Mercedes strong but Vettel has “best Friday” at Ferrari

2015 Australian Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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The ominous news for Mercedes’ rivals at the end of the first day of official practice for the 2015 season is that they appear to be further ahead than they were 12 months ago.

Rewind to the first Friday of 2014 and Mercedes’ closest rivals were half a second behind, and six of their rivals had lapped within a second and a half of their quickest time. Today the next-best team was seven tenths of a second slower, and only one other team lapped within a second and a half of the W06’s benchmark.

And for all that, pace-setter Nico Rosberg referred to how he still had to “nail the set-up” for this weekend and Lewis Hamilton, who was a tenth of a second slower, confessed to being “not 100% comfortable with the car”.

Perhaps the greatest surprise was that none of Mercedes’ customer teams had a particularly strong day. Williams are likely to be more competitive than they appear: Felipe Massa was unable to do a soft-tyre run as a water leak kept him out of Q2, so we have only Valterri Bottas’s lap to go on, and he believes there is quite a bit more pace to find over a single lap.

Similarly Nico Hulkenberg was dissatisfied with Force India’s single-lap performance. Lotus, meanwhile, had problems with Grosjean’s car in the first session and Maldonado’s in the second.

However Ferrari’s progress continues to give Sebastian Vettel cause for cheer. The car is visibly more compliant, notably in the high-speed turns 11 and 12, and it looked good on its long runs too.

But it’s the reliability which Vettel is especially pleased by. “I can’t think of such a trouble-free Friday session in a long time,” he said in a pointed reference to his former team.

Daniel Ricciardo experienced exactly the kind of frustrating day Vettel had several of last year, completing just nine laps in front of his home crowd. He sat out second practice after analysis of his car’s lubricants indicated his a potential engine problem.

That left it to Toro Rosso to lead the way for Red Bull, notably Carlos Sainz Jnr who having never visited Australia before is well on his way to completing two races distances before Sunday. The STR10 looks much better – in both senses – since its aerodynamic upgrade at the end of testing. Max Verstappen, however, missed much of the second session with a battery problem.

None of this bodes well for McLaren, however, who are at risk of being eliminated in the first round of qualifying even given that the two Manor cars are unlikely to make the cut even if they are completed in time.

Saturday is still forecast to bring much warmer conditions for qualifying, followed by evening rain which could drastically alter the circuit’s grip characteristics ahead of the race. Expect to see the gaps close up in the battle to be ‘best of the rest’ behind the Mercedes as we get our first look at just how far ahead they are – and what gains Ferrari might have made.

Longest stint comparison – second practice

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

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
Lewis Hamilton 92.233 92.047 92.82 100.552 92.272 95.631 92.573 92.958
Nico Rosberg 93.519 91.769 92.833 91.829 92.18 92.195 92.005 96.85 92.353 92.409
Daniil Kvyat 93.872 93.674 93.715 94.474 93.842 93.949 94.267 99.821 93.873 95.103 93.946 93.973 93.661 94.214 94.008
Valtteri Bottas 93.435 92.812 93.1 92.771 94.364 92.934 92.36 92.27 92.809 93.515 93.555 93.748 93.725
Sebastian Vettel 92.861 98.08 94.648 92.904 92.86 93.169 92.52 92.682 93.24 92.774 92.789 92.685 92.681 92.546 92.482 92.623 93.33 93.45
Kimi Raikkonen 92.716 92.43 92.616 92.679 92.41 92.541 92.523 92.554 92.102 92.331 92.109 91.966 91.885 92.187 92.078 92.521
Kevin Magnussen 93.289 101.373
Jenson Button 96.779 96.059 95.943 97.123 96.111 98.073
Nico Hulkenberg 94.582 94.196 94.485 94.088 94.644 94.132 94.195 94.09 94.478 94.272 94.219 94.252 94.62 95.238 94.741 94.413 94.25 94.42
Sergio Perez 94.634 94.713 94.633 94.841 94.516 95.121 95.487 94.364 94.311 94.272 94.613 94.45 94.367
Max Verstappen 93.622 102.692 91.395
Carlos Sainz Jnr 93.625 93.736 93.484 93.443 100.58 94.768 93.304 93.875 95.182 96.057 94.617 95 94.545 94.11 94.14 93.864 93.977 94.025
Romain Grosjean 93.708 93.555 92.89 92.921 93.164 93.421 93.091 93.983 98.182 92.818 93.276 94.191 101.61 93.629 93.772 93.684 93.617 93.773 94.182 94.557
Pastor Maldonado 91.786 95.973 93.572 99.311 92.56
Marcus Ericsson 94.692 96.556 93.398 92.539 92.431 92.303 92.632
Felipe Nasr 94.52 93.836 94.026 93.934 93.483 93.397 94.192 96.976 94.332 94.032 93.852 108.364

