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Red Bull on top in Spain, but Hamilton asks them questions
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Red Bull on top in Spain, but Hamilton asks them questions
Posted By: James Allen  |  20 May 2011   |  3:27 pm GMT  |  41 comments

Today’s first day of practice at Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix showed a varied picture, with Red Bull over a second clear in first practice, but Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren pushing them hard over a single lap in the second session, ending up less than a tenth of a second down on Mark Webber.

Last year's winner, Webber (Red Bull)


But Sebastian Vettel, who was third, has generally been a few tenths ahead of Webber in qualifying this season, so we’ve not necessarily seen the full picture today. All of the leading drivers set their fastest times on the first lap of a short run on new tyres, however Vettel’s run was five laps, while Webber and Hamilton did three. Vettel went faster again in the first two sector on the second lap on the tyres, but couldn’t keep the tyre in for the final sector of that lap.

Vettel also did a very strong long run on the hard tyre with consistent lap times in the 1m 28s range, so the world champion looks like the man to beat again.

Red Bull went for the soft Pirelli tyre roughly half way through the session, but Hamilton set a time good enough to split the two champion cars a little later on. With Pirelli bringing the new specification hard tyre here this weekend it looks like the performance gap between hard and soft is well over the one second margin we have seen thus far this season. That will have quite a lot of repercussions on how teams tackle the first part of qualifying and also the race strategy.

Up to now the leading teams have just about been able to get away with running a set of hards in Q1 and then one run in each of Q2 and Q3 to save a new set of soft tyres for the race. If no midfield team has a problem in Q1, some of the front runners may find that they have to use a set of softs to get through, which will penalise them in the race. Mark Webber was caught out this way in China, unable to get enough speed out of his hard tyre run in Q1 after some problems in the session.

Ferrari were fifth with Fernando Alonso and eighth with Felipe Massa, who seemed to be having quite a few handling issues with the car on the hard tyre. On board shots showed the car suffering quite a bit of understeer.

New style with connecting piece

Ferrari again were testing out a new type of front wing which we saw in Turkey briefly. It has an extra flap connecting the main plane to the inner side of the end plate, a device which has some function in terms of flex, but is mainly to tidy up vortices which have been causing some instability at the front end of the Ferrari.

..and without

SPANISH GRAND PRIX, Barcelona, Free Practice 2
1. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m22.470s 35 laps
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m22.509s + 0.039 27 laps
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m22.826s + 0.356 37 laps
4. Jenson Button McLaren 1m23.188s + 0.718 32 laps
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m23.568s + 1.098 34 laps
6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m23.586s + 1.116 35 laps
7. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m23.981s + 1.511 30 laps
8. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m24.278s + 1.808 30 laps
9. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m24.290s + 1.820 33 laps
10. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m24.366s + 1.896 31 laps
11. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m24.483s + 2.013 38 laps
12. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m24.786s + 2.316 43 laps
13. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m25.296s + 2.826 33 laps
14. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m25.303s + 2.833 38 laps
15. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m25.457s + 2.987 34 laps
16. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m25.603s + 3.133 43 laps
17. Paul di Resta Force India 1m26.073s + 3.603 32 laps
18. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m26.417s + 3.947 37 laps
19. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m27.123s + 4.653 20 laps
20. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1m27.189s + 4.719 34 laps
21. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m28.036s + 5.566 36 laps
22. Timo Glock Virgin 1m28.062s + 5.592 28 laps
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m29.469s + 6.999 28 laps
24. Tonio Liuzzi HRT 1m29.476s + 7.006 31 laps

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41 Comments
  1. goferet says:

    First of all a big thank you to the boys & girls at Woking, 4 hundredths off the pace from Red Bull *Applause* Never thought that were possible.

    Am beginning to start believing Whitmarsh’s sweet talk [mod]

    Seeing as Vettel didn’t go too good at Barcelona last year, could we finally see a bogey track for the champ for surely he can’t be fast on every track.

    Seriously I got the spring back in my step & am now looking forward to the 2011 season.

    The only thing that will spoil the action is the saving of tyres in Q3 thing during qualifying. We want to see drivers go mano-o-mano & not this thinking of the race business

    Now Schumi, please he should smell the tea already & take that walk of shame – Rosberg is always faster than him or maybe he wants to bag a podium (at least) to justify his comeback before returning to motorbikes.

    1. Stevie P says:

      What’s this WE stuff…? You want to see drivers go mano-o-mano and not this thinking of the race business – fair enough.

