Mark Webber topped the times on day one of the British Grand Prix weekend at Silverstone. In front of a record crowd for a Friday of 85,000 people, the Aussie who survived the worst accident of the season so far in Valencia, was on the pace in a chassis Sebastian Vettel rejected after problems in Spain and Monaco.
Fernando Alonso set the second fastest time of the day on the fourth lap of a six lap run on the soft tyre, while Vettel did his third place time on the seventh lap of seven and Webber’s time was the first flying lap of a three lap run at the end of the session. Alonso was using the F Duct rear wing in the afternoon, having used the passive wing in the morning. It is clearly working well here.
Many teams have updated parts here, with McLaren’s exhaust fed diffuser the central feature of their package, as well as a new front wing. When I watched the car coming into the pits after runs in practice yesterday it looked like the mechanics were concerned about the new low exhausts overheating the suspension and bodywork. They had foam fire extinguishers at the ready, which they needed on occasions. McLaren have decided not to run with the low exhausts for the rest of the weekend, but they will use the new front wing.
Bruno Senna is watching this one from the sidelines as Sakon Yamamoto is in the car, clearly a late call as Senna did a PR visit to Cosworth two days ago. I spoke to Colin Kolles and he said that the team wanted to give its reserve drivers a run, but declined to give reasons and also refused to rule out switching Karun Chandhok out of the car at future events.
The wind changed direction and force from morning to afternoon and ended up as a 15km/h tail wind, which meant that some drivers were on the rev limiter going down the straight as the hear ratios were no longer correct. This kind of thing can easily catch people out in qualifying.
The track changes have received a mixed reception, some drivers like the new layout, such as Alonso and Sutil, but some really don’t like it and wish that they hadn’t messed around with a much loved old friend. Robert Kubica and Heikki Kovalainen were two of the drivers I spoke to who were definitely not fans of the changes. Kubica said that quite a bit of the challenge had gone.
All the drivers say that it seems odd to them that the new sections are so bumpy, particularly the one in the middle of the new high speed Esses at Abbey. This will pitch a few cars off the circuit in qualifying, no doubt.
The high temperatures – the track was up at over 40 degrees for much of the afternoon, will create some challenges for the teams in managing the soft tyre in particular and stopping it from overheating.
I think we will find that Red Bull is still the car to beat in qualifying, but I fancy McLaren will be close to their pace in the race and it should make for a fantastic British Grand Prix weekend.
BRITISH GRAND PRIX, Free Practice 2
1. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:31.234 15
2. Alonso Ferrari 1:31.626 + 0.392 26
3. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:31.875 + 0.641 24
4. Massa Ferrari 1:32.099 + 0.865 25
5. Rosberg Mercedes 1:32.166 + 0.932 29
6. Schumacher Mercedes 1:32.660 + 1.426 27
7. Petrov Renault 1:32.745 + 1.511 28
8. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:32.757 + 1.523 22
9. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:32.787 + 1.553 27
10. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:32.967 + 1.733 32
11. Kubica Renault 1:33.019 + 1.785 30
12. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:33.164 + 1.930 28
13. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:33.200 + 1.966 24
14. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:33.402 + 2.168 23
15. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:33.728 + 2.494 27
16. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:33.836 + 2.602 36
17. de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1:34.051 + 2.817 29
18. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:34.643 + 3.409 36
19. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:35.465 + 4.231 25
20. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:36.237 + 5.003 24
21. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:36.553 + 5.319 21
22. Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1:37.019 + 5.785 27
23. Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth 1:38.303 + 7.069 32
24. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:42.901 + 11.667 3