Complete practice times

Pos Driver Car FP1 FP2 Total laps
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’29.557 1’27.697 48
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’29.586 1’27.797 44
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1’31.029 1’28.412 46
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’31.310 1’28.842 47
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1’30.748 1’29.265 52
6 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull-Renault 1’32.073 1’30.016 45
7 Carlos Sainz Jnr Toro Rosso-Renault 1’31.014 1’30.071 73
8 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Mercedes 1’31.451 1’30.104 33
9 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Mercedes 2’17.782 1’30.205 42
10 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1’32.261 1’30.473 49
11 Felipe Nasr Sauber-Ferrari 1’30.755 11
12 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1’32.247 1’30.980 54
13 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso-Renault 1’31.067 1’31.395 37
14 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1’31.188 19
15 Jenson Button McLaren-Honda 1’34.542 1’31.387 27
16 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1’31.570 9
17 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1’32.303 14
18 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Honda 1’34.785 1’33.289 11

2015 Australian Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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47 comments on “Mercedes strong but Vettel has “best Friday” at Ferrari”

  1. What are the chances of Vettel experiencing one of those “Happy Fridays” the team usually had in recent years? good on Friday, nowhere to be seen on Saturday.

    I admit the team looks in better shape, but hold your horses.

    1. Also, the field looks a lot more spread out… hope that’s not the case tomorrow !

    2. Let the kid be happy… we will have time for reality on sunday…when I´m sure everybody will said how boring F1 is now that Mercedes is so dominant and how Alonso will be even more faster in a Mercedes than Rosberg and Hamilton

    3. @fer-no65 Mercedes, Bottas, Kimi, etc were on softs. Vettel was on mediums. How much fuel they carried remains, as always, a mystery. It would be interesting if Ferrari got smart and decided that Friday was not for hero runs.

      1. @CURMUDGEON – No Vet was on softs when he posted his fastest time.

    4. You mean “Friday Flattery & Raceday Misery”?!
      Yeah – been there, seen it.

    5. pastaman (@)
      13th March 2015, 21:26

      They’re talking more about the reliability than performance. Hold your own horses.

    6. Yes but you can clearly see that the best chassis are Mercedes and then RBR and Ferrari. The Merc is widely off balance but it’s really quick, the Ferrari looks quite sorted setup wise, and the RBR looks extremely poor in terms of drivability it may be even worse than the Honda engine in that regard who knows, Button hasn’t complained of their own driveability. I was shocking to see how easily people were getting by the Mchonda on the straights but I still believe the chassis on par with the 2nd tier of Ferrari and RBR.

  2. Waiting to see speed trap…

      1. Wow, 2 Ferrari powered cars in the top 3 of the speed trap. Either Sauber and Ferrari are very drag efficient or that Ferrari PU made a huge step forward over the winter. Maybe now only about 5% deficit to the Mercedes PU?

        1. I maybe mistaked, but Ferrari almost always has great speed trap record, don´t they?

          1. Even before last year Mercedes PU dominance it usually were FI and Williams (and occasionally – Toro Rosso) who topped the speed lists. Ferrari used to be in the middle. And even for Schumi-Brawn era at Ferrari, as far as I can remember, BMW-Williams were fastest on the straights.

  3. Perhaps the greatest surprise was that none of Mercedes’ customer teams had a particularly strong day.

    I think that’s a typo. Unless one team did actually have a strong day but I don’t reckon they have.

    1. It’s not that much of a surprise. Mercedes dominance is only partially due to the engine – a lot of it is the chassis and aero, which at the minimum is the equal of RBR and possibly even better. Look at the top speed of both Rosberg and Kyvat (315.1), yet there’s over 2 seconds between them – though part of that could still be in the engine, but not all of it.

      1. @uan Why is there still this magical assumption the Merc chassis is worse than that of RB? Plenty of mid corner and exit speeds suggest otherwise.

        1. @xtwl

          “Why is there still this magical assumption the Merc chassis is worse than that of RB?”

          Isn’t that basically what I just said? “Mercedes dominance is only partially due to the engine – a lot of it is the chassis and aero, which at the minimum is the equal of RBR and possibly even better.”

          1. which at the minimum is the equal of RBR and possibly even better

            My apologies. I read that sentence as you were not really convinced it was all that much better or at best equal.

          2. no worries, I could have been clearer too. I don’t really have the knowledge to say Merc is much better compared to RBR with chassis and aero, but all signs point to that being the case. I do think it’s a bit unfair that Merc doesn’t get the credit they deserve for that chassis.

        2. @xtwl Well, probably because even though it a descendant of the 2009 Honda BGP001 It wasn’t exactly great in 2010-2012(/13)…

          1. @davidnotcoulthard I think the Merc chassis was really close in 2013. It was a bit too hard on the tires. So they would nail it in qualifying but then their tires would fall of too quickly in the race.

  4. @keithcollantine I don’t really think McLaren is at risk of being eliminated in qualifying, at least not on pace. Button’s 1:31.3 would be the cutoff time for a fastest time of 1:25.4 in Q1 and there’s no way that time will be set. I don’t even expect the Mercs to reach that time in Q3.

