Ferrari lead the way in Saturday Practice | 2016 Bahrain GP FP3 report

A stunning Arabian sky greeted the F1 fraternity after the cloudy weather of Friday, and it was Ferraru’s Sebastian Vettel who clocked the fastest time on Saturday afternoon.

It was a session including a lot of medium-tyre running for most teams, including McLaren and Force India, who appeared well down the order.

Mercedes set the early pace with Nico Rosberg, but later on in the session Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen topped the sheets, at the track where he got his best result the previous year.

He was then pipped in the last few minutes by team mate Sebastian Vettel, who posted a time just four hundredths quicker.

It was a trying session for McLaren debutant Stoffel Vandoorne (who deputises for the injured Fernando Alonso this weekend) when a suspected oil leak left him in the garage with the floor off for most of the session. He was, for the first 45 minutes, the only driver not to have set a time, but when the oil leak was revealed just to be a spillage, he headed out and set a time just behind that of McLaren team mate Jenson Button.

Jolyon Palmer’s baptism by fire in F1 continued as the chequered flag came out, when a right-rear puncture manifested itself on his final lap, presumably due to running over a kerb in the middle sector.

Ferrari look strong, but it remains to be seen whether Mercedes were sandbagging, or the Scuderia are a genuine threat.

Times from FP3

1) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari 1:31.683 (22 Laps)
2) Kimi Räikkönen, Ferrari 1:31.723 (13 Laps)
3) Nico Rosberg, Mercedes 1:32.104 (18 Laps)
4) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes 1:32.160 (14 Laps)
5) Valtteri Bottas, Williams-Mercedes 1:32.675 (18 Laps)
6) Romain Grosjean, Haas-Ferrari 1:33.082 (14 Laps)
7) Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull-TAG Heuer 1:33.113 (10 Laps)
8) Esteban Gutiérrez, Haas-Ferrari 1:33.337 (14 Laps)
9) Felipe Massa, Williams-Mercedes 1:33.363 (18 Laps)
10) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull-TAG Heuer 1:33.519 (20 Laps)
11) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber-Ferrari 1:33.569 (16 Laps)
12) Kevin Magnussen, Renault 1:33.617 (9 Laps)
13) Jenson Button, McLaren-Honda          1:33.704 (12 Laps)
14) Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren-Honda  1:33.744 (11 Laps)
15) Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:33.778 (20 Laps)
16) Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:34.003 (20 Laps)
17) Felipe Nasr, Sauber-Ferrari 1:34.013 (15 Laps)
18) Nico Hülkenberg, Force India-Mercedes 1:34.128 (16 Laps)
19) Sergio Pérez, Force India-Mercedes 1:34.281 (15 Laps)
20) Jolyon Palmer, Renault 1:34.424 (9 Laps)
21) Rio Haryanto, Manor-Mercedes 1:35.546 (15 Laps)
22) Pascal Wehrlein, Manor-Mercedes 1:35.724 (16 Laps)

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Hamilton leads soggy first session of 2016 | Australian GP FP1 Report

The first official Formula 1 session of the 2016 Season got underway at 12:30 local time in Melbourne on Friday, ending fifteen weeks without the fastest sport on earth.

Sebastian Vettel was first out on track as the Albert Park Street Circuit took the honours of first round of the season – twenty years on from its first slot on the calendar.

Damp conditions saw a very stop/start session, punctuated by both drizzly and bright spells.

A particularly wet period caught out Valtteri Bottas at Turn 7, and the Finn damaged the floor of his Williams machine, sending him back to the pit lane.

Max Verstappen pushed hard throughout, even daring to fly over the sodden astrotruf on the exit of the super-fast T12 chicane, but it was a much slower corner that caused the Dutch teenager to spin; as he spun his STR10 on the exit of T7 at low speed, due to more damp run-off.

Team mate Carlos Sainz also hit trouble, when his car toured the circuit slowly and then ran out of power in the pit lane.

A third unfortunate Red Bull driver – Daniel Ricciardo – ended the session in the gravel trap at T14 as the rain fell heavier at the end of FP1, beaching his car with less than a minute to go.

Everyone kept it out of the barriers though, including the new Haas team, the re-vamped Manor team, and the returning Renault boys, clad in a new glowing gold paint scheme.

Times from FP1

1) Hamilton, Mercedes – 1.29:725 (14 Laps)
2) Kvyat, Red Bull – 1.30:146 (14 Laps)
3) Ricciardo, Red Bull – 1.30:875 (13 Laps)
4) Hulkenberg, Force India – 1.31:325 (7 Laps)
5) Verstappen, Toro Rosso – 1.31:720 (13 Laps)
6) Rosberg, Mercedes – 1.31:814 (11 Laps)
7) Alonso, McLaren – 1.33:060 (11 Laps)
8) Button, McLaren – 1.33:129 (16 Laps)
9) Perez, Force India – 1.33:370 (5 Laps)
10) Magnussen, Renault – 1.34:060 (12 Laps
11) Bottas, Williams – 1.34:550 (6 Laps)
12) Massa, Williams – 1.34:679 (6 Laps)
13) Nasr, Sauber – 1.34:796 (7 Laps)
14) Palmer, Renault – 1.35:477 (12 Laps)
15) Ericsson, Sauber – 1.37:956 (6 Laps)
16) Wehrlein, Manor – 1.40:401 (5 Laps)
17) Raikkonen, Ferrari – 1.40:754 (10 Laps)
18) Gutierrez, Haas – 1.41:780 (8 Laps)
19) Haryanto, Manor – 1.43:372 (6 Laps)
20) Grosjean, Haas – 1.43:443 (6 Laps)
21) Vettel, Ferrari – No time (8 Laps)
22) Sainz Jr, Toro Rosso – No time (3 Laps)

Magnussen in, Maldonado out at Renault

Renault F1 Team have officially announced Kevin Magnussen as their second driver for the 2016 Formula 1 Season after sponsorship payment negotiations with Pastor Maldonado fell through.

Maldonado had a lucrative sponsorship agreement with PDVSA, a petrol company in his native Venezuela, thought to be worth somewhere in the region of $46Million per year, but it appears the change of ownership at Lotus/Renault, combined with PDVSA’s president Rafael Ramírez moving from his position in a government re-shuffle in 2014, has prompted an annulment of the contract.

The Venezuelan has been at the Enstone-based team (formerly known as Lotus) for the past two years. He joined F1 in 2011 with Williams, and made history with them in 2012 by winning the Spanish Grand Prix. It was not only his first win, but the first win in F1 history for a Venezuelan driver, and the first for Williams in seven-and-a-half years.

Pastor became the fifth different race winner in 2012 with his magnificent win. Photo: Cahier Archive
Pastor became the fifth different race winner in 2012 with his magnificent win. Photo: Cahier Archive

However, he also picked up a reputation for colliding with drivers, spawning websites such as Has Maldonado Crashed Today? and the Twitter account Did Maldonado Crash. His most notable collision(s) were arguably with Esteban Gutierrez, whom he flipped upside-down at the 2014 Bahrain GP, and Lewis Hamilton, with whom he collided on the penultimate lap of the 2012 European GP while both fought for a podium position.

His replacement, Magnussen, last participated in F1 when he deputised for Fernando Alonso at last year’s Australian Grand Prix, although his McLaren-Honda engine expired before he even made it to the grid. Before that, he had a stellar 2014 campaign with the British team alongside Jenson Button, the highlight of which was a second-place podium finish on his debut in Australia.

Magnussen_2014_Italy_06_PHC
Magnussen at the Italian GP in 2014. Photo: Cahier Archive

Magnussen has looked a shoo-in to replace Alonso or Button at McLaren as the pair come towards the end of their F1 careers, but he was unceremoniously dropped from McLaren’s roster on his birthday late last year.

It means that Renault will have one of the most inexperienced driver pairings in the sport in 2016, with Magnussen partnering 2014 GP2 Champion Jolyon Palmer. Magnussen will resume the use of car number 20, while Palmer will take the vacant number 30 which he has used in test and practice sessions.

Hamilton wins while Rosberg left rudderless in Russia

Lewis Hamilton won Sunday’s dramatic Russian Grand Prix for Mercedes, ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, and a spirited Sergio Perez who came home third, to score Force India’s third ever podium.

The Mexican was fortunate to finish where he did, after a late charge from Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen. Both passed Perez with just one lap to go, but half-way round the final lap, Kimi tried to pass his fellow countryman, but ended up pitching him into the barrier, re-promoting Perez to third.

Raikkonen was given a 30-second penalty after the race, and that meant that Mercedes out-scored Ferrari by 3 points – exactly the right amount to secure their second consecutive Constructors’ championship.

Background

The weekend got underway on Friday afternoon, but was oddly delayed by a diesel spillage on the track, which was then sprayed with water in an attempt to clear it, but it only worsened the situation. The oddly-damp track saw very little running in Practice 1, and the second session of the day was even worse, with a rain shower coating the track, and the new tarmac failing to drain properly.

After a pointless day of very little running on Friday, Saturday’s Practice 3 was cut short as well, after Carlos Sainz suffered hefty crash when his rear brakes locked and he crashed into a wall, then slid underneath a foam barrier. Luckily, the Spaniard was unhurt, and he ironically ended up with the most number of laps for anyone over the three days, with just 19.

He was transported to hospital, but tweeted a picture of himself looking fine from his bed, and was cleared to race the following day, starting 20th on the grid.

Race Day

With the Mercedes duo securing the team’s 30th front row lock out, the start was dominated by the battle between the silver cars. Hamilton got alongside and momentarily ahead of Rosberg, but he was on the outside of the first corner, so Rosberg kept the lead.

However, while things were falling in to place for one Nico, it fell apart for another.

Hulkenberg qualified an excellent sixth, but when he rounded turn one he spun. His car blocked part of the track, and an unfortunate Marcus Ericsson collected him, eliminating both cars on the spot.

Max Verstappen also clipped Hulkenberg’s stationary Force India and picked up a puncture. He pitted at the end of the first lap, along with Grosjean, who damaged his front wing in the carnage.

With so much debris, the Safety car was inevitable, and it was brought out instantly, but oddly, nobody opted to pit for tyres.

After three laps, the Safety Car came back in, and Hamilton set about chasing Rosberg, but he didn’t have to do much work. Lo and behold, Rosberg’s car ran in to difficulties, with his throttle pedal stuck open. This meant that even while he was braking, his car was trying to accelerate, and though he tried to manage the situation, it was too difficult, and he retired on Lap 8, shortly after Hamilton passed him.

The next retirement was much more dramatic. Newly-announced Haas driver for 2016 Romain Grosjean was following Jenson Button through the impossibly long turn 3, but ran wide on the discarded bits of tyre debris known as ‘marbles’, and he spun, crashing heavily into the barrier.

He was completely unhurt, thankfully, but the car – and indeed barrier – were obliterated, leading to the strange sight of marshals repairing it with duct tape. After another four laps, the racing resumed.

Sergio Perez had fitted the harder Prime tyre during this Safety Car Period, and his team intended to go to the end of the race on them in a super-agressive strategy that would end up paying dividends later on.

The action died down in the middle of the race, but returned on Lap 38 when Kimi Raikkonen tried to negotiate Valtteri Bottas. The Ferrari dived down Bottas’ inside, but Bottas went right back past him; the desperation from the 2007 World Champion would boil over later in the race.

Carlos Sainz recovered from his huge crash on Saturday morning, but on Lap 46, his brakes, which had been overheating, exploded, and he spun harmlessly at first, but further down the road spun into the very same barrier he was buried under 24 hours previously.

A piece of his rear wing fell off, and a foolish marshal ran on to the track to retrieve it without yellow flags being shown, and was not far away from being hit by Sebastian Vettel, who dubbed him ‘a brave Russian’.

Two laps on from the Toro Rosso driver’s retirement, a former Toro Rosso driver, Daniel Ricciardo, pulled off the race track with damage to his suspension, after running in sixth place. It did however, promote his team mate and the only Russian racer on the grid Daniil Kvyat up to sixth.

Ricciardo had been on the back of Raikkonen and Bottas, who were in turn gaining on Sergio Perez, whose 41-lap stint on the hard tyres was beginning to show signs of extreme wear. The Mexican had taken the soft compound tyres from Lap 12 to Lap 52, when finally he ran out of grip completely, and was passed by Bottas at turn 12, and then Raikkonen at turn 13.

With a podium in his sights – a rarity in 2015 – Raikkonen went for the pass on Valtteri Bottas at turn 3, but came from too far away, locked up and hit the side of Bottas, sending him in to the wall, and breaking Raikkonen’s front-left suspension. This meant that Perez was able to regain third place and pick up a sublime podium for Force India, who have only made the rostrum three time since their debut in 2008.

Hamilton had been forgotten about once Rosberg retired, and coasted to his ninth win in 2015, and 42nd overall, taking him past Ayrton Senna’s tally of 41, and drawing him level with Sebastian Vettel.

Raikkonen went on to finish fifth on the road, but was later demoted to eighth after receiving a 30-second penalty after the race.

