Rosberg tops practice sessions in Bahrain, Button shocks in P2

 
Rosberg topped the timing sheets by half a second over teammate Lewis Hamilton in the afternoon practice session, whilst Ferrari acquired knowledge of the medium tyre.

As Mercedes dominated on track off track discussion turned to the issues surrounding an open letter written by the drivers after the last race in Australia, and the continuation of the controversial qualifying system that proved so unsuccessful in Australia.

The drivers letter included statements that alluded to a lack of faith in the governing body of the sport, a desire for more involvement in rule changes and decisions, and the belief that sport is going in the wrong direction by failing to attract the younger generation.

After his huge crash in Australia it was declared on Thursday that Fernando Alonso was unfit to drive after fractures to his ribs sustained in the impact, and would be replaced for the race weekend by Mclaren reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne.

Despite knowledge of the circuit, including a win in GP2, Vandoorne made a few mistakes in both practice sessions with a costly mistake in the first sector of his flying lap in P2 meaning he could do no better than 11th whilst teammate Button secured 3rd with a time 0.7 second faster.

Ferrari finished P1 1.9 seconds off from Rosberg. Ferrari spent most of the session on medium tyres trying to acquire more information after struggling on the compound in Australia.

Timesheet after P1

  1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:32.294
  2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:32.799
  3. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:34.128
  4. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:34.461
  5. Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull, 1:34.541
  6. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:34.601
  7. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1:34.793
  8. Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, 1:34.860
  9. Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:35.000
  10. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:35.006
  11. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:35.073
  12. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:35.174
  13. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, 1:35.309
  14. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:35.440
  15. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, 1:35.490
  16. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:35.728
  17. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, 1:36.371
  18. Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, 1:36.392
  19. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, 1:36.719
  20. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 1:36.939
  21. Alfonso Celis, Force India, 1:37.287
  22. Rio Haryanto, Manor, 1:37.714

As the sun came down in the desert the second practice session got underway with data collected in the night considered more representative for the race by the teams.

Rosberg continued his run of form outpacing his teammate Lewis Hamilton, yet again, by over two tenths of a second.

While Mercedes continued to dominate, Ferrari struggled on the medium tyres, with Vettel stopping on track with only fifteen minutes left of the session after a wheel Knut on the rear left became loose. Reliability has been the issue that most in the paddock consider to be the thorn in the side of Ferrari, hindering the team from sustaining a decent assault upon Mercedes.

Mclaren shocked when Jenson button popped up to third in the timing sheets after switching to the super-soft tyres. It is unclear if this is genuine improvement in pace or whether button was running incredibly low fuel. However, since the beginning of the season Mclaren have appeared to have improved, with a decent amount of pace in Australia and Button stated that the car felt well balanced and the improvement was “positive”.

Meanwhile new team Haas encountered reliability issues with a front right hand wing failure on Grosjean car after he ran wide on the rubble strips at Turn 13. The substantial amount of debris was left on the circuit caused a virtual safety car for the last few minutes of the session. In Australia the Haas team also sustained a front wing failure indicating that this may be an area of weakness for the new team.

Verstappen impressed, again, in fourth, behind the ever dominant Mercedes and Jenson’s Buttons Mclaren.

Going into Qualifying tomorrow the main question seems will Lewis Hamilton be able to return to form and outpace his teammate for pole?

Timesheets at end of P2

  1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:31.001
  2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:31.242
  3. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:32.281
  4. Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, 1:32.406
  5. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:32.452
  6. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:32.650
  7. Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull, 1:32.703
  8. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:32.792
  9. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:32.870
  10. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:32.873
  11. Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, 1:32.999
  12. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, 1:33.129
  13. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1:33.177
  14. Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:33.384
  15. Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:33.406
  16. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, 1:33.447
  17. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:33.570
  18. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 1:33.640
  19. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, 1:33.953
  20. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:34.224
  21. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, 1:34.477
  22. Rio Haryanto, Manor, 1:34.562

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Perfect dress rehearsal for Hamilton as he heads Rosberg in both practice sessions in Abu Dhabi

Title contender Lewis Hamilton stamped his mark on the beginning of a weekend that could see him crowned world champion for a second time, heading his teammate Nico Rosberg in both sessions on a track he has secured two out of five poles.

With reliability becoming the issue of the day  going into the final race where double points could affect the championship, issues and problems began creeping in free practice one.

First a significant issue at Williams with the side pod bodywork cover of Valtteri Bottas’s car falling off onto the side of the track. The issue appeared to affect Massa’s car as well as he was called into the pits as there was a loosening of the bodywork on the same side as Bottas issue. The team ultimately decided to keep both drivers in the garage for the remainder of the session as a precaution as the fixed the issue.

Jenson Button also remained in the garage for the majority of the free practice one with a suspension problem as his teammate Kevin Magnussen tested out the new front nose and wing designed by former Red Bull designer Peter Pomdoro.

Despite considerable financial pressure Caterham have arrived at the circuit for the weekend after Marussia were forced to turn around at the airport. The team is also running Will Stevens this weekend who will be racing in the place of Marcus Ericsson who has already left the team for Sauber. His weekend di not start in the best fashion however, with an over revving engine that was exceeding the 1500 RPM causing Renault to investigate the issue and forcing Stevens to sit out the session.

Tempers flared as Sebastian Vettel and Kevin Magnussen went side by side as Magnussen was harvesting battery power and therefore going slower than usual, despite this fact Magnussen (who is fighting for his career at McLaren) refused to allow Sebastian to pass him and decided to fight to retain track position.

Controversy was also stirred up in the Red Bull garage by the appearance of Mario Illien, Mercedes engine designer in the nineties, who is a friend of Adrian Newey but is rumoured to have be recruited to assist with the Renault engine next year. However this is merely conjuncture around the paddock.

Romain Grosjean will have to fight to improve Lotus’ fortunes this weekend as he will receive a twenty place grid penalty due to three engine component changes and if he does not start from the pit lane he will have to take a time penalty during the race.

Kimi Raikkonen suffered yet again with braking issue as he stated nearing the end of the first practice session that the car was unstable under braking.

In FP2 Ferrari’s fortunes did not improve with Fernando Alonso’s car coming to a stop after just two laps running with an electrical problem on the straight after turn 19 that led to a gearbox failure, not a great start to his last weekend with the Ferrari team.

After an suspension issue in FP1 Jenson Button was hit with reliability issues yet again, this time with a hydraulics issue but his McLaren team worked quickly to fix the issue to allow him to run for an hour of the session.

Meanwhile Hamilton and Rosberg were trading times at the front with Hamilton coming out on top in both race and qualifying runs on the super soft tyre. The session ended with Hamilton heading Rosberg by only 0.083 of a second but in reality Hamilton looked much more in control throughout both sessions and stated in the press conference afterwards that he had never been round the track in a better car- a good omen for Lewis Hamilton fans going into the title decider this weekend.

Classifications

Free Practice One

1 HAMILTON MERCEDES 1:43.476
2 ROSBERG MERCEDES +0.133
3 ALONSO FERRARI +1.708
4 VETTEL RED BULL +1.858
5 RICCIARDO RED BULL +1.885
6 VERGNE TORO ROSSO +2.242
7 KVYAT TORO ROSSO +2.359
8 BOTTAS WILLIAMS +2.437
9 PEREZ FORCE INDIA +2.507
10 HULKENBERG FORCE INDIA +2.554
11 MAGNUSSEN MCLAREN +2.573
12 RAIKKONEN FERRARI +2.655
13 MASSA WILLIAMS +3.073
14 GUTIERREZ SAUBER +3.080
15 MALDONADO LOTUS +3.235
16 OCON LOTUS +3.590
17 BUTTON MCLAREN +3.759
18 KOBAYASHI CATERHAM +4.495
19 FONG SAUBER +4.793
20 W STEVENS CATERHAM +7.208