    1. Matthew Bees
      13th March 2015, 16:00

      I think that 1:25 laptime is in range, still more rubber to go down – lets wait and see what happens! McLaren won’t fall foul of the 107% rule, but I don’t see them progressing to Q2 at this rate

      1. I’m expecting a pole time around 1:26.5-1:27. Also the Mercs will use the slower primes in Q1.

    2. @mattds I think Keith means that they are likely not to make it to the second round of qualifying. I don’t think there’s any danger of them failing to make the 107% cutoff, unless they have major problems. In which case they’d still qualify on the basis of the FP times.

      1. @mazdachris yes, I totally misread that. Thanks.

  5. What set of tyres were the top ten on ?

    1. Pretty much everyone did a soft tyre run then some longer runs on the medium with race fuel loads ;-)

  6. Matthew Bees
    13th March 2015, 15:58

    Raikkonen’s long run pace of 16 laps looks quite promising, obviously dependent on the fuel load he was running on compared to Mercedes and Williams. Does anyone know if Ferrari have improved their ERS, as it looks like they are able to keep their charge at optimum levels – given Kimi didn’t do an “off lap”

    1. Yep! Allison talk about that during the lauch of the car and I saw some interviews also talking about that.

      Ahhh, and also in Jerez David Croft talked with the press guy from Ferrari about that and he told him “We won’t get deep into that but it’s working fine” like they were hiding something.

      1. In Barcelona*

      2. Matthew Bees
        13th March 2015, 16:08

        @Key Thanks! It was a bad part of their race pace last year, whilst qualifying they usually did better i.e. 1 lap run.

    2. Have to agree with you, the consistency of Kimi’s lap times in that stint is quite telling (and good).
      I think it also shows that the Mercedes cars are devastatingly quick – if they’re reliable too and still fuel efficient, there will be no-one even close.

      1. well Kimi WAS close to Nico’s longer run pace, separated by not even a tenth on a few laps well into the stint……Not saying he will beat the Mercs, but he WAS close to the Merc pace.

  7. Promising start for Ferrari. The pace looks good, more importantly the pace is sustained over a few laps and improves at the end.

    Although Melbourne might not be the best indicator of the cars’ prowess, it is good to see Ferrari showing its speed in the long runs as well. Hoping for a fight at the sharp end.

    One question on the PU; Suppose the car is now able to generate/store max electricity output, does it mean the amount of fuel consumed will be less compared to last year? I saw the consumption values for Ferrari were usually high last season and want to know if that will come down due to this factor this season.

  8. I’m impressed by Ferrari – from 4th to fighting for 2nd with all the changes in the organization is no small feature.

  9. Ok and how about the difference between Sainz and Verstappen?? Sure the latter had problems with the car but now the gap was a whole lot bigger, what do you guys make of that??

    Ferrari sure looks in better position than last year (tears me up inside because of ALO) but, I am positive that MERC has a bagload of performance hidden away. Come Sunday, they will open a can o´whoopazz on everybody else.
    McHonda is getting frustrating to see but I guess patience is the key element. I just hope they get their act together quickly and hopefully they will give MERC a run for their money.

    The team-mate battles will make this season worth watching!! Sunday can´t come soon enough!!

    1. @karter22

      how about the difference between Sainz and Verstappen?

      The FP1 gap is representative and the FP2 gap isn’t, and the difference was negligible. Way too early to draw a conclusion about that.

      1. I’m pretty certain that Massa’s water leak did not exclude him from Q2.

        1. @faulty
          Who said anything about Massa?? Verstappen had issues with the battery I think it was. That kept him out of FP2 but still, @keithcollantine I think the kid had about 7 or so laps, he could have gone a bit faster before breaking down I suppose.
          Anyways, it´lol be interesting where they end up in qualy

  10. @keithcollantine Where are the sector times ? they are not available on anymore, it seems that we must pay the F1APP to have them right ? It’s difficult to know for example where HAM lost out to ROS in FP2. Thank you if you have more info on this.

    1. @ibraf1 If it’s possible to have them back I will do.

  11. oh boy… for McLaren it seems to be even worse than it looked a couple weeks ago

    1. They have to keep the drivers competitive. Ron has to go the the Manor garage to place a bet that whoever wins between the 2 teams can keep the white and red livery. Clearly McLaren knew they will be in competition with Manor and did not want to ruin the iconic image of red and white McLarens, 1st they have to beat Manor. If they can beat Manor there could be no stopping them and they will win the colours back.

  12. To clarify the qualifying rules: if there are no Manors tomorrow, do 15 go through to Q2?
    Or is it declared an 18-car session, so only 14 cars make the cut?

    1. @bullfrog I think it’d still be a 20-car session, with 2 cars counted as doing what some did at Q3 a few years ago when those who reached Q3 weren’t given extra tyres.

  13. Honestly I expect both Merc will be more scary than last year, perhaps having a clean sweep in terms of race wins, its highly unlikely but not impossible.
    Ferrari usually drop out a little bit on Saturday and Sunday, therefore putting an equal fight with Williams and Red Bull, as I expect that Red Bull seem hiding their pace, it will be a nice fight in most racedays for the final podium position.

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