that they will be given grid penalties of 25 and 30 places respectively, for the use of eighth power units and associated componentry, though the team had anticipated they’d likely be starting from the back on Sunday.

Marussia

Will Stevens, 1m 55.501s, P19/1m 54.065s, P19
Roberto Merhi, 1m 56.086s, P20/1m 54.253s, P20

Manor enjoyed what John Booth described as a “straightforward and productive” Friday, which enabled them to establish the baseline from which to continue working for the rest of the weekend. Importantly, both drivers are relishing racing at Spa - a circuit they both love.