      I, on the other hand, am happy to accept different ways to go about motor-racing. I like the thinking stuff; it’s more cerebral, it’s more fun, it’s more intelligent; I like fast degrading tyres, I’m liking the DRS (I liked the eyeballs out on stalks racing from the past and I liked the softly, softly technical\strategy races in the past too)… but that’s MY opinion :-)

      As for Woking having caught MK… well, let’s see what Quali brings shall we?

      1. goferet says:

        By ”WE” I was referring to us thoroughbred racers that have blood boiling through ourselves & who take pleasure in seeing drivers slag in out.

        Yes, I too love Formula 1-2011-style (apart from when some *cough* drivers overtake Hamilton) but the point I was trying to make is WE do not like to see drivers save their tyres.

        Maybe the F.I.A. can offer tyres specifically for qualifying

        Ironically, I always thought the one lap qualifying format from a few years back was the way to go for it’s only fair that the last race winner should be disadvantaged.

        And no, I don’t have to wait for qualifying for what I have seen in #FP2 was enough for me to realise Mclaren got this, all they need is to twik their settings here & there & they will be good to go…

      2. Drivers have always worked to save tires while trying to go fast. It’s only recently with the bulletproof Bridgestones that tyres have been less of an issue…

    2. MR SERIOUS says:

      Yeah I was worried after watching Button today just before Hamilton’s lap. But there is hope for the silver team. It will be very interesting to see Jenson tomorrow because if he is this far behind Lewis in qualifying his weekend is ruined.

      Webber is under huge pressure now though. Mclaren need a second at worst for Hamilton and they need Webber to win.

      I do not think Jenson will be on the podium.

      I just hope Vettel gets his nose pushed out of joint in that first corner.

      1. goferet says:

        @MR SERIOUS Yeah, we need Jenson being in the mix too for we have a WCC to think about too & since the Mclaren lads share their data, am pretty certain he will come good during qualifying.

        And yes, you’re right, after Jenson’s lap I had lost hope more so after the morning session, I was like… ”Here we go again”

        I seriously doubt Webber can win in Barcelona simply because he won it last year.

        Only if the Spanish fans could get off Hammy’s back, this could be his best chance to win more so since he crashed out last year just two laps from the finish.

      2. It’s not like the fans caused his suspension to break

    3. rfs says:

      “First of all a big thank you to the boys & girls at Woking, 4 hundredths off the pace from Red Bull *Applause* Never thought that were possible.”

      Lol you talk as if this was a qualifying session. I know its good to hope but you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. Vettel will get pole again tomorrow.

      Also James,
      “Vettel also did a very strong long run on the hard tyre with consistent lap times in the 1m 38s range, so the world champion looks like the man to beat again.”
      Surely you mean 1m 28?

      1. goferet says:

        Vettel on pole again NEVER! Am so confident Vettel WON’T be able to pole it on his bogey track so much so that am willing to wage my entire house.

        If Hammy can get a clean lap, am absolutely certain he will plant it on pole & if not him, then Jenson will do the business.

        Look #FP2 is the clearest indicator of what will go down during qualifying for least we forget, #FP2 & #qualifying are run roughly at the same time & in the same conditions

      2. rfs says:

        “Look #FP2 is the clearest indicator of what will go down during qualifying for least we forget, #FP2 & #qualifying are run roughly at the same time & in the same conditions”

        FP2 Australia fastest driver: Jenson Button
        FP2 Malaysia fastest driver: Mark Webber
        FP2 China fastest driver: Sebastian Vettel
        FP2 Turkey fastest driver: Jenson Button

        If what you say is true, then why doesn’t Jenson Button have two pole positions yet?

      3. Dom says:

        Vettel outqualified Webber in Spain in 2009 by over half a second and was less than two tenths slower in 2010 with that dodgy chassis…. I’d put a £100 on Vettel outqualifying Webber – Webber is a great driver but he’s under massive pressure now and Vettel is walking on water at the moment…

    4. Dave C says:

      Full of wishful thinking there, if you remember last year Vettel had a cracked chassis that’s why he couldn’t compete and on fridays they always run different program so you never know what each of them are doing so this ‘bogey’ track theory is a bit far fetched at the moment, Qualifying will tell the real story please don’t write off Alonso for heaven sake, he will come back and bite.

    5. Steven says:

      WHile I hope you’re right, its just Free Practice. Every team is evaluating new parts, and setting the car up. The RBs are always faster on quals, but heres hoping that Maca actualle caught up enough to have a repeat of the Chinese GP.

