Friday, 20 May 2011

Friday in Spain, Business as Usual

The Spanish Grand Prix weekend got underway today under clear blue skies. The first two practice sessions were run with most of the teams running upgraded cars. McLaren had 10 updates alone and all the teams were claiming a step forward in performance. Whether or not it would result in a change in the running order remained to be seen.
Photo Courtesy of Team Lotus

First practice saw the Red Bulls staying at the top of the time sheets although not in the order to which we have become accustomed. Mark Webber was the fastest of the pair setting a time just over one second faster than Sebastien Vettel. Nico Rosberg continued to display his edge over his team mate by finishing up third with Schumacher only able to manage seventh. Alonso put in fourth fastest time, beating Massa by a massive 2.2 seconds. The mechanics spent most of the session working hard at the back Hamilton's car, and he could only manage sixth fastest. Button finished in ninth in a practice which didn't manage to reveal much about the relative performance of the updated cars.

The second session is where things start to get a little more serious and it was no exception this time. Ferrari started well but were soon eclipsed by the McLarens with Hamilton leading Button. The soft tyres came out to play in the second half of the session and Vettel was one of the first front runners to set a time. He ended up almost 2 seconds faster than Petrov who was fastest at that point. Webber was next to try and he put in an impressive lap to go three tenths faster than Vettel. By now everyone was running the soft tyre in earnest and Button went third and was promptly put down to fourth by his team mate. Hamilton put in an exceptional lap to end up 0.039 behind Webber. Alonso put himself in his favourite place of fifth followed by the Mercedes cars. The top of the time sheets didn't change for the rest of the session as traffic increased and the cars began to block each other. With long runs ending the session the fast stuff was well and truly over.

So far the running order doesn't seem to have changed much, unless McLaren really have got closer to Red Bull. I'm not counting on it myself though. There is a pretty good chance that Saturday will see normal service resumed with Vettel collecting pole and Webber taking up his usual place just behind. Perhaps this time we might see Hamilton split the Red Bulls on the grid but crossed fingers from most of the UK probably won't be enough to make it happen. Qualifying position may not be as vital this year, but it sure seems to be working out well for Vettel!

There are reports that the blown diffuser ban may be looked at after Monaco, not after Canada as reported earlier. Either way Red Bull's advantage (if that is what it depends on!) will be safe until then. The new, even-harder compound that Pirelli supplied for this weekend does appear to last a bit longer than the old one. Which could introduce some new strategy kinks. But it seems that the safe way is the only way to go with predictions this time out. So I'm going to go with Pole and a win for Sebastien Vettel. Mark Webber should be able to make second place but I'm hoping that Hamilton can make him work for it while taking third. Let me know in the comments if you think that will be completely wrong!

Bring on the rest of the weekend!

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