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)

Vettel signs for Ferrari and the dominos fall once more

Reigning and 4-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel is to leave Red Bull at the end of the current season for a place at Ferrari in 2015.

The move was announced on Saturday, October 4th, just before Qualifying at the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka. Reportedly, Vettel summoned team boss Christian Horner to his hotel room, where the pair talked about the upcoming departure, one which is said to be emotional for Horner.

The move is seismic as it marks the first time that a front-running team has announced a change in its team next year. Schumacher’s second retierement caused the cascade in 2012, and in 2013 it was Maldonado’s shift to Lotus that opened the silly season floodgates, but the first domino has now been toppled in 2014.

After just a single season at the junior team Toro Rosso, Daniil Kvyat is to take Vettel’s empty space at Red Bull, it is understood.

THE DOMINOS

Make no mistake, silly season is here, and the domino effect will filter its way down the pack, forcing some talented drivers out, and bringing some new faces too. The move means that at least one of Ferrari’s two current drivers, Alonso and Raikkonen, will be moved out.

Here’s a quick look at some of the drivers that could be moving around.

ALONSO

640px-Fernando_Alonso_Bahrain

Alonso is being linked with a move back to McLaren. With Honda engines and a squadron of talented chaps at the heart of the Woking team, there is no reason that Alonso would not choose to go back to his 2007 home. Ferrari set the absolute standard in F1, being the only ever-present team and holder of most championship wins. Alonso is regarded by many as the best driver in the sport, and when you combine the two, it seems like a certainty that Alonso should have added another World Championship to his resume; a change of scenery might do him good, and now that that pesky Hamilton chap is no longer at McLaren, it could be the best place for him.

Failing to sign for a top team, Alonso also has the possible, but unlikely option of a sabbatical, which would see him sit out of the sport for a year. His current team mate (See below) was the last driver to take a sabbatical from the sport, and it paid off quite well. When Raikkonen left the ailing Ferrari in 2009, he returned to win two races for Lotus, before re-signing. They say every cloud has a silver lining – perhaps a sabbatical would herald a silver car, be that a McLaren, or even a Mercedes.

 

RAIKKONEN

800px-Kimi_Räikkönen_Moscow_2013_cropped

So, where next for the Finn? Some doubt that The Iceman’s will to stay in F1 extends beyond the end of the current season. A season of lacklustre performances have alienated Raikkonen a little, squandering one of the most sought-after seats on the grid, something not lost on the Ferrari team, who have development drivers in their sights. Jules Bianchi’s name is thrown up a lot when it comes to future talent. The Frenchman has tested for Ferrari many times, most recently at the mid-season test in Silverstone, and with Marussia’s Ferrari customer engines, the link is very clear. Of course, after his horrific crash in Japan, the Frenchman taking this seat is incredibly unlikely.

 

VERGNE

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Verstappen is coming in to the picture in 2015. Now that the Frenchman has been snubbed at Red Bull for the second time in as many years, he will have to drag his STR9 to unfathomable heights to even remain in the sport. Antonio Felix da Costa is one of the names touted to replace him at Toro Rosso if he is unable to impress the Red Bull bosses.

 

 

 

 

 

MAGNUSSEN

Kevin_Magnussen_2012-2

If Alonso’s only real option is McLaren (the Spaniard has stated that he does not wish to drive for Williams or Lotus) then one of the current McLaren drivers may have to face the axe. It would be a bitter pill to swallow for Magnussen who has only this year joined the McLaren team, to be booted out just a year later, as was the case with 2013 signing Sergio Perez. The young Dane has impressed with a very mature attitude this season. He had a meteoric start to his career with a majestic podium in Australia, finishing third and later inheriting second after Ricciardo was disqualified, but has lingered lower down the points ever since.

 

 

BUTTON

220px-Jenson_Button_bahrain_2012

F1’s current oldest driver has endured a couple of tough seasons at McLaren. Despite his inherited third place in Australia (See above) the 2009 Champ has not stood upon the rostrum since winning the season-closing 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix. The Interlagos track saw his best result of last season with fourth. It’s also the track at which he clinched his World Championship. With Brazil coming up in two races’ time, the end of the season could make or break his contract. McLaren have been typically coy about their driver signings; they have not let anything slip thus far, and have no drivers signed for 2015.