    6. MR SERIOUS says:

      I think after Vettel’s two lap run on softs today which were very close until the final sector on lap two that some one might do Q1 & Q2 on the same set of softs to save a set for the race. You could do the easier lap in Q1 and save that final sector in Q2.

      I think?

      1. James Allen says:

        Trouble is with that you want the tyre performance in Q2 more than in Q1 the wrong way around in terms of use

      2. MR SERIOUS says:

        Yeah but what if the Q1 lap was conservative?

        Then belt it out for Q2!

        Possible Me Thinks :<)

      3. James Draper says:

        James is right uncooked army boots are a second faster than re-fries no matter how delicate you are the first time around. The number of heat cycles in these tyres is significant.

  2. Dale says:

    Let’s hope the MccLarens can mix it with the Bulls tomorrow, it’d be great to have at least a mixed front row though I fear when qualifying comes Vettel’s car will have to pace to forge ahead.
    That said isn’t it great to see a driver such as Hamilton ringing the neck of his car, pity Button can’t do the same.
    I’d love to see Vettel, Hamilton & Alonso all racing for pole in the same cars so we could all see who is really the fastest over a single lap ZZZZZZzzzzz………

  3. Dino says:

    Hi James, nice article again.

    “Vettel also did a very strong long run on the hard tyre with consistent lap times in the 1m 38s range”

    I think you may mean 1m 28s here!

    It still looks like there may be problems passing here, watching the practice sessions there were several situations where clearly faster cars were being significantly held up during laps by slower cars.

    Looking forward to see how they cope in the race..

  4. Unoccv3 says:

    The only thing that can be said with any real confidence is that we most probably WONT be seeing 26 cars run on sunday.

    Why?

    The new hard compound isn’t fast enough for rbr/mcl/fer to get through Q1. Hamilton has said it amognst others.

    If that is the cae then Red Bull will be doing a run on softs in Q1 whihc according to FP times means that atleast one HRT/Virgin is unlikely to make it through.

    Another interesting point to make is about Webber vs Vettel. Vettel seems to have got used to the new tyres better. In the 5 live commentary they said that Webber was best on the grooved tyres, a bit worse on the bridgestone slicks and a bit worse still on the new pirellis to date. BUT IS IMPROVING.

    The new hard hasn’t been tested by anyone before as the only experience was during a wet FP in turkey.

    And Webber beat Vettel quite well in both sessions when they used the harder compound.

    Button and Hamilton both commented that the new hard was very different and it appears that Webber likes it more than Vettel.

    Could be very interesting if kept as Vettel would prefer the softer while Webber prefers the harder meaning that whiel Vettel would quali ahead, he would need to push out the gap as when they changed to hards Webber would be faster.

    1. Martin says:

      Well spotted, although with Heidfeld, Trulli and Barrichello’s problems it didn’t quite happen. Webber’s liking for the hard tyres may also be a factor in keeping the ultimate time down in Q1.

      Mark has been getting some fairly ordinary starts this year, so it is not certain he will be in front of Vettel in Turn 1, although Vettel’s KERS problem may not be completely fixed and the dirty side of the track never helps. If Webber is in front at the start it will be harder to test your theory, but we will see.

  5. Adrian Jordan says:

    James, do you think we could see the first time this year where all the Q3 drivers elect to run the Hard tyre only during the final part of Qualy so that they have some fresh softs for the race?

    1. Jo Torrent says:

      impossible, all those in Q3 will run on softs.

      1. Adam Taylor says:

        nothings impossible, qulaifying doesnt seem to be as important as last year and as we saw with Webber, saving soft tyres is not a bad strategy

    2. James Draper says:

      I would say the big three teams will be on soft but the other four drivers in Q3 it may be a great strategy. The only problem how easy is passing this year?

    3. Unoccv3 says:

      You only need one to run softs and the others will jump.

      I’m sure some wouold like it, but if say a Mercedes got in front or a Renault or two locked out the front row then red bull would be stuck and would lose the advantage of being able to pull away at the start.

  6. Jason C says:

    I’ve read Hamilton’s comments on the new hard tyre, and it seems that they might have gone too far with it, making the race… well, silly.

    I wonder why they didn’t want to stick with the existing hard tyre, which was doing the specified job just fine. James, do you know the reasoning behind the new hard tyre?

