2015 Austrian Grand Prix Practice Review

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Lewis Hamilton wins the Canadian Grand Prix ahead of Nico Rosberg in second place and Valtteri Bottas in third place. Lotus, Red Bull and Force India made improvement to get points from the event also.

Heading into the weekend, there have been rumours that Imola is in talks with Bernie Ecclestone about returning to the sport as early as 2017. If you want to read more about this, then please read my article here:- https://jonesonf1.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/imola-in-talks-to-return-to-formula-one/.

Also, Michelin have put in a bid to become Formula One’s tyre supplier for 2017 when current tyre manufacturer Pirelli’s contract ends. For more information on the subject; please read my article here:- https://jonesonf1.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/michelin-submits-f1-tyre-supply-bid/.

The Red Bull Ring (or as was formerly known as A1-Ring) is host for the Austrian Grand Prix this weekend. The circuit is located near the city of Spielberg in Styria, in the southeast of Austria. The area is harmoniously integrated into the landscape and offers a breathtaking surrounding, a panoramic view as well as a great safety because of long, asphalted run off areas. With lap times of around 70 seconds, it is one of the quickest laps on the Formula 1 calendar.

The circuit is 4.326 kilometers long with a total of only 8 turns, 6 right-handers and 2 left-handers. The driving direction is clockwise. Due to stop and go passages on turn 1 and 2, the track is very challenging. The downhill sections with the curves are very tricky, especially if the track is wet.

If you get this right and a driver is well on his way to a competitive lap time. Cars need plenty of power as the few corners are relatively quick and are linked by long straights that require plenty of full-throttle running. The drivers are flat out on the accelerator for 72 percent of the lap.

A race track has existed at the current location in one form or another since 1969. The originally name was Österreichring and it was a spectacular, scenic and unique circuit. It was totally redesigned by German track designer Hermann Tilke and rebuilt in 1995 and 1996. It was also renamed the A1-Ring. Its length was shortened from 5.942 to 4.326 kilometers, and the fast sweeping corners were replaced by three tight right-handers, in order to create overtaking opportunities. The track was renamed the Red Bull Ring in 2011.

We must also mention the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix where we saw Barrichello on the final lap of the race hand over the race win to Schumacher at the final corner. This then sparked major controversy within the sport. Schumacher ushered Barrichello onto the top step of the podium which left the Ferrari team paying a hefty fine, but also Schumacher and Barrichello too. This incident also saw the FIA banning ‘team orders’ in the sport.

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.

Before the start of Practice 1, it was announced that Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat will be taking engine penalties this weekend. If you want to read more about this, then please read my article here:- https://jonesonf1.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/engine-penalties-for-ricciardo-and-kvyat-this-weekend-in-austria/.

Also, Fernando Alonso will also be taking an penalty for changing his engine this weekend. If you want to read more about this, then please read my article here:- https://jonesonf1.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/alonso-facing-drive-through-penalty-this-weekend-in-austria/.

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP1.

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP1.

Practice 1 saw Nico Rosberg tops the timesheet with a time of 1.10.401 followed closely by Lewis Hamilton with a gap of 0.308  seconds behind, Kimi Raikkonen was in third with a gap of 0.627 seconds behind, Valtteri Bottas was in fourth with a gap of 1.051 seconds behind and Felipe Nasr in fifth with a gap of 1.232 seconds behind Rosberg.

Daniil Kvyat is sixth with a gap of 1.241 seconds behind, Daniel Ricciardo is seventh with a gap of 1.323 seconds behind, Max Verstappen is eighth with a gap of 1.424 seconds behind, Felipe Massa is ninth with a gap of 1.489 seconds behind and Sergio Perez is tenth with a gap of 1.504 seconds behind Hamilton.

During the session, we saw Sebastian Vettel stopping on a run off area of the circuit with suspected brake and gearbox problems on his Ferrari which meant he had to stop taking part in the session while the Ferrari team tried to resolve the issues on the car before FP2.

Just shy of half an hour in the session, Felipe Massa had brief scare when he was released from the Williams pit box just as Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene crossed from the pitwall. Arrivabene jumped out of the way, while Massa stopped short of where the Ferrari boss had been, with the pair later sharing a joke about the moment.

