Sebastian Vettel made use of a heavily revised RB8 to set the fastest time of the day in Valencia during Friday’s second practice session ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and Kamui Kobayashi.
Red Bull have brought a raft of upgrades to the European Grand Prix, focused on the exhausts blowing on the floor and diffuser, predominantly working on the rear-end stability of the car, which is of particular importance around the street circuit. And those changes have proved successful with Vettel also taking second position in FP1 ahead of team-mate Mark Webber. Webber also tried some front wing modifications and there were further updates to the rear brake ducts.
Both of today’s sessions have been extremely close with the top nine in FP1 covered by 0.3 seconds, and possibly more relatable to qualifying on Saturday, the front twelve in FP2 were all within 0.6 seconds of Vettel; with Schumacher in fourth just 0.3 faster than Button in twelfth. Meaning that once again there will be a mighty scrap to reach the top ten shoot-out.
The afternoon session had a frantic start with the majority of the field heading to the circuit straight away, quickly beating the fastest time set this morning. The first position changed constantly during the first fifteen minutes with Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren trading fastest laps. Mercedes meanwhile did not take to the track for the first twenty minutes of the session, but Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher topped the time sheets on the prime tyre before the cars headed into the pits to attempt a option tyre run.
The air and track temperatures have been much lower than expected but they rose quickly in the first thirty minutes of the session, climbing 6 degrees. The wind this weekend has come from the west, which brings warm air from over the Spanish mainland. Normally the wind in Valencia is from the coast to the East. Hence the high temperatures seen this weekend.
Once the soft tyre runs began, Button went quickest and was the first driver to dip below the 100 second mark. However this time was quickly beaten by Rosberg who was still on the prime compound, although most likely on a light fuel load as he pitted soon after.
Alonso then led the way setting all fastest sectors on his way to a 1:39.733 which remained the fastest time with forty minutes left of the session. Many other drivers had been on a option run trying to topple the home favourite until their laps were ruined by a crash for the HRT of Pedro De La Rosa who seemed to not turn enough and buried his car in the tyre wall, walking away unharmed.
After the car was removed the times began to tumble once again with Vettel posting a 1:39.334 which was to remain unbeaten. As the McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes cars turned their attention to heavy fuel runs the midfield teams shot up the order with Bruno Senna and Paul Di Resta taking fifth and sixth positions respectively between Schumacher and Alonso.
Button and Lewis Hamilton ended in twelfth and fourteenth places and were concerned with competitiveness in race trim. “It’s going to be a tough one for us,” was Hamilton’s conclusion.
The soft tyre runs were short lived today but McLarens true single lap pace will be shown in the final practice session on Saturday morning.
“I think on one lap, I don’t think we’re too bad,” said Button. “We’re not great, but we’re not too bad. But the long run is the strange area for us because the car doesn’t feel too bad but the time just isn’t there. So we’ve got to look in to the reasons for that.”
McLaren doesn’t have any major upgrades this weekend, but was working on a new rear suspension geometry and a new idea on the exhausts for Hamilton’s car. They will have for the next race in Silverstone. Button is working on finding the set up which works for him, after his problems in Canada.
Lotus had a quiet Friday, however Romain Grosjean proved that they are definitely a team to watch this weekend as he showed very good race pace relative to the other top teams.
Additional reporting: Matt Meadows
EUROPEAN GRAND PRIX, Valencia, Friday Practice 2
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m39.334 33
2. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m39.465s + 0.131 32
3. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m39.595s + 0.261 20
4. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m39.601s + 0.267 27
5. Bruno Senna Williams 1m39.644s + 0.310 34
6. Paul di Resta Force India 1m39.700s + 0.366 32
7. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m39.733s + 0.399 34
8. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m39.868s + 0.534 33
9. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m39.901s + 0.567 30
10. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m39.926s + 0.592 32
11. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m39.945s + 0.611 34
12. Jenson Button McLaren 1m39.990s + 0.656 33
13. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m40.075s + 0.741 29
14. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m40.147s + 0.813 25
15. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m40.244s + 0.910 35
16. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m40.511s + 1.177 29
17. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m40.963s + 1.629 20
18. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m41.121s + 1.787 32
19. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1m41.197s + 1.863 38
20. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m41.263s + 1.929 29
21. Timo Glock Marussia 1m42.424s + 3.090 21
22. Charles Pic Marussia 1m42.958s + 3.624 30
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m44.201s + 4.867 33
24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1m44.260s + 4.926 12
#club force (Force India) “So our good form from the morning continued this afternoon with @NicoHulkenberg in P2 and @pauldirestaf1 in P6 during FP2.”
#InsideFerrari “All the job has been completed, so all in all a positive first day of the weekend.”
#TheFifthDriver (McLaren) #socialfriday @scottyfay: “my bad I meant to ask how much the steering wheel costs.” Hehehe! They cost around £25K.”
#ubaidparkar “Difference between tyre compounds at Valencia about 0.3-0.5s per lap, longest run on softs: Rosberg (18 laps), mediums: Alonso (15 laps) #F1
#dchalmersf1 @IrishKimiFan20 “Definitely. One or two big names won’t make it to Q3 #F1”
There’s lots more insight from teams, drivers and media at JA on F1 Connect