    I’m glad to see that the Maccas have closed right up to the red bulls, even if it’s only in a practice session. Let’s hope that continues into the race. From a championship point of view, it would be nice if Vettel finished quite far down the order, or even fails to.

    1. James Allen says:

      Idea was more durability with similar performance..

  7. the_rh1no says:

    I thought that Borecelona was going to be completely dominated by Red Bull, so was pleasantly surprised to see Hamilton in the mix. I still feel red bull have a little up their sleeves, but it looks positive for some of the other races, which may not be such demanding high speed downforce tracks.

    p.s. I think there is a typo James, I thought Vettel was averaging in the 1.28s

  8. goferet says:

    @ Dave C The definition of a bogey track is that track where, a driver (in a good car) can’t get a good result for some reason or the other.

    So in Vettel’s case last year, he had a cracked chassis & this year who knows, he may get a puncture or whatever.

    Yes I understand this is just Friday but if Red Bull weren’t showing their hand, they would be P10 or something as they used to do last year.

    I believe what we saw this afternoon was a preview of qualifying.

    As for Alonso, nah… There’s nothing that can save that boy, his goose is cooked. He’s in the wrong team, at the wrong time, surrounded by the wrong people

    1. Irish con says:

      I think this is Ron Dennis. Has to be. Only way to explain some of these comments.

  9. goferet says:

    Hahaa yeah, by ”WE” I meant us thoroughbred racers that have blood boiling through our veins, WE need to see drivers going toe to toe.

    And yes, I too love formula 1 2011 style (apart from when some lousy drivers overtake Hammy) but the point I was trying to make is I don’t like seeing drivers make only one lap during qualifying saving tyres, maybe F.I.A should give them more tyres just for qualifying.

    Ironically, I always thought the one lap qualifying format from a few years back was the best, yes the winner of the last race should be at a disadvantage, it’s only fair.

    P.s. You don’t have to wait for qualifying, what I have seen in #FP2 is enough to tell me, Mclaren got this. All they need is to twik the setting here & there & it will be a done deal

  10. goferet says:

    @Steve P By ”WE” I was referring to us thoroughbred racers that have blood boiling through ourselves & who take pleasure in seeing drivers slag in out.

    Yes, I too love Formula 1-2011-style (apart from when some *cough* drivers overtake Hamilton) but the point I was trying to make is WE do not like to see drivers save their tyres.

    Maybe the F.I.A. can offer tyres specifically for qualifying

    Ironically, I always thought the one lap qualifying format from a few years back was the way to go for it’s only fair that the last race winner should be disadvantaged.

    And no, I don’t have to wait for qualifying for what I have seen in #FP2 was enough for me to realise Mclaren got this, all they need is to twik their settings here & there & they will be good to go…

    1. Stevie P says:

      How many replies goferet? ;-) [Just joking] ;-)

      As others have already pointed out, drivers have always “saved their tyres” whilst driving as fast as they can.

      I don’t have a problem with your point of view – I’m always happy to hear what others say :-) But when you use the word ‘we’ you speak for others (me included as I post here), when really you are speaking for yourself. Hence my comment of “what’s all this we stuff” :-) I’m not trying to cause an argument or put you down goferet; just use “I would like to see” etc, etc.

      For example, I am quite happy watching drivers trying to race AND save some tyre-life.

      Enjoy the race! :-)

  11. Fausto Cunha says:

    The difference between MW and SV seems odd and it kind a looks that SV was sandbagging a litle bit.The first row in normal circunstances seems decided apart from surprises from the tyre situation
    Now, the second row seems pretty open with Mclaren (LH), Ferrari (FA) and Mercedes (NR).

    1. James Draper says:

      SV was sandbagging by at least a second more than MW IMO

  12. One lunger says:

    They just need to scrap that two compound Indycar nonsense!

  13. Adam Taylor says:

    James, maybe slightly off subject, but I would be very interested if you wrote an article of what the teams do during the practice sessions. Although ive been an avid F1 follower for many years, ive never really known what the teams really do to the cars to set them up, how much they need to change from what the rig at the factory tells them to what they finally end up with. How with the lack of testing now having to do it during the practice sessions effects race set up and whether the test drivers on the friday put the race drivers at a disadvantage because they have missed a session. Cheers.

    1. James Allen says:

      Good idea. Thanks

  14. Lew says:

    I wouldn’t get too excited,I’m sure that come race time the necessary “adjustments” will have been made to ensure that MW is slower than cute little SV.

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