What looked like a straight forward free practice day seems anything but…
Race Simulation Stints
The leader board in FP2 could lead us to believe that race day will bring about a fight between the Mercedes and Ferrari drivers. The race simulation lap times would have us believe otherwise:
It might easy to think that Ferrari’s Vettel would be top dog, but in reality he didn’t string together enough laps for a true race simulation stint. The biggest surprise is how close Williams are to the pace of Ferrari and their pace relative to the Mercedes cars. Mercedes may have been running a detuned engine as they often opt to on Fridays and Saturdays, but it appears the top 6 have a good fight to see who makes the podium. The Lotus team might just end up delivering on their promise to make life difficult and improve on their double points finish in Canada
Behind the top 6, the upgrades to Force India appears to have produced results in the hands of Hulkenberg, while the Toro Rosso cars continue to outshine the Red Bull Racing cars. Despite a lack of updates, Sauber still look like they could battle for a top 10 finish. Gremlins affecting the McLaren and Manor car meant that only Will Stevens did a proper representative race stint.
Friday’s running also gave a glimpse of the updates several teams brought to Austria.
The Williams team brought a substantial upgrade consisting of
- An updated rear wing with a dip in middle of the plane
- A simpler ‘monkey seat’ winglet
- A slotted barge board to improve airflow to the sidepods
- A revised floor of the car
- A new diffuser
Red Bull brought a few upgrades in hope of a good show at their home race
- A front wing turning vane/flap
- Keeping with Canada, a traditional front axle instead of the blown axle used by Mclaren and Ferrari
Mclaren have brought a significant revision to the bodywork of the car, which is only being tested by Alonso this weekend as there isn’t a sufficient number of parts for Button as well. The most prominent of these changes is the new short stub-nosed front wing, similar to the ones on the Red Bull and Williams cars.
Lotus have brought a dipped rear wing, similar to the new one at Williams
The biggest update for Force India is the new Mercedes engine that was used by Lotus and Mercedes in Canada. Other revisions include:
- Front wing
According to Pirelli, tyre wear and degradation was low during both FP sessions, and is set to decrease for the rest of the weekend as more rubber is laid down and the cars slide less. The concern is a risk of rain throughout the rest of the weekend – particularly for tomorrow’s qualifying session – that could have a profound effect on race strategy, with the only up to data from the circuit existing from last year, when Austria returned to the championship.
- Alonso lost power out of T8 around 7 minutes into the FP1. On screen graphics showed Alonso has taken 3 new 5th PU elements. That’s a 20 place penalty, most likely resulting in an in-race drive through. He was troubled by an electrical harness connection issue in FP1, and subsequently software issues with the gearbox.
- Half an hour into FP1, Vettel’s car stuck when upshifted into 4th gear out of T1 and lost drive. Over team radio, the German said his car didn’t sound healthy and switched the engine off, remarking something didn’t sound right with the gearbox. A concern, given Vettel took on a new gearbox in Canada. The team later confirmed it was an issue related to the transmission to the back of the car, which was analysed and fixed.
- A most amusing incident in the pits when Maurizio Arrivabene sauntered across the pit lane without looking and narrowly avoided being hit by the released car of Massa thanks to the Brazilian’s quick reflexes.
- Several drivers including Hamilton, Verstappen, Kvyat complained of oversteer in medium to high speed corners, particularly struggling with T8.
(The fastest time in FP1 in 2014 was 1:11.295s)
- Alonso an upgraded nose (short nose, passed in a recent crash test). Similar to Red Bull and Williams’ nose). Alonso had full bodywork upgrade running in FP2. In FP2, Mclaren stopped Alonso as a precaution after Button had a problem with an ignition plug.
- Williams’ updates didn’t seem to be working as expected, down in P14 and P15. but their race simulation told a different take
- Ferrari faced some issues getting their race simulation done as Raikkonen flatspotted the tyres he was meant to run his simulation on while Vettel ran a limited session after an another gearbox related issue in FP2. The team later informed Vettel it was a loss of gearbox oil and was found to be unrelated to the transmission issue suffered in FP1.
- Several cars found themselves driving across the gravel as Sainz, Merhi and Maldonado had to make their escape down the circuit’s access roads.
(The fastest time in FP2 in 2014 was 1:09.542s)