Fernando Alonso originally finished in tenth place, but was dropped to 11th after a five-second penalty was added for ignoring track limits.

Classification

1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
3) Sergio Perez, Force India
4) Felipe Massa, Williams
5) Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull
6) Felipe Nasr, Sauber
7) Pastor Maldonado, Lotus
8) Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari (with 30 second penalty)
9) Jenson Button, McLaren
10) Max Verstappen
11) Fernando Alonso
12) Valtteri Bottas, Williams*
13) Roberto Merhi, Manor (+1 Lap)
14) Will Stevens, Manor (+2 Laps)
15) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull*

* Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo did not finish the race, but were still classified as the finished over 90% of the race distance.

Out/Retired
Valtteri Bottas, Williams, Lap 53 (Collision)
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Lap 48 (Suspension)
Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, Lap 46 (Brake failure)
Romain Grosjean, Lotus, Lap 12 (Spun off)
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Lap 8 (Throttle)
Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, Lap 1 (Collision)
Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, Lap 1 (Collision)

The next race takes place in two weeks’ time at the formidable Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on 25 October.

The sun rises for Hamilton in Suzuka | 2015 Japanese GP Report

Lewis Hamilton furthered his lead in the Drivers’ Championship on Sunday by taking yet another commanding victory in 2015. The Mercedes driver was forceful-but-fair with team mate Nico Rosberg at the start of the race heading into the first corner, forcing the German to the outside, and duly taking the lead, which he never let go of. His 41st career victory also means that he is now tied with his idol Aytron Senna for number of career victories.

Ferrari’s strong season was supplemented by a 3-4 for the team, with Vettel grabbing bottom step of the podium ahead of his team mate. As has become the theme for 2015, most of the action occurred further down the field; the mercurial Max Verstappen once again showing up his elders with daring overtakes.

Chronology

The race began with a great start from Rosberg who took Pole, due in part to Daniil Kvyat’s crash at the end of the session which brought out the red flag, and prevented anyone – including Hamilton, who was on a faster lap – from improving.

However, Hamilton lined up along side him, and took the inside line at the first corner, forcing Rosberg to submit. Unfortunately for Nico, he lifted too late and ended up on the grass, losing positions to Vettel and Bottas.

Meanwhile, Felipe Massa and Daniel Ricciardo made miniscule contact, but it was enough for both cars to earna  puncture. Sergio Perez ran over some debris as well, and made it three drivers crawling back to the pits on three fully-inflated Pirellis and one shreded mass of rubber.

Alonso benefited most from the turn one troubles, and surged from 14th on the grid to ninth by the second lap. However, his Honda power couldn’t keep him ahead of the overwhelming advantage of the other Power units, and he had to relinquish ninth place to Carlos Sainz on lap four.

Further on in the race, after the first round of pit stops, Alonso found himself ahead of both Toro Rossos once more, but was overtaken by Carlos Sainz and Marcus Ericsson at the same time, at the start of Lap 26. A lap later, Max Verstappen passed him at the same corner, and the McLaren driver exclaimed “GP2 Engine! GP2!” before letting out an exasperated cry.

It’s not the first time in 2015 McLaren’s drivers have been vocal about the 160 horsepower deficit on the Honda power unit, most of which comes from the deployment of electrical energy. Still, the comments created a PR nightmare for McLaren after the race, with Alonso and McLaren CEO Ron Dennis criticising one another.

However, there was nothing that could be done during the race, and Alonso continued, eventually finishing 11th, just outside the points, although it still counts as the team’s fifth-best result of the season, after fifth and ninth for Alonso and Button respectively in Hungary, tenth in Britain for Alonso, and eighth for Button in Monaco.

Rosberg’s engine had been critical with temperature early in the race, but by the second round of stops he had managed the issue, and by lap 31 he had passed Bottas and then Vettel thanks to the ‘undercut’ pit strategy.

Red Bull’s junior drivers provided most of the excitement in the latter half of the race, although Carlos Sainz rued his ‘rookie mistake’ on Lap 28 when he smashed his front wing on the pit entry bollard. Later on, he and team mate Max Verstappen scrapped for ninth place, with Verstappen scything down his colleague’s inside at the chicane on Lap 45.

The other young Red Bull talent, Daniil Kvyat, was busy making headway of his own. He started in the pit lane and could not use his ‘overtake button’ (which allows the driver to change gears at a higher rev count, and therefore gives better acceleration) due to reliability worries, so was resigned to scrapping for no points. He tore past Sergio Perez for 14th place o lap 45, and then relieved Marcus Ericsson of 13th on lap 49.

