Handling puzzles Raikkonen as McLaren make gains

2015 Spanish Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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Kimi Raikkonen led the Ferrari charge against Mercedes in the last race but he ended the first day of practice for the Spanish Grand Prix distinctly unhappy with the balance of his SF-15T.

As forecast the conditions on Friday were very warm – with track temperatures nudging 50C – but also quite windy, either of which Raikkonen suspects might have contributed to his problems.

“I don’t know if it was caused by the wind or by the conditions of the track but I have been struggling all day,” he said. “We did not see anything bad with the upgrades we brought here. It’s just the feeling that it’s not completely right, as if the car was sliding. I feel there’s a lot to improve”

Several unhappy radio messages between him and race engineer David Greenwood were heard during practice. “I have no grip whatsoever, front or rear,” Raikkonen complained during the second session. “It’s very poor the car now and I cannot understand that. How it can be so difficult?”

Raikkonen was running on the hard tyre at the time and Greenwood was keen to move on to the softer medium compound – “the tyre we’re going to use more this weekend”, he said. Team mate Sebastian Vettel also feels the medium is the quicker compound.

However in the hot conditions of second practice Mercedes preferred the hard tyre. “The second session was quite a strange one with some unusual gaps between the teams,” said executive director Toto Wolff, “and we found the car was better on the [hard] tyre than the [medium] in the hot conditions.”

The race, however, is expected to be run in slightly cooler conditions. Will Mercedes therefore join Ferrari in preferring the softer compound? And, as we saw in Malaysia, will they be tempted to alter their qualifying tactics to ensure they have sufficient new sets of their preferred rubber to hand?

Even in the age of DRS and designed-to-degrade tyres, pole position remains very important at the Circuit de Catalunya. Nico Rosberg knows if he’s going to have a chance of putting one over his team mate in qualifying he needs to come up with some answers overnight. “On one lap I still have a bit of work to do to find some more speed,” he admitted.

One of the stand-out performances during practice came from Jenson Button, who set the eighth-fastest time in his McLaren. The team aren’t getting too excited about their progress yet, however.

“I wouldn’t read too much into a Friday,” said McLaren’s acting CEO Jonathan Neale. “We all like to convince ourselves that if you’re quick on a Friday you’ll be quicker during a weekend but Fridays are notoriously fickle, you don’t know what everybody else is doing so we’ll see tomorrow just where we’ve got to.”

“But the reality is we’ve been pushing on all areas ofthe car. We have aerodynamic upgrades this weekend, we have some engine reliability upgrades, there’s a huge amount of work still to do on our systems package, much of our performance we’re getting from systems integration work. And importantly ExxonMobil have delivered us a fuel upgrade here as well.”

Longest stint comparison – second practice

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


Lewis Hamilton91.8492.44492.20591.23491.55398.40791.412
Nico Rosberg91.16691.02290.90891.09991.58197.33791.72795.26892.32794.47192.35698.79292.055
Daniel Ricciardo102.83189.098
Daniil Kvyat92.67993.40893.31293.43793.35693.804
Felipe Massa91.7191.65391.61692.07397.50992.0692.45292.96892.76993.3393.88793.87399.9693.71793.593
Valtteri Bottas92.28592.7393.70493.09892.97893.06597.2393.70593.60893.5993.49393.75494.10294.059
Sebastian Vettel92.04892.95792.30292.71692.10992.62292.36792.87198.97792.54492.56292.32493.3691.95192.84993.0292.695
Kimi Raikkonen92.62193.47493.64694.46294.39293.28993.00293.76792.83593.22493.85894.39393.145
Fernando Alonso93.48295.16794.05194.1594.24293.84594.17793.86394.43593.868
Jenson Button94.14993.73793.60793.70293.90294.43393.98294.11394.02394.27
Nico Hulkenberg93.83393.25794.14493.79193.62493.53793.88794.18594.60194.61796.40195.11199.95695.048
Sergio Perez93.2493.3793.2593.32194.83194.00494.18895.31794.72794.34394.41194.221
Max Verstappen93.27193.29693.84194.42194.26493.93894.02495.2193.92794.16894.26794.30294.29294.164
Carlos Sainz Jnr92.91592.91393.21293.57193.4593.6193.44993.92394.38194.60594.289
Romain Grosjean93.01691.48890.489102.67593.829
Pastor Maldonado92.67292.88393.2593.55693.29693.35494.58393.97594.00893.92493.77194.53994.28194.05794.3994.57598.07794.819
Marcus Ericsson93.60293.95293.98993.69293.86594.86194.56194.0595.16294.59594.51795.19395.158
Felipe Nasr92.85292.74793.33793.46793.61993.86294.1394.57495.05594.50494.10294.24696.27294.43394.145
Will Stevens96.90598.26297.58498.09797.74798.39397.997.597.81798.48998.18998.39698.60897.38899.02397.646
Roberto Merhi97.98497.94597.65197.543100.38898.927

