Friday, 20 June 2014

Mercedes stay top as Williams shine in FP2

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)

The Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg picked up from where they left off this morning by topping the timesheets in the second free practice session ahead of Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. This time around it was the 2008 world champion who set the pace with a 1m 09.542s to finish the session 0.377s ahead of team mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso in third place.

It was a great afternoon session for the Williams Martini Racing duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa as they finished the session in fourth and fifth place respectively for the Grove based outfit showing that the FW36 could be the surprise package this weekend as they aim to show the cars true potential.

Bottas said:

'It’s a really nice track; I think it will become one of my favourites. It’s an old-school track with some high speed sections and no room for mistakes. With long straights it should also make racing here interesting too. It’s not an easy track to set the car up for as you face different issues with each corner, Turn One is an uphill right-hander and Turn Three is a downhill right-hander, both at different speeds, so we will have to analyse the data to find what works best for us. Qualifying will be very tight so it will come down to who can put the lap together best.'

Felipe Massa, who retired from the last race in Canada was happy with his running for the day saying:

'It has been a good Friday. To return here and be where we are is encouraging. The balance of the car was good and the car behaviour was positive so we will be there fighting. It’s not an easy track and so many things can happen as we have learnt today, so we have to be consistent. It’s great to be up there with Ferrari but you can’t ignore any of the teams behind you and we will be ready for anything.'

Williams Martini Racing's Head of Performance Engineering Rob Smedley said:

'We got through most of the work on the schedule today, and the team did a good job. We had set some fairly stringent priorities in terms of what tasks we wanted to achieve today, as we are treating this as a completely new track due to the length of time since we were last here racing. The car is reasonable on both new and scrubbed tyres and we are where we thought we would be in terms of pace. It’s very close from the second quickest car backwards so we are going to work hard to make sure we go through the smallest details in order to improve further. I am really happy as everyone has done a great job and the drivers are also happy.   '

Following a difficult session this morning, reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel was 6th fastest for Infiniti Red Bull Racing albeit 1.2s behind Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes. The reigning world champion said:

'I think this morning we struggled a little bit, this afternoon it was better. We’ve seen that people struggled a bit to get the primes, the harder tyre, to work but it should be a different story tomorrow when it’s a bit hotter. I think everyone is looking forward to a great weekend, we’re not the favourites going into this weekend, we’d love to be but we’re not quite there yet. Today was very productive, we seemed to make progress throughout the day, but if anything, the fact that this is our home Grand Prix is an extra motivation.'

Jenson Button was 7th fastest in the first of the McLaren cars so the Woking based outfit like Williams could be a team to watch out for this weekend following Button's fourth place finish in Canada two week's ago. 

Canadian Grand Prix race winner Daniel Ricciardo was 8th fastest in the second Red Bull. Following today's running the Australian said:

'We learnt actually a hell of a lot today. We came in the morning with a few ideas and some worked, some didn’t, as always on a Friday, it’s never really a perfect Friday. But yeah, coming into P2 we tried a few more things and I feel we improved a lot from P1. We’ve still got a bit more I think in our pockets, but yeah, we gathered up enough information tonight to make progress for tomorrow. I don’t think we’re as quick as the Mercs, we didn’t really expect to be, but hopefully we can be the next best again.”

Kevin Magnusssen was 9th fastest in the second McLaren while Toro Rosso's Jean Eric Vergne rounded out the top ten. 

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen continued to struggle with the F14-T as the Finn once again finished in eleventh place and ran wide towards the end of the session as he came into the final turn so he will be hoping that the team will be able to improve the car ahead of Free Practice 3 and qualifying tomorrow.

Daniil Kvyat continued to impress in the second Toro Rosso and finished the session in 12th place. The Sahara Force India F1 Team have brought a major upgrade package for the Austrian Grand Prix and after finishing this morning's session in 6th and 7th, this afternoon Sergio Perez was 13th fastest just ahead of the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez while Nico Hulkenberg was 17th behind Pastor Maldonado's Lotus and Adrian Sutil in the second Sauber.

Hulkenberg had this to say following today's running:

'It’s a fun track. Quite a short lap, but it flows nicely. It looks easier on paper because in reality it’s quite challenging and technical in many areas. The morning session was very solid; I was happy with the car straight away and the performance was there. For some reason we struggled more this afternoon on both tyre compounds and I was not as comfortable in the car: so that is where we need to analyse things tonight. One explanation could be the wind, which picked up this afternoon, but we will look deep into the data to make sure we improve things for tomorrow.'

Sergio Perez felt that the team had a good day saying:

'It was a good day. We followed our programme and managed to learn a lot about the way both tyre compounds behave over long runs. The track is very challenging and it doesn't offer many overtaking opportunities, so grid position will be crucial for a successful weekend. There are still good margins of improvement we can extract: getting everything out of the car and doing the necessary changes to use the tyres in the best way will be our main objectives for tonight.'

Sahara Force India's Chief Operations Officer Otmar Szafnauer said:

'It’s been a busy day with both drivers having to learn a new track and an aero evaluation programme across both cars, which went to plan. Nico was happy with the car balance this morning, but the set-up direction we took in the afternoon, and the changing conditions, resulted in him struggling to find performance. The opposite was true with Sergio who made some progress in the afternoon, but it’s fair to say we need to work hard tonight to optimise car balance on both sides of the garage. The long run pace was encouraging, but as always it’s tricky to make comparisons. Hopefully the changes we make overnight will allow us to move closer to the sweet spot so that we are in good shape ahead of qualifying.'

Max Chilton was the fastest of the young team's down in 18th place while Romain Grosjean in the Lotus had a difficult session and finished the session in 19th place following a spin. Jules Bianchi finished the session in 20th place in the second Marussia just ahead of the Caterham pair of Kamui Kobayashi nad Marcus Ericsson in 21st and 22nd place respectively.

The team's and driver's will now spend the next few hours going over the data that they have collected from today's running to try to come up ways of fine tuning their car set up ahead of tomorrow's on track action which gets underway at 10AM (UK) time.

© Ben Johnston 2014

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