Hamilton takes pole by Seven Thousandths of a second in Singapore

Lewis Hamilton took pole by a whisker in today’s Singapore Grand Prix Qualifying session, clocking a time just 0.007 seconds faster than team mate Nico Rosberg. The Mercedes duo had lingered in the middle of the top 10 for most of the session, and it looked like Ricciardo or one of the Ferraris might be lining up on the front row of the grid. but a late surge from the Silver Arrows saw them lock out the top spots for the 7th time this season.

PRACTICE 3

The pace of the Ferraris was apparent on Friday and Saturday. Alonso had already topped the sheets in P1, and was just behind Hamilton in the second, so it came as no surprise that the Spaniard, whom controversially won the inaugural event in 2008, topped the sheets once again in P3. His time of 1:47.299 was just 51 thousandths of a second (0.051) quicker than Ricciardo.

It marks one of the very few times this season (possibly the first, but don’t quote me on that) that both a Ferrari AND a Renault-powered car have been ahead of Mercedes. Rosberg was Germany’s best hope in third, with the surprising appearance of Jean-Eric Vergne popping up in an impressive fourth place.

Hamilton sat in sixth, but it was trouble for his former team; Magnussen could only muster 12th place, and F1’s elder statesman Button, an unlucky 13th.

As darkness fell upon Marina Bay, the first ‘big business’ session of the weekend began; it was time for Qualy.

QUALIFYING 1

The red cars carried through their strong pace into Q1, with Raikkonen topping the timing sheets just ahead of Alonso. The Caterham-Marussia battle was of course won by the ever-impressive Jules Bianchi. He was joined by his fellow stragglers, the ailing Maldonado, and Adrian Sutil who was bested by his team mate for only the 5th time this season.

Kevin Magnussen came perilously close to going out and lingered in 15th.

Eliminated in Q1

Adrian Sutil, Sauber
Pastor Maldonado, Lotus
Jules Bianchi, Marussia
Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham
Max Chilton, Marussia
Marcus Ericsson, Caterham

QUALIFYING 2

Both Williams drivers lingered in the knock-out zone for much of the session, but eventually Massa pulled out the 5th-fastest time, and Bottas moved through in P8. The out-developed Force India cars struggled and both were dumped out of the session, bringing Button and bad luck magnet Jean-Eric Vergne with them.

Eliminated in Q2

Jenson Button, McLaren
Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso
Nico Hulkenberg, Force India
Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber
Sergio Perez, Force India
Romain Grosjean, Lotus

QUALIFYING 3

The final session was of course a two-horse race once more, but that didn’t stop Daniel Ricciardo setting the early pace. Nico Rosberg rounded the final corner and scorched the top of the timing sheet with a time of 1:45.688. Rosberg’s time looked unassailable, until his team mate and Championship nemesis Lewis Hamilton beat it – by a margin of 7 THOUSANDTHS of a second – that’s 0.007 in numerals!

Final Top 10

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull
Fernando Alonso, Ferrari
Felipe Massa, Williams
Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
Valtteri Bottas, WIlliams
Kevin Magnussen, McLaren
Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso

It’s one of the closest contests for Pole position in history, but that distinction goes, of course, to the European GP of 1997, where Jacques Villeneuve, Michael Schumacher, and Heiz-Harald Frentzen all clocked IDENTICAL times for the first grid slot.

But anyway, that’s enough reminiscing for now. Here’s how the cars will line up for the 2014 Singapore GP.

THE GRID

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull
Fernando Alonso, Ferrari
Felipe Massa, Williams
Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
Valtteri Bottas, WIlliams
Kevin Magnussen, McLaren
Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso
Jenson Button, McLaren
Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso
Nico Hulkenberg, Force India
Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber
Sergio Perez, Force India
Romain Grosjean, Lotus
Adrian Sutil, Sauber
Pastor Maldonado, Lotus
Jules Bianchi, Marussia
Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham
Max Chilton, Marussia
Marcus Ericsson, Caterham

Rosberg rampant in Monaco | 2014 Monaco Grand Prix Race Report

Nico Rosberg kept a cool head through several incidents and pressure from Hamilton to win the Monaco Grand Prix for the second year in a row. Hamilton suffered vision loss when a piece of debris got in his left eye and nearly cost him second place to Daniel Ricciardo, who completed the podium. Elsehwere, Marussia F1 scored their first ever points thanks to Jules Bianchi’s 9th place finish.