Complete practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Nico RosbergMercedes1’26.8281’27.61663
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’26.8981’26.85253
3Sebastian VettelFerrari1’27.8061’27.26058
4Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’27.8321’27.78052
5Daniil KvyatRed Bull-Renault1’28.7851’27.94332
6Max VerstappenToro Rosso-Renault1’28.5291’28.01755
7Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso-Renault1’28.1321’28.67458
8Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Honda1’29.8171’28.49453
9Valtteri BottasWilliams-Mercedes1’28.52539
10Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes1’28.8311’28.71257
11Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Honda1’29.8131’28.72350
12Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-Renault1’29.0751’29.09813
13Romain GrosjeanLotus-Mercedes1’29.08614
14Felipe NasrSauber-Ferrari1’29.1401’29.33351
15Pastor MaldonadoLotus-Mercedes1’30.1101’29.21741
16Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’29.36134
17Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes1’29.4091’29.60158
18Raffaele MarcielloSauber-Ferrari1’29.63015
19Jolyon PalmerLotus-Mercedes1’29.67621
20Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’30.0961’29.70754
21Susie WolffWilliams-Mercedes1’29.70822
22Will StevensManor-Ferrari1’32.4711’31.92952
23Roberto MerhiManor-Ferrari1’32.6471’32.75143

2015 Spanish Grand Prix

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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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30 comments on “Handling puzzles Raikkonen as McLaren make gains”

  1. Still not getting my hopes up for a McHonda resurgence, even if it’s a modest gain.

    1. well, their long stint pace looks to be on par with that of ToroRossos and Force Indias, which is quite a progress. The ingine still sounds terrible though.

      1. Peppermint-Lemon (@)
        8th May 2015, 21:52

        They’re cutting cylinders to save fuel off-throttle, giving the sound you describe.

        1. Yep. That one has been a hard one for people to figure out for some reson. Even Martin Brundle on sky mentioned on several ocations that the sounded rough in the corners, and never reached the obvious conclusion, that they were cutting cylinders. But then again, he insisted that the tire squeel was a person screaming for the entire sessions of the australian race in 2014 – lol

    2. Will people stop calling it McHonda? Just call it HP4 or something.

      1. Plus 1 it’s getting a bit childish

    3. Who are mchonda?

      1. @smudgersmith1 McDonald’s new burger.

  2. Ferrari’s long run pace is confusing this time around. In all previous gp’s we could see that they were strong in atleast one tire compound than Mercedes. Today, that advantage is not seen in the graph as well. I know kimi wasn’t happy with his setup throughout the day, how was Seb’s reaction regarding the car?? Does it mean Mercedes have gained more than Ferrari in this break?

    The mid field is looking very tasty, with Mclaren making good improvement..the bunch of Mclarens, Lotus, FI, Sauber and Torro Rosso are quite close to each other. Drivers wil be making the difference to have a point scoring finish.

    1. I was thinking that Mercedes long-run pace looks confusing. Lewis did only a short run (seven laps on the graph) and while Nico did a longer run he was alternating quick laps with slow ones, almost as if he was testing the charging/discharging of the ERS rather than doing a proper race sim.

    2. I doesn’t seem like Ferrari have closed the gap much. After all, Mercedes brought their upgrades too, so it was to be expected I think. Tomorrow is going to be more indicative when they turn their engines up, however, I’d expect the Mercs to lock out the front row in qualy. I do believe, however, that Ferrari will be able to challenge them in the race if they can manage their tyres better and have a good strategy.

      What was sticking out today is RedBull. First of all, it does seem like they’ve made some considerable gains. Kvyat was within 0.2sec from Raikkonen, and from what I understand he was not running the upgraded Renault engine, which is installed on Ricciardo’s car. With that in mind, it’s quite impressive. I wonder what we’ll see from Daniel tomorrow, when the new parts are installed on his car too.

  3. It is very disappointing to see Vandoorne’s pole in GP2 at 1.29,2; only 2-3 sec slower than Merc today and enough to ensure 15th in FP2.

    1. Lewisham Milton
      8th May 2015, 20:13

      I’d love it if he did a Hans Heyer – wonder how he’d get on. He could use a set of F1 tyres to speed him up a bit.

    2. So you are comparing the qualifying pole to field practice times?

    3. So we’re going to draw conclusion’s when comparing practice 2 to qualifying?
      2015 GP2 pole: 29.2
      2014 F1 pole: 25.2
      2015 F1 pole: ?? I think it will be around 23.2

      That’s a forecast of 6 seconds faster lap for F1. How disappointing indeed…face palm*

  4. Red Bull is going to split the Ferrari’s.

    1. …and then retire.