With two laps to go, Felipe Nasr became the only retirement, but was still classified four laps down on race winner Lewis Hamiton, who took the flag nearly twenty seconds ahead of his nearest rival Nico Rosberg.

Classification

1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2) Nico Rosberg, Mercedes
3) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
4) Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
5) Valtteri Bottas, Williams
6) Nico Hulkenberg, Force India
7) Romain Grosjean, Lotus
8) Pastor Maldonado, Lotus
9) Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso
10) Carlos Sainz Jr, Toro Rosso11) Fernando Alonso, McLaren
12) Sergio Perez, Force India
13) Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull
14) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber
15) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull
16) Jenson Button, McLaren
17) Felipe Massa, Williams
18) Alexander Rossi, Manor Marussia
19) Will Stevens, Manor Marussia
Felipe Nasr, Sauber (Mechanical issue, +4 Laps)

The next race will be in two weeks’ time on Sunday October 11, at the Sochi Autodrom, Russia.

Vettel shines in Singapore night race | 2015 Singapore GP Report

Sebastian Vettel claimed his third victory of the season in Singapore on Sunday, ahead of his former team mate Daniel Ricciardo, and current Ferrari colleague Kimi Raikkonen.

The result came as a blow to current championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who had to retire on Lap 32 due to a failure of his ERS system. This meant the car was relying solely on the internal combustion engine, which thanks to the new hybrid power units, now only accounts for about two thirds of the car’s horsepower.

The other Mercedes car was not in its usual dominant position either, with Nico Rosberg suffering higher tyre wear than the Ferrari and Red Bull cars, which simply couldn’t be matched on the slow, twisty track.

Sebastian_Vettel_2015_Malaysia_FP2_1

The race started in a fairly routine fashion, save for Max Verstappen, who stalled on the grid. The Young Dutchman was wheeled in to the pits, and went a lap down immediately after his car was restarted.

Lap 12 saw the first Safety Car of the race, thus continuing Singapore’s record of providing a Safety Car in every race since its inaugural running in 2008.

The flashing lights this time were caused when Nico Hulkenberg attempted to overtake Felipe Massa at turn 1 when the Williams exited the pits. However, Hulkenberg squeezed Massa to the inside of the track, and with nowhere else to go, the Force India clipped his front-right wheel and flew over it, ending up in a crumpled mess in the wall.

The Safety car proper was not released until lap 16; until then it had been a Virtual Safety Car, where the drivers are limited to a specific lap time to maintain the gap to the cars ahead and behind.

Most drivers pitted in this safety car period, but not Daniil Kvyat. He had already come in, and so the Mercedes cars were able to pit further up the road and then rejoin ahead of the young Russian in sixth.

Carlos Sainz dropped to 18th position at the restart, ahead only of Max Verstappen who was still around half a lap down.

Hamilton’s plight began a few laps after the restart. He’d got himself into third position behind Vettel and Ricciardo, but on Lap 26 he reported a loss of power, which saw him overtaken by Raikkonen, Rosberg, and even Alonso got past his old team mate. On Lap 32, though, the Brit had to call it a day, but he was in good company, being joined in the pit lane by Alonso a lap earlier, and Felipe Massa two laps before that; the ex-Ferrari duo both succumbing to gearbox issues.

For the second time in 2015, a spectator got onto the track, walking across the track and then down the back straight between Turns 13 and 14. While the lunatic was restrained, the Safety Car was brought out once more.

When it came back in, the bunched-up field got stuck into one another, but none more so than Jenson Button and Pastor Maldonado. Button looked down Maldonado’s inside at Turn 8, but the Lotus wouldn’t budge. When he tried his luck on the inside of Turn 9, Maldonado slowed right down, and Button took of half of his front wing on the Venezuelan’s rear-left tyre.

The carbon fiber struck the front of Carlos Sainz’s car, but while Button and Maldonado had to pit for a new front wing and a tyres respectively, Sainz was only getting faster, despite his carbon salad. Verstappen passed Grosjean, and Sainz followed him a few corners later, pushing Grosjean wide.

On lap 51 Daniel Ricciardo denied his ex-team mate a ‘Grand Slam’ (where a driver gets Pole Position, fastest lap, leads every race and wins) by stealing the honours for fastest lap. A couple of laps later, McLaren’s evening went from bad to worse, with Jenson Button retiring due to the same gearbox issue that sidelined his team mate Alonso.

The final drama in the race involved Toro Rosso, who instructed Max Verstappen to relinquish eight place to Carlos Sainz behind, but it was met with a hearty “NO!” from the Dutch teenager. Seven years and seven days prior, another Toro Rosso youngster was showing the world what he was made of when he won his first race.

That man was Sebastian Vettel who, in the present, had maintained a gap of around three seconds to Daniel Ricciardo in second for the whole race, to take his third victory of the season, equaling the estimate set by the red team at the start of the season.

The result means that Hamilton still leads the championship with 252 points, 41 points ahead of Nico Rosberg who is on 211. Sebastian Vettel is just behind on 203 nearly doubling his team mate Kimi Raikkonen’s tally of 107.

The next race is in Japan at the mythic Suzuka Circuit, on Sunday September 27.

Final Positions
1) S Vettel, Ferrari
2) D Ricciardo, Red Bull
3) K Raikkonen, Ferrari
4) N Rosberg, Mercedes
5) V Bottas, Williams6) D Kvyat, Red Bull
7) S Perez, Force India
8) M Verstappen, Toro Rosso
9) C Sainz, Toro Rosso
10) F Nasr, Sauber
11) M Ericsson, Sauber
12) P Maldonado, Lotus
13) R Grosjean, Lotus
14) A Rossi, Manor
15) W Stevens, Manor

Out/Retired
J Button, McLaren, Lap 52 (Gearbox)
F Alonso, McLaren, Lap 33 (Gearbox)
L Hamilton, Mercedes, Lap 32 (ERS)
F Massa, Williams, Lap 30 (Exhaust)
N Hulkenberg, Force India, Lap 12 (Crash)

Red Bull fly as Williams’ wings are clipped | 2015 Singapore GP – Free Practice 2

Red Bull’s impressive form at the Marina Bay Circuit in 2015 continued in Free Practice 2, as Daniil Kvyat topped a Formula 1 session for the first time in his career, narrowly heading Raikkonen and his team mate Ricciardo.

With great pace in FP1, the Red Bulls look set to challenge for a podium once again, with the slow and curvy nature of the track suiting their aero-optimised package, similar to Hungary and Monaco earlier this year.

Another theme carried across from the first session was difficult times for Manor Marussia. Alex Rossi whacked the wall late on in the opening session and sat out the first twenty minutes of FP2. Time to shine, then, for his team mate Will Stevens, but it was not to be. He too lost the rear end of the car under braking, and hit the wall at Turn 11, bringing out more yellow flags.

Sebastian Vettel also had a scare, losing traction going in to turn 4 thanks to his car ‘bottoming-out’, where the underside of the car momentarily rests on the ground, thanks to an uneven surface. However, he kept his foot in the brake pedal and recovered to sixth-best, with more pace expected to follow on Saturday and Sunday.

The Mercedes cars were suspected to be sand-bagging too, with the drivers lining up fourth and seventh fastest.

1) Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull 1’46.142 (34 Laps)
2) Kimi Räikkönen, Ferrari, 1’46.181 (+0.039 (34 Laps))
3) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1’46.256 (+0.114 (29 Laps))
4) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1’46.479 (+0.337 (33 Laps)
5) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1’46.487 (+0.345 35 Laps))
6) Sergio Pérez, Force India, 1’46.659 (+0.517 (30 Laps))
7) Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1’46.781 (+0.639 (34 Laps))
8) Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 1’46.959 (+0.817 (26 Laps))
9) Nico Hülkenberg, Force India, 1’47.294 (+1.152 (35 Laps))
10) Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, 1’47.427 (+1.285 (32 Laps))
11) Felipe Massa, Williams, 1’47.684 (+1.542 (28 Laps))
12) Felipe Nasr, Sauber, 1’47.755 (+1.613 (26 Laps))
13) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1’47.795 (+1.653 (33 Laps))
14) Jenson Button, McLaren, 1’47.888 (+1.746 (28 Laps))
15) Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1’48.012 (+1.870 (23 Laps))
16) Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 1’48.096 (+1.954 (32 Laps))
17) Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1’48.118 (+1.976 (28 Laps))
18) Pastor Maldonado, Lotus, 1’50.094 (+3.952 (30 Laps))
19) Alexander Rossi, Marussia, 1’56.739 (+10.597 (9 Laps))
20) Will Stevens, Marussia, 1’59.932 (+13.790 (3 Laps))

All times via FORIX