BACKGROUND

Rosberg took Pole by less than a tenth of a second from his team mate on Saturday. The session ended in suspicious circumstances when Rosberg nearly crashed, and brought out the yellow flags, thus forcing his team to abandon his final run.

Marcus Ericsson was handed 2 penalty points and a pit lane start due to a crash with Felipe Massa in Q1.

See more about Qualifying and Practice.

RACE DAY

At the start, the Silver Arrows maintained their places, but Kimi Raikkonen surged forwards from 6th to 4th, nestling in behind his team mate. The cars made their way around the lap, but at Mirabaeu, Jenson Button and Sergio Perez tangled; the Mexican out on the spot. His Force India was stuck in the middle of the track and inevitably the Safety Car was deployed.

The Safety Car stayed out for two laps while the vehicle was cleared, and when it came in, demise was the order of the day for both Red Bulls – Raikkonen passed Ricciardo, and then Sebastian Vettel suffered a power failure which saw him drop to 20th. He came in for attemped repairs, but his RB10 was going nowhere fast, and he duly retired. Six laps later, another Renault-powered car retired; Daniil Kvyat.

Last year for Force India, Adrian Sutil made a lot of moves on a track which is nigh-on impossible to overtake. A change of team did not affect this for 2014, and after an early pit stop under the Safety Car, he made swift progress at the expense of Ericsson and Chilton. The German was looking to make progress through the back-markers, but on lap 26 he was pitched into the barriers when braking at the bumpy Nouvelle Chicane. Adrian was okay, but the track was littered with chunks of Sauber, and the Safety Car returned again.

The best overtake of the race came courtesy of Nico Hulkenberg on Kevin Magnussen, who somehow squeezed down the inside at the corner before the tunnel.

Raikkonen’s potential podium was wiped out when he got a puncture during the yellow flag period. He pitted and was down to 14th, so it was a comfort to him when he managed to pass Kamui Kobayashi at Rascasse. Jules Bianchi followed him through as well, something that paid dividends at the end of the race. Bianchi then went on to pass fellow Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne, but not too long after, Vergne retired with an engine failure.

Monaco usually has a higher rate of attrition than elsewhere, and Valtteri Bottas obliged that statistic less than a lap later, when his engine erupted into plumes of smoke too. Esteban Gutierrez added to the list of casualties too, clipping his rear wheel on the barrier at Rascasse and ruining his suspension.

In the later laps of the race Hamilton dropped back from Rosberg. The Brit had strangely got some debris in his eye, and suffered a loss of vision in his left eye. He dropped well back, and Daniel Ricciardo closed to within less than a second.

After his puncture, Raikkonen was keen to make up places, but an over-ambitious move on Magnussen saw the pair go ever so gently into the barrier. Both cars continued, but it let Jules Bianchi get up to P8. Bianchi would have finished there, but a 5 second penalty for being in the wrong grid slot dropped him behind Romain Grosjean. Still, a fantastic result for the team.

FINISHING POSITIONS

1) N Rosberg, Mercedes AMG
2) L Hamilton, Mercedes AMG
3) D Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing
4) F Alonso, Ferrari
5) N Hulkenberg, Force India
6) J Button, McLaren
7) F Massa, Williams
8) R Grosjean, Lotus
9) J Bianchi, Marussia
10) K Magnussen, McLaren
11) M Ericsson, Caterham
12) K Raikkonen, Ferrari
13) K Kobayashi, Caterham

OUT/ UNCLASSIFIED

E Gutierrez, Sauber (Accident)
V Bottas, Williams (Engine)
JE Vergne, Toro Rosso (Engine)
A Sutil, Sauber (Accident)
D Kvyat, Toro Rosso (Mechanical problem)
S Vettel, Red Bull Racing (MGU-H)
S Perez, Force India (Collision)
P Maldonado, Lotus (Did not start)

The result moves Rosberg back up to the top of the drivers’ standings by just 4 points. Alonso and Ricciardo follow, then German duo Hulkenberg and Vettel. The relationship between the Mercedes drivers appears to be getting more and more strained, as the childhood friends both push towards the Championship. Marussia’s first points sees them move ahead of not only nemesis Caterham, but unthinkably, established team Sauber.

