After the early fly aways of the season, Formula One returns to its spiritual home of Europe for the Spanish Grand Prix.
For both the friday free practice sessions it was Lewis Hamilton setting the pace and topping the time sheets. Could this be a sign that this weekend could be the won for Lewis to finally win at the Circuit de Catalunya? For sure his pace was a sign that Mercedes have not slacked when it comes to developing their car over the three-week interval when other teams were looking to close the gap to the silver arrow that just keeps flying away.
But the first practice session of the weekend did not go entirely to plan for the Mercedes team as Nico Rosberg was forced to watch the session progress from the comfort of the garage as a result of a ERS issue. Rosberg was not the only German driver forced into watching from the garages as retaining world champion, Sebastian Vettel was also stuck in the garage. For Vettel, he was unable to go to the track for much of FP1 after he suffered early mechanical issues, forcing him to stop out on track after completing just four laps.
Down in the Sauber team, Giedo van der Garde was out on track as he took over FP1 duties from their race driver, Esteban Gutierrez. But things were not going all to plan for the Sauber reserve driver as he suffered a brake failure down into turn 1, coming off the back of the longest straight on the track. The Dutchman was able to get the car back to the garage despite the break failure by keeping it out of the barriers at turn 1, helped by a run through the gravel trap.
To round off the issues of FP1, Sergio Perez’s Force India had a bizarre incident when his left hand side mirror broke free despite the car being involve in no crashes. Amazingly, the mirror also caused no crashes, as the Mexican driver was forced to bring the mirror into the cockpit on his return to the pits. Causing issues of its own as the mirror blocked the steering wheel from reaching full angle, thus reducing his turning circle.
As for the times of FP1, as previously mentioned it was Lewis Hamilton who took the fastest lap time. Over 0.8seconds ahead of former McLaren team-mate, Jenson Button, and almost a full second ahead of Red Bull’s Ricciardo.
|3||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:27.973||0.950||21|
|9||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:28.779||1.756||18|
|12||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:28.828||1.805||17|
|18||36||Giedo van der Garde||Sauber-Ferrari||1:30.440||3.417||22|
|20||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:30.942||3.919||4|
Now onto FP2, where it was once again Lewis Hamilton setting the fastest lap times. But unlike in FP1, Nico Rosberg was able to take the challenge to his team-mate and reduce the lead he had to 2nd place.
The main talking point at the start of the second free practice session however, was Sebastian Vettel. As he was forced into not taking part in the session following his mechanical issues that caused his very early retirement in the morning session. It was later revealed that the mechanical issue preventing the Red Bull from running was the necessity to change the car’s loom, which is a large job for the team to carry out.
For the session itself, there wasn’t too much key action other than with Jean-Eric Vergne. Unfortunately for the Frenchman his rear right tyre came off of his Toro Rosso during turn 1. This incident is unfortunate for Vergne as in the 2014 formula one sporting regulations, a car that loses a wheel will receive a 10-place grid penalty for the Spanish Grand Prix. This is in addition to a fine of €30,000 for Toro Rosso.
|3||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:26.509||0.985||38|
|11||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:28.074||2.550||31|
|16||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:29.129||3.605||34|
Now onto Saturday morning with the third free practice session.
Only a few hours ahead of qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix, FP3 would be the last chance for the drivers to prepare for Q1 and for some of the drivers this session was more important than for others. Especially Sebastian Vettel, after missing almost all of Friday’s running.
But for other drivers this session would be the last chance for them to try and see if they can get close to the Mercedes of Hamilton who was dominant throughout Friday’s free practice sessions.
For a majority of this mornings session, however. It was not the Mercedes of Hamilton distancing himself from the field, instead it was Nico Rosberg. For a majority of the session the German Mercedes driver sat high and mighty on the top spot, over 0.8seconds ahead of his team-mate. Was this just down to Nico preparing himself better overnight? Unlikely.
As for every grand prix, the Friday night is when teams strip down the cars and prepare them with the race engines, gearboxes etc. ahead of qualifying as it is the last chance to give them pieces a run through in order to make sure the car works fine. But unfortunately for Hamilton, over the course of this something caused the steering in his car to no longer be straight. Resulting in him having to put extra steering in, during the early stages. Luckily for him the team were able to fix this issue reasonably quickly and he was able to get back out on track. But still unable to get his Mercedes anywhere near his team-mate by the end of the session.
Elsewhere, Massa was able to slot his Williams car into the top 4, but this was just over 1.3seconds behind Rosberg. So clearly during the few hours all the teams have between the chequered flag of FP3 and the green light of Q1, they all have work to do if they are to catch the Mercedes and challenge one of their drivers for pole position, something we are yet to see thus far this season.
|7||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:27.808||1.921||12|
|10||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:28.085||2.198||20|
|15||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:28.571||2.684||13|
|16||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:28.668||2.781||13|
Now you have seen who has been setting the pace over the weekend, who is your favourite to take pole position at the Spanish Grand Prix?