2015 Spanish Grand Prix Practice Review

Circuit-de-Barcelona-Catalunya_3137685

Lewis Hamilton wins the Bahrain Grand Prix ahead of Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen in second place and Nico Rosberg in third place. Lotus, Williams, Red Bull and Force India also managed to get some points on the board in Bahrain three weeks ago.

Heading into the Grand Prix, there have been talks that McLaren are set to change their livery for the Spanish Grand Prix. Many pundits and fans have been waiting for this to happen since McLaren renewed its partnership with Honda for this season.

Last week saw the announcement that Iran is organising plans to host a Grand Prix circuit. The circuit would be based in Qeshm Island, which is off the southern coast of Iran. If you want to find out more about this; please read my article here:- https://jonesonf1.wordpress.com/2015/05/05/iran-announces-formula-one-plans/.

Also, Sauber test driver Raffaele Maricello will be driving once again in FP1 at the Spanish GP this weekend. If you want to read more about this; then please read my article here:- https://jonesonf1.wordpress.com/2015/05/05/marciello-to-run-in-fp1-at-the-spanish-grand-prix.

The Circuit de Catalunya (also known as the Circuit de Barcelonarounder circuit. The circuit layout tests every aspect of a cars performance, aero, mechanical and engine. It is very often used for testing during the winter, so the teams and also the drivers know the circuit quite well. This has led to criticism that drivers and mechanics are too familiar with Catalunya, reducing the amount of on-track action.

But it is a very different kind of circuit. The erratic weather conditions, particularly the prevailing winds, can destabilise the car’s aerodynamic balance, so the teams are continually trying to find the perfect set-up. Even the slightest change in the weather or track conditions, due to the amount of rubber laid down, has a big impact. The tyres are under high loadings, particularly the front left tyre which has to work hard in right-hand corners such as turns 3 and 9. It is very important to find the perfect balance to look after the tyres.

The track is 4.65 kilometers long with a total of 16 corners, 9 right turns and 7 left turns. Minimum track width is 11 meters. The direction is clockwise. The engines will spend each lap of the race at about 57 percent full throttle, so top end speeds are important. This is most crucially on the start and finish straight which will see the drivers flat out for almost 1,000 meters.

Overtaking is not easy, therefore a good qualifying performance is vital. Statistically, it is more important to start from pole position in Barcelona than it is at other circuits because many Spanish Grand Prix have been won from the pole.

But at the moment, Mercedes are still the team to beat after the first four races of the season so far But Ferrari, Williams, Sauber and Toro Rosso have also had a reasonable performance at the first two races of the season with many wondering if they can sustain that level of performance. While many will also be eager to see how McLaren-Honda and Manor F1 perform over the weekend who are two of a few teams bringing upgrades to the weekend.

The race weekend begins now….

Practices 1, 2 and 3

The main headline from the Practice sessions is Mercedes look to have the driver-car package to beat this weekend as weather conditions and tyre management which will test the drivers, teams and the cars throughout Friday and Saturday practice sessions.

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP1

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP1 and FP3. 

Practice 1 saw Nico Rosberg tops the timesheet with a time of 1.26.828 followed closely by Lewis Hamilton with a gap of 0.070 seconds behind, Sebastian Vettel was in third with a gap of 0.978 seconds behind, Kimi Raikkonen was in fourth with a gap of 1.004 seconds behind and Carlos Sainz Jr in fifth with a gap of 1.304 seconds behind Rosberg.

Max Verstappen is sixth with a gap of 1.701 seconds behind, Daniil Kvyat is seventh with a gap of 1.957 seconds behind, Felipe Massa is eighth with a gap of 2.003 seconds behind, Daniel Ricciardo is ninth with a gap of 2.247 seconds behind and Felipe Nasr is tenth with a gap of 2.312 seconds behind Rosberg.