The next race will be in Canada on June 8th.

Hamilton eases to hat-trick in China | 2014 Chinese Grand Prix Race Report

Lewis Hamilton barely broke sweat as he stormed away from everyone else to win in China, his third in a row. The Brit was followed by his team mate Nico Rosberg, a trend that looks set to stay for the early part of the season at least.

Fernando Alonso, who made his customary amazing start was the last driver on the podium, a welcomed result for the Italian team who have recently replaced their team principal, Stefano Domenicali, after a tricky start to the season.

The race finished under bizarre conditions, with the chequered flag waved a lap early by mistake. This meant the race results were taken from two laps earlier (due to the sporting regulations) although the only thing that this changed was a reversal of positions between Kobayashi and Bianchi, the former of whom overtook the Frenchman for 17th place on the penultimate lap.

QUALIFYING

Saturday was a wet occasion with torrents of water causing several surprises, the height of which saw both McLarens and Kimi Raikkonen knocked out in Q2. Lewis Hamilton took pole, 1.004 seconds ahead of Red Bull protege Daniel Ricciardo who is quickly proving to be a great match for Vettel.

Pastor Maldonado, who crashed in Practice, did not take part in qualifying, but was given permission by the Stewards to race. The Venezuelan had already been handed a 5-place grid penalty for a clumsy crash in Bahrain with Esteban Gutierrez, and so not partaking in Qualifying only solidified his 22nd-ness.

RACE DAY

By Sunday morning the Chinese drizzle had disappeared, and the track was dry. At the start, Hamilton made a great getaway, but his team mate Rosberg, who started 4th, slipped back down the field. Being overcome by Alonso and Massa, the German was wide into turn 1, and clipped Valtteri Bottas, although neither sustained damage. The other Williams came into contact, this time with Alonso. The former team mates took advantage of China’s wide straights and lined up three abreast with Sebastian Vettel, but the ex-Ferrari duo got too close and it momentarily sent Felipe airborne. Again, there was no damage.

What did damage Massa’s race was a dodgy pit stop on Lap 11. He was in a fight with Hulkenberg and Bottas, leading them in the fight for 6th place, but when he came in, the team did not have the correct tyres ready for him. Then when the right rubber was brought out, the left-rear wheel wouldn’t secure on the wheel hub correctly. He was in the pit lane for over a minute, and that of course dropped him to the back of the field.

The two Red Bull drivers were in a fight of their own for the top-end of the points too. Vettel was ahead of Ricciardo who had pitted two laps later, so had the fresher tyres. He was also fortunate not to have to scrap with Nico Rosberg for 3rd place, and so on Lap 24, Daniel made the move, despite a little stubbornness from The Weltmeister:

Guillaume Rocquelin (Vettel’s race engineer) = GR

GR “Sebastian, let Daniel through, he is faster.”
VET “What tyres is he on?”
GR “Prime, he pitted two laps later than you.”
VET “Tough luck.”

Aside from Rosberg climbing through the Red Bulls and Alonso to take 2nd place, little action happened towards the end of the race.

The last lap saw one overtake, Kamui Kobayashi shot past Jules Bianchi to steal 17th place, however it did not stand, as the chequered flag was bizarrely waved for race winner Lewis Hamilton a lap early. The strang incident didn’t changed any of the points-paying positions, and it was only the Caterham-Marussia battle that was affected, Kobayashi being classified in 18th as the regulations state that this event means the race positions are taken from two laps before the end.

FINISHING POSITIONS

1) L Hamilton, Mercedes AMG
2) N Rosberg, Mercedes AMG
3) F Alonso, Ferrari
4) D Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing
5) S Vettel, Red Bull Racing
6) N Hulkenberg, Force India
7) V Bottas, Williams
8) K Raikkonen, Ferrari
9) S Perez, Force India
10) D Kvyat, Toro Rosso
11) J Button, McLaren
12) JE Vergne, Toro Rosso
13) K Magnussen, McLaren
14) P Maldonado, Lotus
15) F Massa, Williams
16) E Gutierrez, Sauber
17) J Bianchi, Marussia
18) K Kobayashi, Caterham
19) M Chilton, Marussia
20) M Ericsson, Caterham

Not Classified
R Grosjean, Lotus (Gearbox)
A Sutil, Sauber (Engine)

The result sees Hamilton slash Rosberg’s lead to just 4 points, with Nico on 79 and Lewis on 75. Their nearest challenger is Alonso, who has 41 points, followed by Hulkenberg on 36, and Vettel on 33. The constructors’ already looks like a done deal, with Mercedes on 154 – 97 points ahead of Red Bull in just four races. Red Bull have 57, inching ahead of Force India on 54, and Ferrari who have 52.

