Mercedes, Red Bull and Force India put on a positive impression during their long run simulations on Friday - and are likely to march ahead of Ferrari who struggled on high fuel.
The unusually high-temperatures played its role and it would be interesting to see how weather changes impact the pecking order during the next two days.
As far as the supersoft tyres were concerned, Force India’s Sergio Perez had the fastest average lap time, over two-tenths clear of Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull. Ferrari were a further three tenths adrift in third place.
Mercedes opted against any running on supersoft tyres, presumably to save a few sets for qualifying.
However, all drivers suffered severe tyre degradation on the red-marked tyre, as attested by the drop in pace at the end of their stints.
Perez - 1:54.495
Ricciardo - 1:54.755
Vettel - 1:55.086
Hulkenberg - 1:55.351 (longer)
Interestingly, both Red Bull drivers were able to lodge a better average time than Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton on the soft tyres. Ferrari again were comfortably behind the two outfits while Force India did no laps on the yellow-striped compound. Nico Rosberg’s stint was incomprehensive as barely a few laps could be counted towards his total.
Rosberg - 1:54.125 (inconclusive)
Verstappen - 1:54.182
Ricciardo - 1:54.484
Raikkonen - 1:56.50a8
Only Force India and Mercedes completed laps on the medium tyre. While Hamilton’s average was three tenths better than Hulkenberg, the latter showed supreme consistency.
Hamilton - 1:54.788
Hulkenberg - :1:55.147
by Rachit Thukral