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.
Free Practice One
Free Practice Two