The next race is at Montmelo Circuit in Spain, the first of the European season.

It never (Bah)rains but it pours for Ricciardo

For this weekend’s Bahraini Grand Prix, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo has been awarded a 10-place grid penalty for something that was completely out of his control.

On lap 41 of the Malaysian Grand Prix last weekend, the Australian was released from his pit box before the front-left wheel was properly fastened with its wheel nut. The blunder was categorically not the Red Bull new boy’s fault (as some have incorrectly cited) but in fact the mistake of the traffic light operator, who signals to the driver when they should leave the pit box.

Imagine the scenario. You roll in for a pit stop. You’re immersed in carbon fiber, deafened by the engine, and surrounded by a blur of hands and wheels. You can’t really see what’s going on in a pit stop, and in the crucial 3-or-so seconds, have to rely, nay, depend on your team. Green means go, and Daniel was shown the green light and duly set off, but it was clear that something was wrong.

After the botched stop, the front wing failed of its own accord, breaking loose of its mounting pylons and worsening his situation. That had to be replaced, and then he served a ten-second stop/go penalty for an unsafe release. Retirement followed with just six laps to go, but that wasn’t enough for the Stewards who decided to add insult to injury by ruining his race in Bahrain with a 10-place grid penalty.

The problem here is not just Red Bull’s blunders costing their driver, but the actual regulations. As just clarified, there is no way Daniel Ricciardo can be at blame for an unsafe release; it’s simply not his fault. So why on earth does it warrant a 10-place grid penalty? The team should be penalised, not the driver.

It’s impossible to tell whether Ricciardo would have kept up with Vettel in Sepang, but there were just 16 laps to go. Hypothetically, let’s say he would have maintained fourth – that’s 12 points. 12 in Malaysia and 18 in Australia equals 30, a total that would put him second in the drivers’ Championship behind man of the moment Nico Rosberg.

Red Bull had better order a BIG box of chocolates.

Pit stops in 2014 have thus far been marginally slower than those of recent seasons, with teams preferring to play it safe. In 2013, the sport was treated to the first ever sub-2 second pit stop, performed on, incidentally, Ricciardo’s predacessor Webber. It’s thought that sacrificing the extra 0.5-0.8 of a second gained during a lightning quick stop is a much better deal than potentially losing over half a minute, and upwards of 8 positions on track. The Australian was well aware of this, commenting:

“If it means [the pit crew] taper off a little at the pit stops to be safe then the time loss is going to be much less.”

The Red Bull fiasco in Sepang cost poor Ricciardo a mammoth ten positions, dropping him from a handsome 12 point-paying 4th place, to a down-and-out 14th. Of course, being Red Bull’s Australian driver often has its troughs, as Webber would testify.

As you most likely know, Ricciardo recorded an emphatic 2nd place finish in his home race on his Red Bull debut, only to have it cruelly snatched away due to the fuel-flow sensor being illegally replaced by Red Bull, who favoured their own software over the FIA-mandated one. It’s worth noting that Ricciardo was not informed of this change, and so Malaysia was the second race in a row where his team cost him extremely dear.

Don’t expect his miles of smiles to be lacking in Bahrain, though. He demonstrated his unshakeable upbeat attitude by saying:

“It’s a pretty severe penalty – getting the 10-place for the following race. Human error does happen though, so that’s fine, and I’ve definitely moved on.”

Charlie Eustice

Malaysian GP Practice 1 & 2 2014

Formula One’s most grueling challenge is without a doubt Malaysia, with air temperature reaching the 40s and humidity easily hitting 100%. Throw on two layers of fire-proof overalls, a very hot piece of machinery and 56 laps, and you really do have one of the most strenuous sporting events in the world. Drivers can lose as much as three kilos in body weight during the race through sweat alone, and so re-hydration is high on the agenda.