Free Practice Two

1 HAMILTON MERCEDES 1:42.113
2 ROSBERG MERCEDES +0.083
3 MAGNUSSEN MCLAREN +0.782
4 VETTEL RED BULL +0.846
5 BOTTAS WILLIAMS +0.957
6 RICCIARDO RED BULL +1.070
7 RAIKKONEN FERRARI +1.376
8 BUTTON MCLAREN +1.390
9 KVYAT TORO ROSSO +1.433
10 MASSA WILLIAMS +1.445
11 PEREZ FORCE INDIA +1.633
12 MALDONADO LOTUS +1.892
13 HULKENBERG FORCE INDIA +1.955
14 VERGNE TORO ROSSO +2.044
15 GUTIERREZ SAUBER +2.203
16 SUTIL SAUBER +2.650
17 GROSJEAN LOTUS +2.873
18 KOBAYASHI CATERHAM +3.392
19 W STEVENS CATERHAM +4.944
20 ALONSO FERRARI

Rosberg heads Hamilton in both practice sessions in Brazil

Political manoeuvring behind the scenes overshadowed the on-track action during free practice one and two in Brazil with disputes over contracts and financial concerns filtering through the paddock.

The sad news that Marussia have ceased trading came on Friday morning and Caterham, who were not at the race last week in Austin or at Brazil, are launching a crowd funding scheme to raise £2.3 million in an attempt to escape the same fate.

Meanwhile at Sauber the financial pressure has not stopped them from taking to the track but has appeared to have influenced who will be driving for them next year with reports that Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson and Williams reserve driver Felipe Nasr will be replacing Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil. Sutil has alluded to the fact that he still has a two year contract and could therefore have a challenge to the announcement, Sauber’s reserve driver Giedo Van de Garde also claims to have believed he would be contracted for a race seat next year, however it would appear that the vast funding of Felipe Nasr is sorely needed at Sauber due to the financial pressures of the sport at the moment.

A driver change at McLaren also appears imminent as Jenson Button has announced that he is considering other career avenues than Formula One with the expectant news that Fernando Alonso will replace him at McLaren after a disappointing season at Ferrari.

As the politics played out behind the scenes on track the action was shattered as a series of red flag incidents interrupted both sessions.

The problems started early for Jenson Button when his Mclaren pulled over to the side of the pit lane exit with an issue that did not allow him to go out for the rest of Free practice one.

As is tradition in Free practice one a number of new faces were seen on the grid with Jundacella in Sergio Perez’s Force India and Max Verstappen, who has a Torro Rosso set for next year. in Jean Eric Vergnes car.

Unfortunately the new boys encountered some issues around the classically challenging track with Jundacella going off into the tyre barriers of Curva Da Laranjinha causing the first red flag with just 28 minutes on the track. Then after the session restarted Max Verstappen suffered from a severe front tyre lock up and ran wide through the Senna Esses.

After Free practice one a virtual safety car was tested, with all cars being given a set delta time in which to return to the pits and a new practice of two drivers coming in to perform a pit stop.

Rosberg headed Hamilton on the leader board, breaking Hamilton’s run of perfect practices faster by 0.221 seconds.

In Free practice two the red flags came thick and fast with Jean Eric Vergne stopping on Descida do Lago with over an hour and fifteen minutes left on the clock.

Then an issue appeared to be hampering Fernando Alonso’s progress throughout the session ending in an apparent engine failure which caused flames to engulf the Ferrari and cause Alonso to change from Formula One driver to fireman as he ran to put it out.

Classification

Free Practice One

1 ROSBERG MERCEDES 1:12.764
2 HAMILTON MERCEDES +0.221
3 KVYAT TORO ROSSO +0.959
4 ALONSO FERRARI +0.978
5 MASSA WILLIAMS +1.047
6 VERSTAPPEN TORO ROSSO +1.063
7 MALDONADO LOTUS +1.270
8 RAIKKONEN FERRARI +1.350
9 MAGNUSSEN MCLAREN +1.372
10 RICCIARDO RED BULL +1.433
11 SUTIL SAUBER +1.670
12 F NASR WILLIAMS +1.758
13 HULKENBERG FORCE INDIA +1.914
14 VETTEL RED BULL +2.138
15 GROSJEAN LOTUS +2.345
16 JUNCADELLA FORCE INDIA +3.266
17 GUTIERREZ SAUBER
18 BUTTON MCLAREN