In the early stages of the session, we saw Sauber Test Driver Rafaelle Maricello ran off the circuit after touching the white line at Turn 9 after getting a touch of oversteer out of his car, but was able to continue after recovering over the astro turf. Also, Sergio Perez runs off the track at Turn 4 but he was able to rejoin the circuit and did not have any damage to his car.

In the last 30 minutes of the session, Nico Rosberg entered the pitlane in the wrong way. The regulations state that a driver must enter the pitlane on the right hand side of the bollard only. Rosberg at the end of one of his flying laps entered from the left hand side of the bollard and could face a penalty or a reprimand from the stewards or the FIA regarding this matter after the investigation.

At the end of the session, Fernando Alonso spun his McLaren-Honda MP4-30 coming out of Turn 12 but didn’t do any damage to his car and headed back to the pits.

Before the start of the session, Nico Rosberg received an official reprimand from the stewards regarding his pit lane infraction during FP1. If you want to read more about this, then please read my article here:- https://jonesonf1.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/rosberg-reprimanded-for-pitlane-infraction/. 

Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets in FP2.

Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets in FP2.

Practice 2 saw Lewis Hamilton topping the timesheets with a time of 1.26.852 followed by Vettel with a gap of 0.408 seconds behind, Rosberg was in third with a gap of 0.764 seconds behind, Raikkonen was in fourth with a gap of 0.928 seconds behind and Kvyat was in fifth with a gap of 1.091 seconds behind Hamilton.

Verstappen was in sixth with a gap of 1.165 seconds behind, Button was seventh with a gap of 1.642 seconds behind, Bottas was eighth with a gap of 1.673 seconds behind, Sainz was ninth with a gap of 1.822 seconds behind and Massa finished the top 10 with a gap of 1.860 seconds behind Hamilton.

In the first hour of the session, Lotus driver Romain Grosjean suffered an explosion of his engine cover on the start/finish straight that left debris onto the track and the session being red flagged until the debris was taken off the track. Luckily Grosjean wasn’t hurt as a result of this. Also at the end of the session, Manor driver Will Stevens went off the circuit and onto the gravel trap but was luckily able to get back to the pits.

It was announced after FP2 that Barcelona has announced a new three year deal to host the GP. If you want to read more about this, then pleas read my article here:- https://jonesonf1.wordpress.com/2015/05/09/barcelona-renews-f1-deal-until-2019/.

Practice 3 saw Rosberg top the timesheet with a time of 1.26.021 followed by Vettel with a gap of 0.156 seconds behind, Hamilton in third with a gap of 0.201 seconds behind, Bottas in fourth with a gap of 0.661 seconds behind and Raikkonen in fifth with a gap of 0.923 seconds behind Rosberg.

Ricciardo is sixth with a gap of 1.027 seconds behind, Massa is seventh with a gap of 1.088 seconds behind, Verstappen is eighth with a gap of 1.111 seconds behind, Kvyat is ninth with a gap of 1.292 seconds behind and Sainz topped the top 10 with a gap of 1.788 seconds behind Rosberg.

In the last 30 minutes of the session, Lewis Hamilton spun coming out of Turn 4 after his left rear touched the astro turf as the W07 had a touch of understeer. Luckily Hamilton kept his foot on the brakes and out of the barriers and was able to get back to the pits to change his tyres.

Williams, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Ferrari look to be having a good weekend so far with both drivers which show that both teams might be able to get into Q3 with a fight and to gain some championship points on Sunday.

You would be stupid not to bet against the Mercedes drivers of Hamilton and Rosberg to gain pole position again this weekend. As the Mercedes drivers seem to be performing brilliantly at the moment and the momentum is with them from all the track mileage and their strong form from the last race. Ricciardo, Vettel, Raikkonen and even Bottas or Massa also cannot be discounted for the pole also as they are consistently within the top ten places at the moment.

However, I think that Sauber have shown that they could throw themselves into the mix and could qualify well here to be in the hunt for some decent points this weekend. We all look forward to the qualifying session of the Grand Prix with excitement…

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