McLaren unveiled a slightly modified car compared to the incarnation of the Mp4-29 in the Australian GP. The update package, quoted by Ron Dennis as being worth .5 seconds per lap, consists mainly of a tweak to the front wing. Unlike the old, which was very much svelte and curved gradually towards the ground, the new nose section utilises the ‘Actual’ and ‘Technical’ noses. That is, one main section that suits aerodynamic, and an eyesore of a protrusion that satisfies the nose tip height regulation.

MP4-29Noses

Commenting on the new-look McLaren, Jenson Button said:
“[Mercedes] are at least a second quicker than us right now, and it would be great to get half a second out of the car during this weekend, but we’re not fast enough to catch them yet.” (Source: BBC)

PRACTICE 1

Fernando Alonso was the first driver on track in FP1, wrestling his Ferrari to set the pace in the early part of the session with a 1:41:923. The circuit was very green on Friday morning, with very little in the way of rubber laid down already.

Adrian Sutil provided entertainment just after 20 minutes in, oddly spinning the car when he came into the pit lane too quickly. The German seemed to carry too much speed into the tight left-handed pit lane entry, and a quick splash through the gravel did little to help his morning.

Marcus Ericsson had a spin right next to where Sutil went rallycrossing, but his was on the racetrack itself. It seemed no one was safe from the final corner – now super rookie Kevin Magnussen added to the list of unfortunates, though he lost power, rather than spun.

Ferrari’s drivers had contrasting fortunes with half an hour to go. Kimi Raikkonen momentarily went fastest of all, but at the very same time the other, Alonso, had a rare spin, losing the apex at the very fast Turn 8. Not five minutes later, his former teammate Felipe Massa did exactly the same thing, showing how little grip there was in Sepang on Friday morning.

Lotus’ appalling luck did not improve after the dismal showing in Melbourne. Romain Grosjean’s car ground to a halt due to an MGU-H problem early on in the session, but Maldonado fared even worse, with a good old-fashioned failure of the Internal Combustion Engine. He was instructed to turn off the engine, but instead dragged his E22 all the way back to the pitlane, spewing blue oily smoke into the Malaysian atmosphere. The Venezuelan came to rest just short of the pitlane, where his car would surely remain all afternoon.

Lewis Hamilton topped the sheets with a time of 1:40:691, followed by a rejuvenated Kimi Raikkonen just shy of a tenth back. Rosberg, Button and Magnussen made sure it was a very silver top 5, as they rounded out 3rd, 4th and 5th slots. Sebastian Vettel managed a time good enough for 7th, and the only drivers not to set a time were the Lotuses of Grosjean and Maldonado.

PRACTICE 2

Max Chilton began the session by spinning his Marussia out of the tricky turn 6, a crucial mishap in terms of the team’s battle with long-term nemesis Caterham.

There was brief joy for Lotus as Romain Grosjean topped the sheets early on with a time of 1:44:005, but this was the fist timed lap of the session. The Lotus morale was pretty low after a dismal P1. Pastor Maldonado’s car lay in pieces in the garage, but Grosjean was soon forced to join him, after a gearbox hitch left him stuck in second gear, and coasting back to the pitlane. It got even worse as the session continued – the team got him back out for a few more laps, but the gearbox suffered further damage, and he was forced out.

There was a surge in activity in the middle of the session with quick times coming from both Williams drivers, both topping the timing screen with just three one-thousandths of a second between them. Nico Rosberg predictably set the benchmark around half-way through the session, demonstrating the amazing balance of the Mercedes W05. Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel had a shot at beating Rosberg’s time but they fell just short. Still, it was a bouyant result considering Kimi’s lack of pace and Vettel’s lack of anything in Australia.

Daniel Ricciardo gave Red Bull a scared with a flash through the gravel towards the end of the session, but the ever-smiley Australian kept clear of the barriers, and was able to go seventh-fastest. He was incredibly upbeat when talking about his disqualification in Australia:

“I was like… streuth, blimey, crikey! It’s not one of those things that happen often, but nah, it was obviously a bit of a bummer, and we still have the appeal to happen in April.” (Source: BBC)

Rosberg topped the timesheets with a blistering time of 1:39:909, less than a tenth of a second ahead of Raikkonen and Vettel. Friday Practice is traditionally a long-running session, with Saturday Practice providing the real insight into Qualifying pace. However, both Kimi and Seb must take this as a positive.

 

Charlie Eustice