  5. Massa’s long run was very good.

  6. Nice job! @keithcollantine
    Love this!

    1. The stint graph is really useful. We probably can’t read much into it but still great piece of information.

      Kind had to tell Vettel, Raikonnen and Alonso’s lines when you have them all at once though

  7. further proof that Kimi needs everything to be just right to be comfortably fast. When its perfect and in the window he likes he is so fast. His whole career backs this up. Even his large number of fastest laps shows that when it comes to him he is there.

    When he isn’t in the window he is no where. Which is why Alonso blew him away as that car needed someone to adapt to it. Skills Kimi doesn’t have in the same way a lewis, Michael or fernando has.

    1. And there in lies the problem with Kimi. His optimum working window is just too small. And more often then not he is outside the window. From now on, he shall be known to me as “The finicky Finn.”

  8. No denying Kimi is a great driver, and this is probably the first time I have ever criticised him (or maybe his Silverstone accident was, but nevertheless), but he is simply unable to adapt. If there is something not ideal then he is slow, and this is what separates him from the best drivers out there.

    1. That’s a bit overblown, isn’t it? He was less then two tenths back of one of the Mercs, not languishing in the middle of the pack. How did Ferd “Adaptable” Alonso fare in the same car as Button today?

      People get these ideas in their heads that “Smith is crash prone, Jones is adaptable, Wilson lacks race pace” or whatever and they discard all the data to the contrary and fixate on events which seem to confirm what they already believe.

      1. @rm, come on now…this is nothing new. It’s not as if we’re basing this on one grand prix weekend. Kimi’s sensitivity is very well documented. Whether its power steering, inability to get the tires switched on, a poor front end, a loose rear end…etc. The fact is Kimi has a narrow window to work with. The guy is very particular. And that’s not a great trait to have as a racing driver.

        Even outside the car he is very particular. If you’re a team looking to hire Kimi, don’t expect him to be a brand ambassador. As ridiculous as that sounds, that’s how Kimi has to be treated because its not his “personality.” You have to be delivering to get a pass like that because the other part of a drivers job is advertisement and brand ambassadorship. What good will Kimi be if teams have to do all this catering without the on track reward? So Bahrain was a good result, but judging by his past a podium finish may not be likely for another 2, 3, 10, 15…grand prix???

        I know the car accounts for a lot. And I’m aware of the argument that Kimi was driving “Alonso’s car.” Well, then how do you explain Vettels success in just one year? Not even a whole year, just 5 races so far.

        1. Mrahealpia
          9th May 2015, 4:46

          What about the answer that Vettle and Raikkonen have fairly similar tastes when it comes to driving?

          Also, I agree that usually a driver has to be adaptable to be valuable, but I think it is also accurate observation that Raikkonen’s unique personality is drawing numerous fans and that in itself is not bad marketing really?

          And after all it’s not like Raikkonen hasn’t participated in Ferrari’s events.

          1. If what you say is true, then we are in for a Kimi revival. Which would be great. I’m looking forward to Kimi taking it to Vettel. Another on track battle between teammates would be great for the sport. However, if he gets beaten substantially by Vettel, the excuses regarding the car have to stop.

            I suspect something new will pop up to hold Kimi back. And because people like him so much, they won’t have the courage to say anything critical about him. The media always needs a narrative for each driver. Pastor-crash king. Hamilton- Extremely fast, emotionally volatile a bit of a drama queen and too hollywood. Rosberg-Very intelligent, fast also but a little soft. These are all naratives created by the media and then regurgitated by many fans. Kimi luckily has the narative of the down to earth, no non sense guy. Just wants to drive and could care less about the glitz and glamour. And that makes it really easy for most fans to get behind him, because of all the drivers on the grid, he comes across as blue collar to most fans. Nevermind his life is just as glamorous as the next multi-millionaire…but I digress.

            I doubt Ferrari will keep him onboard just to please the masses. The philosophy at Marenello has changed. Produce results or you’re out the door seems to be their moto right now.

    2. ..and that is why F1 teams and sponsors love him, narrow working window will make the constructor work harder and perhaps put some drama on screen. Btw, the grip usually improves during weekend, just don’t undercut him again when he still ahead of Alonso like last year.

  9. You know what, I think it would be a good idea that teams are able to choose what compound to use in the race. Instead of given 2 compound, they are allow to choose 4 of them, or at least three, and they have to use at least 2 compounds in the race. I think that would make the sport a little more complex and adding another element to the race.

  10. Good to see JB towards the pointy end again, just hope it’s top 10 or thereabouts today. Also, would be great to see him edge Alonso in qualifying .

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