|Photo courtesy of Team Lotus|
Turn 11 was the main danger point, catching a lot of drivers out, most of them avoiding any damage to the cars. Sebastien Vettel however, managed to run onto the kerb at the exit of turn 8 and spin his car to end up backwards in the barrier at a pretty high speed. The car was damaged on all sides and spread its remains over a wide area of the track, which bought the red flags out.
The session resumed to several more spins, most notably Pastor Maldonado, who was the only other damaged car of the day. Fernando Alonso showed off his wet weather skills to finish the session fastest. McLaren finally decided to warm up the engines a bit and sent both drivers out for a last minute run. Jenson set off without problem, although he did manage to set the slowest time of all. But Lewis didn't even make it out of the pit lane due to a sticky clutch.
Free Practice 2 was a much drier affair and everyone (McLaren included,) seemed to be taking it a little more seriously. Vettel could only watch as his car was being repaired which must have been annoying to say the least. Ferrari were the late starters this time around, apparently Alonso's car was suffering some sort of hydraulic problems which delayed him getting on track.
McLaren and Mercedes traded fastest spots for most of the session, with occasional good showings from the Lotus Renault boys. Mark Webber didn't worry the top of the time sheets much, but then Red Bull rarely do until the very end of the session. Alonso finally made an appearance after 50 mins or so and then promptly spun in turn 6. Maybe the gremlins were not fully out of the system after all.
The final Friday practice finished up with Jenson Button at the top of the time sheet, closely followed by Nico Rosberg. Hamilton took third with Schumacher and Webber finishing off the top five. Paul Di Resta made another good effort by taking eighth place.
Early indications are that Mercedes have made a bit of an improvement on their pace, but it remains to be seen how well it holds up when the competition gets tougher in qualifying and the race. Red Bull have missed a fair bit of running thanks to Vettel's slip-up, but I doubt they really need it anyway. The chances of them being overtaken by the other teams is very slim indeed. Ferrari don't look like they have made much headway against their aerodynamic problems. The red team have some upgrades, but seem to think their biggest step forward will come in Barcelona later in the month.
The weather (so far,) looks like it might stay dry for the rest of the weekend. I imagine the teams will be happy with that, but a little rain shower would certainly spice up the race. Not that I think it will need it. The DRS zone being set roughly where predicted should see to that. The track looks quite bumpy at the braking zone for turn 12 so there should be some, entertaining to us and scary to the drivers, moments on the way into there.
Predictions are tricky to call here, especially with so little real running. But I'm going to suggest that Jenson might get pole this time out, he definitely seems the most comfortable on the track so far. The race is going to be even harder to predict, so lets go with Hamilton first, Button second and Vettel third. I get a feeling (and I have no idea why,) that this weekend won't be all smooth sailing for the German.