Free Practice Two

1             ROSBERG                                                              MERCEDES                               1:12.123

2 HAMILTON MERCEDES +0.213
3 RAIKKONEN FERRARI +0.573
4 RICCIARDO RED BULL +0.833
5 BOTTAS WILLIAMS +0.912
6 MASSA WILLIAMS +0.976
7 ALONSO FERRARI +0.999
8 KVYAT TORO ROSSO +1.131
9 VETTEL RED BULL +1.210
10 MAGNUSSEN MCLAREN +1.356
11 MALDONADO LOTUS +1.374
12 GROSJEAN LOTUS +1.591
13 HULKENBERG FORCE INDIA +1.759
14 GUTIERREZ SAUBER +1.779
15 SUTIL SAUBER +2.081
16 BUTTON MCLAREN +2.086
17 VERGNE TORO ROSSO +5.048
18 PEREZ FORCE INDIA

Sombre Mood in Sochi for Inaugural Grand Prix

Marussia announced on Friday morning before free practice one that they have decided to only run the one car, Max Chilton’s, this weekend out of respect to their driver Jules Bianchi who is still fighting for his life in a critical but stable condition in Japan. As this is Marussia first home race this is a deeply significant move.

All cars and drivers are running a message of support for Jules and it is clear that thoughts are still firmly with him. The Marussia team have built his car and it will remain on his side of the garage all weekend to illustrate that although he is not racing this weekend he is still racing on with Marussia, an incredibly poignant message of support for him and his family from the team.

1913-14 was the last time a Russian grand prix was run, and this challenging track around the Olympic park, the third longest on the calendar with 3.63m, promises to be worth the wait. The long and narrow pit lane could provide some excitement through the race if there is traffic in the pit lane.

Nico Rosberg put in the first timed lap of the Sochi Olympic park track with a 1.45.186 having come out early and practised his starts. Hamilton then quickly put in a quicker time by only a few hundredths of a second despite a slight vibration on his brakes which brought him into the garage soon after.

This issue proved to be an issue that kept him in the garage for most of the practice session as the Mercedes team investigated the brakes to find the source of the issue.

Sergei Sorokin was making his Formula One debut at his home grand prix with the Sauber team in place of Estaban Gutierrez in free practice one and managed to get within four tenths of his teammate Adrian Sutil by the end of the session.

Jenson Button of McLaren shocked at the end of the first half an hour of Practice One by topping the leader board by more than a second from second place Valtteri Bottas.

It was not only Lewis Hamilton who suffered with a brake issue, as Kimi Raikkonen was also made to sit out the majority of free practice one with a brake issue that was causing oversteer and tyre graining.

With half an hour to go of Free practice one Valtteri experienced an unusual issue with his Williams as a malfunctioning tyre blanket overheated and destroyed his tyres making it unable for him to take any further part in the session.

As the session came drew to a close many drivers found themselves running off the track with lock ups a they searched for the limits, Hamilton also felt he had not fully got the most out of himself and the car as he implored his team for another flying lap sacrificing a long run lap for the opportunity to keep pushing. At the time he was in second 0.065 off his teammate Rosberg’s best time.

Classifications after Free Practice One

Rosberg Mercedes 1.42.311

Hamilton Mercedes +0.065

Button McLaren Mercedes+0.196

Alonso Ferrari +0.409

Magnussen McLaren Mercedes +0.715

Perez Force India Mercedes +0.818

Kyvat STR Renault +0.853

Raikkonen Ferrari +0.901

Vergne STR Renault +1.016

Bottas Williams Mercedes +1.231

Massa Williams Mercedes +1.430

Ricciardo Red Bull Racing Renault +1.510

Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes +1.665

Vettel Red Bull Racing Renault +2.195

Sutil Sauber Ferrari + 2.314

Maldonado Lotus Renault +2.565

Sirotkin Sauber Ferrari +2.721

Grosjean Lotus Renault +2.879

Merhi Caterham Renault +4.471

Ericsson Caterham Renault +4.611

Chilton Marussia Ferrari +4.973