F1 is back in Europe, with the teams hitting the Valencia street circuit following a stellar Canadian Grand Prix two weeks ago. We’re yet to get a classic at this track, but here at Badger we’re hopeful of a good race this weekend. It’s been a great season thus far, so why not dream of something special at this year’s European Grand Prix. The event is underway, with free practice 1 and 2 now complete- here’s how the sessions went.
Free Practice 1
Two teams made use of their test drivers this morning. Scotsman Paul di Resta returned to F1 action, taking part in practice 1 for Force India for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix six weeks ago. Also back on track for the first time since Catalunya was Hispania’s Christian Klien, the Spanish team making use of his experience at their home race. They replaced Adrian Sutil and Karun Chandhok in their respective cars.
The first session was a slow burner. Early installation laps were followed by a prolonged period in which very little of note took place on track. The McLaren boys were 1-2 at the hour, but the fact that Lucas di Grassi was third tells you that the majority of the frontrunners hadn’t attempted quick laps.
One of the bigger events of the first half hour came when Bruno Senna’s wing mirror fell off. He’ll probably be needing that on Sunday, when the Hispania cars can expect to be lapped a few times. Sebastien Buemi then proceeded to run it over, followed by a few others, and a few minutes later the red flag was out to allow the marshals to clean up the shattered remnants. The mirror was then returned to Hispania in several thousand pieces and the session got back underway.
Quick laps began to go in at around the halfway point, with Michael Schumacher going to the top of times. He was outdone by teammate Nico Rosberg, before the McLaren drivers did their now-customary quick Friday morning laps. It was Hamilton followed by Button in what is now becoming a worryingly familiar patter for Jenson. The momentum in that team is definitely with Lewis.
With half an hour to go we’d have expected things to stay that way, with teams settling in to long runs and development mode. But with 15 minutes left on the clock Nico Rosberg popped up with a time just over a tenth quicker than Hamilton’s. That’s how it stayed until the chequered flag dropped, with Rosberg heading Hamilton, Button, Kubica, Massa and Vettel. Next up were Mark Webber, Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso, with Rubens Barichello rounding out the top 10.
Free Practice 2
On to free practice 2 then, where Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso gave his home fans something to shout about.
The Ferraris were quick out of the box, with the red cars 1 and 2 early in the proceedings. But for Felipe Massa the session wasn’t all plain sailing. At the half-hour mark he dropped the Ferrari and spun, then stalled, bringing out the second red flag of the day. Sat on the pitwall Rob Smedley looked disappointed, but not angry. It was the look of a father whose son has just fallen off his bike, but who knows the lad will get back on and have another go. We think…
Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel had taken top spot, but at the halfway mark Rosberg went quickest, before quickly being usurped by Mark Webber. Vettel then reclaimed P.1, making it a Red Bull 1-2. A flurry of quick laps, and one that resulted in ominous reading for their rivals.
Time for a quick development update, we think. Red Bull are running their F-Duct again this weekend, Vettel clearly using his left hand to activate the device on the straights. He’s even got a special glove- expect those to be on sale at the Red Bull merchandise shop soon. It’s worth noting that the McLarens were a full 3kmh quicker through the speedtrap than anyone else in FP1, with the Red Bulls not even making the top 10. That’s evidence of just how much McLaren are gaining from having the most developed F-Duct on the grid.
Back to the action on track, and Fernando Alonso gave the Spanish fans what they wanted, posting the quickest lap of the session with half an hour remaining. Ferrari have the new ‘blown rear-end’ on the car this weekend, though it’s clearly less developed than the one pioneered by Red Bull. Renault and Mercedes are also running with the system, which is fast becoming the must-have accessory for every F1 car. Hardly surprising, as it’s thought to be worth ‘several tenths per lap’. Whether that’s had a real impact on the Italian squad’s cars remains to be seen.
Time-wise there were to be no more changes at the top, as the teams focused on race preparation. That meant Alonso ended the session fastest, followed by the two Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber. Rosberg was fourth, followed by Hamilton, Kubica and Massa. Eighth was Adrian Sutil, who’s looking for his fifth straight points finish this weekend, followed by Jenson Button and Rubens Barichello.
So a bit of variety at the top of the timesheets and plenty of off-circuit excursions today, the track clearly not providing the grip the drivers want, so there’s potential for an exciting- and maybe chaotic- qualifying session tomorrow. As ever Badger will be keeping you bang up to date with all the happenings at the Valencia street circuit- stay tuned.
And, if you’ve time, why not check out some of our European Grand Prixview pieces: