Vettel not taking Friday lead for granted

2012 European Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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Sebastian Vettel was quickest in Friday practice in Valencia but admitted the competitive order could change on Sunday.

With temperatures expecting to rise over the rest of the weekend, the winner of the last two races in Valencia was cautious about his prospects: “The conditions will change again for Sunday I think; it was a bit cooler today, which will make a difference.

“It’s close between the teams and it’s not yet clear what the right strategy is for Sunday, hopefully we can make a step forward tomorrow.”

Longest stint comparison – second practice

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint:

Sebastian Vettel105.345105.473105.689105.19105.434105.49105.166105.008
Mark Webber105.899106.093105.585105.691105.717105.718106.311108.901
Jenson Button106.461106.14106.036106.272106.491106.667105.823105.853105.846105.972106.422106.522
Lewis Hamilton103.612101.246105.77100.397107.97109.416100.522
Fernando Alonso105.68105.969105.569106.414105.348105.606110.232105.425105.49105.462107.081105.767106.321
Felipe Massa105.075104.844105.193104.861104.994108.649105.135105.475106.96108.207
Michael Schumacher106.086106.705106.534107.348106.048105.96105.67105.664105.528105.863106.253105.617
Nico Rosberg105.763105.75105.658105.571105.93105.427107.746105.497111.233105.407105.731105.632110.059105.459105.783109.597106.073
Kimi Raikkonen104.88105.162104.843105.123105.427105.05105.388105.405105.476105.279105.274110.19105.163
Romain Grosjean105.194113.815105.296105.268105.255108.069104.524105.346104.884104.802104.999105.031104.634
Paul di Resta105.768108.966104.953105.284105.546105.373105.367105.229105.17105.64105.836105.301105.326
Nico Hulkenberg105.958106.444105.505105.505105.622105.319104.957105.212106.057105.527105.324104.928
Kamui Kobayashi110.09101.085121.86101.46107.622102.671
Sergio Perez105.045105.089106.001105.179105.677105.277105.727105.52105.489
Daniel Ricciardo107.315106.959106.42106.271106.201106.066106.069106.542106.786106.928106.598106.835111.413
Jean-Eric Vergne107.908108.484107.735107.683107.285107.399108.005
Pastor Maldonado105.659105.517105.473105.335105.555105.053105.29105.284
Bruno Senna106.916106.415106.333106.301106.295106.111105.925106.249105.85105.411105.679105.969
Heikki Kovalainen105.569105.882105.861106.027106.37106.147106.396106.733106.539106.553
Vitaly Petrov105.526105.678105.634105.663106.067106.032105.912
Pedro de la Rosa107.571107.425105.215112.976104.704
Narain Karthikeyan108.002107.714108.326108.119111.536107.861109.791
Timo Glock111.18102.424130.236106.606102.837
Charles Pic109.514109.042108.138109.338108.98109.083108.383

Conditions for practice at the Valencia street circuit were not as hot as expected, and much windier. Drivers generally found good life from the medium compound tyres – but the concern is whether this will still be the case later in the weekend when the track is forecast to be as much as 10C hotter.

Lotus are one team which have tended to perform better in hotter conditions, but less well in qualifying. Romain Grosjean’s race-fuel stint looked particularly strong – even compared to Sebastian Vettel’s.

“The long run pace was there and the car felt good,” said Grosjean. “We still have a few things to try with the set-up, so there should be some more pace to come. Qualifying will be the big moment for us as we have seen that we need to find a little bit of improvement there.

“It’s not the end of the world, as we have seen that we can make good gains on Sunday with our race pace. The trick will be to find more speed in qualifying without disturbing this.”

Fernando Alonso was less happy with his long run, saying the tyres “seem to degrade quite significantly here”.

In Canada Mercedes took great care not to over-stress their rear tyres, which has been a problem for them in earlier races. Nico Rosberg said: “Although it’s cooler today, the conditions are still really hot out there, but I believe that we understand the tyre work on the rears a bit better now. It was also difficult to avoid locking the front tyres in the braking zones.”

Sector times and ultimate lap times – second practice

CarDriverCarSector 1Sector 2Sector 3Ultimate lapGapDeficit to best
11Sebastian VettelRed Bull-Renault26.220 (1)45.192 (3)27.894 (2)1’39.3060.028
212Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes26.274 (5)45.259 (6)27.932 (3)1’39.4650.1590.000
319Bruno SennaWilliams-Renault26.298 (7)45.488 (13)27.710 (1)1’39.4960.1900.148
48Nico RosbergMercedes26.229 (2)45.283 (7)28.018 (6)1’39.5300.2240.396
511Paul di RestaForce India-Mercedes26.346 (8)45.084 (1)28.144 (10)1’39.5740.2680.126
614Kamui KobayashiSauber-Ferrari26.459 (14)45.195 (4)27.941 (4)1’39.5950.2890.000
77Michael SchumacherMercedes26.254 (3)45.170 (2)28.177 (13)1’39.6010.2950.000
82Mark WebberRed Bull-Renault26.368 (11)45.344 (10)27.972 (5)1’39.6840.3780.217
99Kimi RaikkonenLotus-Renault26.272 (4)45.284 (8)28.141 (9)1’39.6970.3910.248
105Fernando AlonsoFerrari26.349 (9)45.328 (9)28.029 (7)1’39.7060.4000.027
1110Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault26.389 (12)45.222 (5)28.251 (15)1’39.8620.5560.006
123Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes26.358 (10)45.378 (11)28.146 (11)1’39.8820.5760.108
1318Pastor MaldonadoWilliams-Renault26.461 (15)45.499 (14)28.068 (8)1’40.0280.7220.047
144Lewis HamiltonMcLaren-Mercedes26.419 (13)45.474 (12)28.174 (12)1’40.0670.7610.080
156Felipe MassaFerrari26.284 (6)45.504 (15)28.337 (16)1’40.1250.8190.119
1615Sergio PerezSauber-Ferrari26.504 (16)45.608 (16)28.210 (14)1’40.3221.0160.189
1721Vitaly PetrovCaterham-Renault26.741 (17)45.815 (20)28.407 (17)1’40.9631.6570.000
1816Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso-Ferrari26.761 (18)45.642 (17)28.585 (19)1’40.9881.6820.133
1920Heikki KovalainenCaterham-Renault26.792 (19)45.733 (18)28.482 (18)1’41.0071.7010.190
2017Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso-Ferrari26.920 (20)45.745 (19)28.598 (20)1’41.2631.9570.000
2124Timo GlockMarussia-Cosworth27.064 (21)46.521 (21)28.839 (21)1’42.4243.1180.000
2225Charles PicMarussia-Cosworth27.139 (22)46.670 (22)28.982 (22)1’42.7913.4850.167
2322Pedro de la RosaHRT-Cosworth27.423 (23)47.186 (24)29.306 (23)1’43.9154.6090.345
2423Narain KarthikeyanHRT-Cosworth27.440 (24)47.143 (23)29.481 (24)1’44.0644.7580.137

Traffic, yellow flags and a narrow window of optimum performance on the soft tyre meant quite a few drivers did not set times that were fully representative of their potential.

McLaren were particularly low down but Lewis Hamilton isn’t concerned: “We think we know what the problems were though, and how to put them right, so we ought to be fine for tomorrow.

“I’m quite confident that we’ll have improved things for qualifying.”

Force India were an impressive second-fastest thanks to Nico Hulkenberg. Team mate Paul di Resta said: “Our single lap speed looks strong, as does the long run pace, and we appear to have a good feel for the tyres already.

“Given the pace we have shown today we seem competitive so hopefully we can challenge for the top ten in qualifying tomorrow.”

However Sauber appear to be running true to form with a car that is quick on a long run but not as good over a single lap.

“For me it was a rather difficult day because I wasn’t happy with the balance of my car,” said Sergio Perez. “On low fuel I struggled a lot, while it was better on a high fuel load.”

Complete practice times

1Sebastian VettelRed Bull-Renault1’40.9731’39.334
2Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes1’39.465
3Kamui KobayashiSauber-Ferrari1’41.8381’39.595
4Michael SchumacherMercedes1’41.1171’39.601
5Bruno SennaWilliams-Renault1’39.644
6Paul di RestaForce India-Mercedes1’41.1051’39.700
7Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’41.0651’39.733
8Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault1’41.7841’39.868
9Mark WebberRed Bull-Renault1’40.9841’39.901
10Nico RosbergMercedes1’41.1821’39.926
11Kimi RaikkonenLotus-Renault1’41.6201’39.945
12Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes1’40.9941’39.990
13Pastor MaldonadoWilliams-Renault1’40.8901’40.075
14Lewis HamiltonMcLaren-Mercedes1’41.1581’40.147
15Felipe MassaFerrari1’42.1091’40.244
16Sergio PerezSauber-Ferrari1’41.8611’40.511
17Vitaly PetrovCaterham-Renault1’43.2091’40.963
18Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso-Ferrari1’42.7771’41.121
19Heikki KovalainenCaterham-Renault1’42.4421’41.197
20Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso-Ferrari1’42.7581’41.263
21Jules BianchiForce India-Mercedes1’42.175
22Valtteri BottasWilliams-Renault1’42.299
23Timo GlockMarussia-Cosworth1’45.3381’42.424
24Charles PicMarussia-Cosworth1’44.1471’42.958
25Narain KarthikeyanHRT-Cosworth1’45.1201’44.201
26Pedro de la RosaHRT-Cosworth1’44.9961’44.260

After a series of difficult races, Jenson Button appeared to make some progress, though he admits there is still work to be done:

“We did a lot of work to improve the front [wheel] locking, but we’re also going to go back on a few changes in order to get a car set-up that we know feels reasonably good. There are a couple of other changes we’re also considering for tomorrow which could be quite interesting.

I think we’re quicker over a single lap than the time-sheets suggest, but the car is still a little tricky to drive on [soft] tyres. I’m confident that the changes we’re now making will make a difference – but whether that will be enough to challenge at the front is still an unknown, because the field is so extremely competitive right now.”

With each passing race, Toro Rosso seem to slip further from the midfield group and Caterham close in on them further. Today’s practice indicated the trend is continuing.

Heikki Kovalainen said: “In [second practice] we ran a new version of the front wing and the initial feel it gave was good – it’s too early to tell how much it’s worth but it’s a good sign that what was predicted in the factory seems to have worked on track.

“There’s more to come for the next race but this looks like it could be a good step.”

Speed trap – second practice

#DriverCarEngineMax speed (kph)Gap
17Michael SchumacherMercedesMercedes319.1
24Lewis HamiltonMcLarenMercedes318.40.7
317Jean-Eric VergneToro RossoFerrari318.30.8
415Sergio PerezSauberFerrari318.30.8
58Nico RosbergMercedesMercedes318.11
614Kamui KobayashiSauberFerrari317.91.2
73Jenson ButtonMcLarenMercedes317.71.4
816Daniel RicciardoToro RossoFerrari316.82.3
921Vitaly PetrovCaterhamRenault316.13
1020Heikki KovalainenCaterhamRenault316.13
1123Narain KarthikeyanHRTCosworth313.65.5
1211Paul di RestaForce IndiaMercedes313.65.5
1312Nico HulkenbergForce IndiaMercedes313.45.7
1422Pedro de la RosaHRTCosworth312.96.2
156Felipe MassaFerrariFerrari312.66.5
161Sebastian VettelRed BullRenault312.26.9
172Mark WebberRed BullRenault311.97.2
185Fernando AlonsoFerrariFerrari310.58.6
1910Romain GrosjeanLotusRenault310.28.9
209Kimi RaikkonenLotusRenault310.28.9
2119Bruno SennaWilliamsRenault308.210.9
2218Pastor MaldonadoWilliamsRenault308.111
2324Timo GlockMarussiaCosworth30811.1
2425Charles PicMarussiaCosworth307.811.3

2012 European Grand Prix

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Image © Red Bull/Getty images, McLaren/Hoch Zwei

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17 comments on “Vettel not taking Friday lead for granted”

  1. Very interesting, once again. I think with these kind of temperatures, we might have an emulation of the Bahrain GP. The Lotuses will continue to look faster as the weekend goes on, and Vettel will be in the mix for the win, probably fighting from pole on Sunday.

    I think it’ll be interesting to see how Force India do though. By my recollection, they were quite strong in Bahrain.

    1. Redbull/Lotus battle for the win it seems. 8 from 8? Try comparing the redbull/lotus stints vs jenson button’s without thinking “ouch”… I imagine Lewis will provide a good show in quali but I don’t believe the Mclaren noises about getting their setups straightened out by end of fp3.

      1. a podium is all I can predict for Mclaren here. but it’s 2012…anything is possible!

      2. arvindsi (@arvindsivaraman)
        22nd June 2012, 21:28

        Don’t count out Ferrari yet. Alonso looked really good in his long stint considering he was on medium tires. I believe they’re in strong contention for the win here.

      3. Lotus and Force India looks great on long pace; Ferrari, Red Bull and Maldonado’s Williams are okay, but much shorter runs than those two teams, so hard to tell. If Button’s long run pace is it, McLaren would be lucky to get points really. Mercedes not looking great, but faster than Button. I don’t know the tyres though.

    2. At most races the Lotus cars have been really competitive in practice doing race simulation but just can’t convert in the race. I guess the lack of a good starting place combined with the tyres inability to take the fight to the car ahead are holding them back.

  2. With this being 2012… don’t rule out Force India for a strong result. They think they’ve worked something out about the tyres that no-one else has, hence why they won’t say what. But if they have, they could have a MASSIVE advantage. Not saying they’re going to beat everyone, but this is 2012. I think a podium is possible for Force India. Thought probably more so for Hulkenberg than di Resta. I think the Hulk just seems more comfortable fighting up front, whereas di Resta seems more comfortable battling in midfield. Just my opinion though.

  3. I’m a little surprised the McLarens are so high up in the speed trap. For most of last year, they ran very high downforce settings which made them fast over a lap (in race and qualy), but slow on the straights. At Spa last year, for example, I don’t think they even reached 300 kph on the Kemmel straight, and Jenson Button had to use both DRS and all of his KERS to pass Rosberg on the straight. With regards to their chances for this European GP, I think at least Hamilton will make it into Q3, but with Hamilton doing no long run and Jenson doing a slow one, I fear for their pace in the race.

    During FP2, JEV was one of the first drivers out on softs, and the onboard cameras stayed with him quite a while, as he struggled massively to hit his apexes and make his braking points. I think it’s a real shame the Toro Rosso is turning into such a dog, because the intra-team battle between Vergne and Ricciardo would be much more interesting if it were played out inside the top 10. Also, I suspect this damages their chances of getting a Red Bull seat any time soon; I doubt even Vettel would look good in this Toro Rosso.

    Finally, it’s good to see Senna third in the ultimate lap chart, with a final sector time more than a tenth faster than Vettel’s. His performance went mostly unnoticed by the SKY F1 crew, I think, but this is a good first step towards a much needed turnaround of his fortunes.

    1. If they didn’t reach 300 kph at Kemmel last year, I image that was just the speed trap rather than the entire straight.

    2. +1
      It’s good to see someone finally acknowledge the Toro Rosso is a dog rather than just pinning it on the drivers.

  4. I was wondering today whilst watching the practices play out, if McLaren are setting their cars up for the expected warmer temperatures… They seem to be really focused on tyre wear these days, and could be positioning themselves for a long first stint to get track position.

    1. @pmelton Would be clever but didn’t they say about being able to get on top of the problems from practice? That said they could just be calling our bluff!

  5. I would not bet on any one to win, but i must bet on redbull to make the rest look incompetent

  6. Vettel – Webber – Hamilton – Alonso – Kimi – Grosean – Button – Perez

  7. Totally unpredictable, I think that we’ll see some overnight improvement from Mclaren and Ferrari and they’ll show strongly tomorrow. Vettel on single lap and Lotus on long runs doing well for now. If Mercedes sorts out their long runs low key performance they must be seriously considered if not the favourites.
    Happy to see Caterham closing up to STR, they deserve this morale boost.

  8. Mercedes and Mclaren’s speed trap speed are insane!! It’s interesting to note some promising teams(Red Bulls, Lotuses, Ferraris and one of Force India) are fairly slower in terms of speed trap.

    1. Yeah, setting themselves up for overtaking in the race or something?

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