A 19°C ambient temperature with 40 °C track made for good conditions for Free Practice 2, as some stunning images were fed to those around the world who had braved the early start. However, there was a strong breeze which swept over Albert track, coming from the sea just a few miles away and heading towards the city centre. The Toro Rosso rookies were being readied by the team trainer, as seen below.
— Toro Rosso (@ToroRossoSpy) March 13, 2015
Eager to make up for lost time earlier, Sauber headed out onto track straight away with a few shakedown issues with braking to start with. The tailwind into turn 1 was affecting the balance of the new challengers as they look to fine tune them for the first time. It was Kimi Raikkonen who set the first time in FP2, a 1:39.368, before Grosjean improved to 1:33.310, as drivers struggled for tyre temperature. Both of their teammates soon joined the circuit to also set lap times, while there were the first signs of trouble down at Red Bull. With the rear off his car, Daniel Ricciardo was not going anywhere fast and decided to join some of the team on the pit lane wall. The Ferrari pair continued to trade quick lap times, as Nico Rosberg came over the radio to report of problems with DRS activation. Even the Champions were shown not to be infallible, or so we thought.
A first red flag of the session was brought out by Kevin Magnussen as his steering seemed to snap back at him into the braking for turn 3. He collided with the tyre barrier and brought an end to his session almost before it had begun – not what the McHonda partnership needed. K-Mag had clearly been taking PR lessons from Eric ‘the believable’, as immediately after the crash over team radio he reported not knowing what happened to the car, but within 5 minutes of being back in the garage he tweeted about how it was all his fault…hmmm.
A water leak on the Williams of Felipe Massa meant he was to be confined to the garage for some time longer, which eventually turned into a session ending issue.
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) March 13, 2015
Just before the half hour mark we were treated to the first sight of Jenson Button out on track, even if his lap time was some 6 seconds off the fastest. Rosberg continued to report inconsistencies with the car, as he chose to rejoin the fray with medium tyres. The ominous sign, that even with car issues and on the prime tyre, the 2014 runner-up was within touching distance of the fastest time set. That said, for some the soft ‘option’ tyre did not seem to make a great deal of difference as they struggled to get heat into the 2015 compounds.
Sauber difficult start time down under continued when Marcus Ericsson’s C34 left-rear suspension broke exiting the last corner. He was forced to limp around for the whole lap, almost being collected by Romain Grosjean when he got out of shape.
Normal service was resumed as the two Mercedes W06s went 1-2 in the timesheets, after strapping on the soft tyres. A 1:27.697 was the headline time for the session for Nico Rosberg, as Lewis Hamilton trailed him 0.100 off, with the two Ferraris 0.715s and 1.145s away (Vettel and Raikkonen respectively).
With just over an hour to go we were still left waiting Felipe Massa, Daniel Ricciardo and the two Manor Racing cars – none of whom would be seen. The reborn team were struggling with powertrain integration issues, so, to nobodies surprise, they sat out the day. If those at Woking did not already have a headache then this would compound them to one; even with soft tyres on the MP4-30 the car was still three and half seconds off the pace – the only solace that can be taken is that this was within the 107% required to race. This, a complete opposite to Mercedes who had already moved onto fine tuning practice starts, such is their confidence already!
The teammate comparison of greatest interest was the difference between Carlos Sainz Jr and his fellow rookie Max Verstappen, as the Spaniard was well over a second quicker at this point. The team were, somewhat predictably, tight lipped about any problem being suffered by the Dutchman. The Madrid born driver then spun at the penultimate turn showing the difficulties in handling the STR10.
As the long runs commenced, it was predictably the Mercedes who were head and shoulders above the competition. The soft running long runs initial pace in the 1:32s was impressive, as nobody else could lap in the same time zone, although, once more, Nico Rosberg struggled with fuel economy. On the laps where the German was followed by the FOM cameras the car looked like it was on rails, with none of the problems of turn in experienced by others, including Daniil Kvyat in the sole charging Red Bull.
Force India continued with a routine day, where nothing spectacular was posted, the lack of winter running coming back to bite them – as was predicted here at TJ13. The Lotus pair look to be well ahead of the Silverstone based team, as the switch to Mercedes power looked to be paying dividends.
With 6 minutes left, Jenson Button reported a loss of power having completed 21 laps in the session. He returned to the pit complex leaving only a handful of drivers out on track, as his 2013 teammate, Checo Perez, showed a better long-run pace than single lap runs (as reported by his engineer).
A first sign of hope for the Tifosi was given by Kimi Raikkonen as he was in impervious form on the soft tyre long-run. After 15 laps on the tyre he was lapping quicker than the Mercedes cars – perhaps the first signs of a return to the Kimi of 2012/13. His German teammate seemed to struggle on to maintain his boots – advantage Kimi in the battle of Maranello?
Daniil Kvyat provided a fantastic moment for the cameras as he ran wide, then spat up a shower of sparks as he rejoined the asphalt. He did not take part with the ‘Virtual Safety Car’ practice at the end of the session, which Charlie Whiting continues to test as a method of ‘neutralising the field.’ Only time will tell as to the success of it.
The great unknown for the session was Williams, as only one car running meant there was not too much that could be deciphered from Bottas’ times. They have kept their cards close to their chest, while Ferrari made a big statement of intention with the 1-2 in the best of the rest stakes.
All to play for down under then, so if you have not signed up for the TJ13 GP Predictor league then follow the link and do so now.
|6||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull||1:30.016||2.319||27|
|7||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||1:30.071||2.374||41|
|10||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:30.473||2.776||30|
|12||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:30.980||3.283||32|
|14||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||1:31.395||3.698||6|
|Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull|