F1 made its annual return to the United Kingdom at its fast flowing Silverstone circuit. As expected, Mercedes led the field comfortably - maintaining a 0.7 seconds advantage on a single lap and having a decent advantage in the long runs as well. Williams, who were closest to Mercedes a fortnight ago in Austria, ran into trouble in both sessions. Instead, Red Bull looked as the second fastest team around the 5.8km circuit, exemplifying a reversal of fortunes between the two teams.
After the Austrian Grand Prix, many speculated that the rest of the season won’t be a cake walk for Mercedes, with Williams closing the gap massively to the German manufacturer. However, data from today’s practice sessions suggested otherwise, with Nico Rosberg having a one second advantage in the long runs over his nearest rival.
His teammate, Lewis Hamilton was slightly quicker on a single lap but a fuel pressure problem brought his long run to a premature end. Nevertheless, Rosberg was ready to play a helping hand by handing over his data to the other side of the garage.
"Nothing's different, it's always the same, What we have to do is think about the team in the first instance and everything is open and we share everything that's why we are where we are. The team is dominating the sport because we've managed to really work together well. As a bunch of individuals there is no way you can have success in the sport, you only succeed if you work well together and I that shows with where we are now."
However, Hamilton wasn’t as pleased, suggesting that little gain could be made from the same, citing their different driving styles.
"The long run data doesn't really help in the sense that we drive differently, It doesn't help you in the sense of understanding how the tyres are lasting, and whether you need to put the car into more understeer or oversteer, whether you need to move the brake balance, which corners you want to lift and coast. All those different things you need to practice. It makes it really hard, but I'll be OK. I don't know why things happen to my car so much. We'll fix it, but I really needed a long run. Now I don't know what the car is going to feel like for the race."
Red Bull, who had a torrid time at their home circuit last month, might be rooting for a podium finish at this weekend’s British Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel’s long run simulations put him second in the order, albeit over a second behind the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg.
Daniel Ricciardo, meanwhile, brought into attention the impact of wind on how the car turned into the corners.
"The wind here is always really strong and today in particular we had really strong gusts coming through and it changes a lot between the corners, you know one corner you feel like the car is really sharp and then another corner you feel like it doesn’t have any grip at all. "
Ferrari for now, seem to be the third fastest team with Alonso lapping in the low 1:40s. Interestingly, Kimi Raikkonen was slightly faster than the Spaniard in the long run. Both the drivers could threaten Red Bull in the race, if Friday practice pace is anything to go by.
Behind the chasing pack comes the Williams. However, the Grove based outfit must take care of reliability side of the car in order to get a strong result. Susie Wolff’s first Grand Prix weekend outing came to a premature end due to an oil pressure leak, while Valtteri Bottas encountered a strange engine cover failure in FP2. Further, Felipe Massa’s crash during the morning, put him on the backfoot going into Saturday.
Further down the pecking order comes McLaren who may only salvage a points result at their home race. The car has little pace in it to please the fans who would be coming in huge numbers in rocket red caps and Pink for Papa t-shirts.
Another team that is likely to have a disappointing result at their home race is Force India(with India out of the calendar and their base just a kilometre away, Silverstone is essentially Force India’s home race). Both Hulkenberg and Perez were outside the top 15 in FP2, while in the long runs, they were lapping in 1:41s. Only better tyre management can help them maintain their unbroken points run this season. Hulkenberg suggested that wind was a reason for their lack of pace, an issue alluded by several other drivers.
“I think it is a bit wind-related, Straight away it was pretty tricky and unpredictable to drive in these conditions. We have to understand a bit more and hopefully with the right conclusions and improve for tomorrow. Wind is never good for a racing car, especially when it is so gusty and so strong, racing cars don't like that. It makes it hard for the aero to stay healthy so you can feel it in the car. There will be cars that can cope better with this and cars that will be worse with it.”