The Spanish Grand Prix weekend continues with Lewis Hamilton on top of the timesheet in second free practice at the Circuit de Catalunya.
Under the afternoon sun in Spain, Formula One action was back underway with the second free practice session. This time round, Lewis Hamilton topped the time sheets ahead of Sebastian Vettel as the F1 paddock prepared for Sunday’s race.
Back in this morning’s opening practice session at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Nico Rosberg set the pace. But his victory was marginal as Lewis Hamilton tucked his Silver Arrow behind his team mate by just seven hundredths of a second.
During the session, teams up and down the grid looked to understand their development pieces. Unfortunately for Red Bull, they failed to get much running with either man. Daniel Ricciardo in fact only managed to carry out most of his running late into the session, but during the interval he was forced to take another engine change.
Luckily, to some point, for Ricciardo is that the engine taken out of his car was the same one that broke down in China. This means the new engine is his fourth official power unit of the season, which is the most engines you are allowed to use without taking a grid penalty.
Nevertheless, 19 drivers were still able to head out onto the circuit when the green light flicked on. Now the temperatures in Barcelona had risen considerably, leaving the air at 26˚C and the track at 44 degrees.
First of all to take to the track was the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson, who also posted the first lap time of FP2 with a 1:33.041. His time was swiftly pushed down the order before Vettel broke into the 1:29s.
Over the first twenty minutes of the session, Rosberg momentarily moved one hundredth of a second clear of Rosberg to claim P1. But when his team mate came round to take the line, Hamilton stormed into the lead by over a second.
However the running was brought to a halt soon after as Romain Grosjean’s Lotus blew apart. The Frenchman had been making his way down the pit straight, but as he took the crest down towards turn 1 the rear engine cover blew off the car.
Nicholas Chester, the Technical Director at Lotus, confirmed to Sky F1 soon after the incident that it was two fasteners that failed and caused the bodywork & scatter across the track. With carbon fibre spread on the racing line, the red flag came out but was swiftly put back away after the marshals cleared the debris.
Following the restart, drivers began heading out onto the track with the medium compound tyres fitted, which saw massive improvements for some. For example, Vettel found almost two seconds on the option compound, which moved him into P1 ahead of both Silver Arrows.
Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa also improved on the option tyres. But the surprise entries to the top 5 were Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz who moved the Toro Rosso’s into P4 & 5.
After Rosberg improved on his personal best lap to go P2, three tenths down on Vettel, he radioed in to the team reporting “a lot of rejected downshifts”. The failed gear changes may have been the cause of his ‘slower’ lap time, but his team mate had no chill and blasted a lap home to go seven tenths clear of Nico. Lewis’ lap also moved him four tenths clear of Vettel for the top spot.
Some of the only drivers to not run on the option tyres at the mid way stage included both McLaren’s and the non-running Ricciardo. But once Fernando fitted the medium tyres on, he moved into the top 10 two tenths down on Bottas. But Button beat that and moved into sixth, one tenth up on Bottas.
As the session progressed into the final thirty minutes, teams began to run race simulations for Sunday. As things stood, Hamilton sat top of the time sheets four tenths clear of Vettel after Lewis posted a 1:26.852. But once he began his race simulation, Mercedes were looking for him to carry out 1:31.7s. In contrast, Sauber were running a few seconds per lap slower than Lewis while carrying out their race preparations.
Over the course of one of Kimi Raikkonen’s late runs, he radioed in to ask if the team wanted him to keep doing laps as he felt he was not getting anything out of them. However, Kimi’s wish for an early finish was rejected as the team wanted him to keep going with the programme as they looked to gather more data on the new test parts.
Elsewhere, drivers including Nico Hulkenberg and Lewis Hamilton continued to complain about a lack of grip. Hulkenberg was a repeat complainer throughout the session, and at one stage complained “My god, this is so slow… just no grip at all”.
As for Ricciardo, he was unable to find out about the poor levels of grip right up until the final five minutes after his power unit change. But the few laps he was able to complete would have helped the new power unit settle ahead of tomorrow’s running.
But going into tomorrow’s running, it’s one a piece for the Mercedes drivers with Lewis Hamilton claiming the top spot in FP2. Lewis’ 1:26.852 saw the team lock out Friday, but at the end of the day Vettel split the Silver Arrows.
The second practice session was also good for McLaren who took P7 with Button. While Fernando narrowly missed out on a top 10 finish by one hundredth of a second to Massa.