Sebastian Vettel tops the timesheets in FP2.

Sebastian Vettel tops the timesheets in FP2 and FP3.

Practice 2 saw Vettel tops the timesheet with a time of 1.09.600 followed closely by Rosberg with a gap of 0.011 seconds behind, Raikkonen was in third with a gap of 0.260 seconds behind, Maldonado was in fourth with a gap of 0.314 seconds behind and Hamilton in fifth with a gap of 0.537 seconds behind Vettel.

Nico Hulkenberg is sixth with a gap of 0.560 seconds behind, Romain Grosjean is seventh with a gap of 0.667 seconds behind, Verstappen is eighth with a gap of 0.756 seconds behind, Nasr is ninth with a gap of 0.895 seconds behind and Perez is tenth with a gap of 0.985 seconds behind Vettel.

During the session, we saw Carlos Sainz Jr going off the circuit at Turn 4 after locking up going into the corner and was very lucky not to have hit the barrier in order to continue running in the session. We also saw Pastor Maldonado going off the circuit in Turn 3 after locking up his front tyres but he was able to continue on with the session.

In the latter stages of the session, Vettel had to go into the pits after once again his Ferrari was experiencing gearbox problems. Vettel then asked his team via the radio if there was anything that he could do on the track and the team told him no. It would seem that the gearbox problem from FP1 hasn’t been fixed and leaves Ferrari with a lot of work to do before FP3 on Saturday morning.

Before the start of Practice 3, it was announced that Jenson Button has received a 25 place grid penalty for changing his Honda power unit completely. If you want to read more on this, please read my article here:- https://jonesonf1.wordpress.com/2015/06/20/button-to-receive-a-25-place-grid-penalty-this-weekend-in-austria/

Practice 3 saw Vettel tops the timesheet with a time of 1.09.9494 followed closely by Hamilton with a gap of 0.017 seconds behind, Raikkonen was in third with a gap of 0.183 seconds behind, Perez was in fourth with a gap of 0.227 seconds behind and Rosberg in fifth with a gap of 0.338 seconds behind Vettel.

Massa is sixth with a gap of 0.414 seconds behind, Bottas is seventh with a gap of 0.423 seconds behind, Verstappen is eighth with a gap of 0.442 seconds behind, Maldonado is ninth with a gap of 0.582 seconds behind and Grosjean is tenth with a gap of 0.869 seconds behind Vettel.

During the session, we saw Pastor Maldonado locking up on the circuit, running wide and was able to continue on running in the session. On the track, we saw Sergio Perez getting a puncture after taking too much kerb on Turn 6 and having to pit in order to get new tyres fitted to his Force India.

We also saw Romain Grosjean going really slowly around the track with a suspected gearbox failure and being stuck in seventh gear after losing drive. He managed to get the gearbox working and he made it back to the pits and the Lotus team will be investigating this issue quickly before the start of qualifying.

With 30 minutes of the session left, Fernando Alonso stopped on the pit straight in his McLaren-Honda with suspected mechanical failure. This then brought out the red flags while the marshals recovered the car from its position in order to hand back to the McLaren team.

With a 40% chance of rain going into this session, the rain hit the Speilberg circuit in the last 25 minutes of the session and a hand full of drivers went out to see what the conditions were like. We saw Nico Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen running wide of the circuit and both were able to get back onto the circuit.

Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez came out onto the track with 20 minutes of the session left on intermediates. Hulkenberg was extremely lucky not to hit the barrier after going off the circuit due to no grip and he was able to continue on during the session.

In the final ten minutes of the session, Vettel, Sainz Jr and Verstappen went out onto the track with intermediates and wet tyres. All three at some point in the session either went wide off the track (Sainz went off twice in one lap) and Sainz Jr had a spin at Turn 6 but was able to continue on in the session.

For the second time in the session, Kimi Raikkonen also went off the circuit at Turn 3 after locking up but he was able to continue on after finding an escape road to help him. He also went off at Turn 3 the following lap and was able to continue on.

 

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.

But Vettel is looking strong this weekend and could snatch pole from them and could end a year of Mercedes’ run of Pole Positions. However, Ricciardo, 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 Lotus or Force India 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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