The combination of a track surface which has deteriorated much more than expected since it was relaid last year, and the usual ‘green’ conditions of Friday practice, left drivers desperately seeking grip during first practice at Interlagos.
Driver after driver complained of problems getting their Pirellis to bite the bitumen during today’s two sessions. “Traction’s gone on holiday,” was how Daniel Ricciardo put it to his race engineer.
Sliding inevitably led to graining, with some suffering more than others. Felipe Massa was utterly flummoxed in the first session, languishing down in 17th place, and even when he noted the situation had improved in the afternoon it came with the caveat that the rear of the car had almost got away from him at Juncao.
“It was a very difficult day,” he admitted afterwards. “The car was unstable and I struggled to get the grip I wanted at the rear.”
“I don’t think I had one clean lap without losing the rear at some point. The surface offers low grip but very high tyre degradation, so the car was sliding a lot.”
In the long race simulation runs Toro Rosso ran their tyres until Carlos Sainz Jnr was pleading “come on guys, box, please” and Max Verstappen was reporting “dead” fronts as well as rears – the latter being the initial cause for complaint for most drivers.
However the expected changes in weather conditions at Interlagos over the coming 48 hours makes it hard to take for granted exactly how the race will play out. Whether it arrives during qualifying or not, tomorrow’s forecast rain will keep the track surface in a low-grip state. However Sunday is also expected to be much cooler, with air temperatures potentially 10C lower than today.
Drivers at least had the benefit of the first ‘normal’ Friday since the Singapore Grand Prix. Even then, some drivers had their soft tyre runs disrupted by the red flag caused by Fernando Alonso in the afternoon, including his compatriot Sainz.
Compounding the difficulties they all faced was problems getting the GPS data to work reliably, leaving some in the dark about traffic on one of the shortest laps of the year.
On top of the tricky surface and the challenge of getting a clear lap in, today’s times also fell short of last year’s because of the higher kerbs installed at several points around the track.
“We used to be able to put four wheels over the kerb and now they are a bit too high so that basically means the corners are a bit tighter,” explained Ricciardo. “It changes the approach a little bit for some corners but the asphalt was fine.”
Out of all that, the same two silver cars headed the field as usual. Their advantage was substantially greater on the soft tyre than the medium, and the two appeared close enough to each other to potentially make for a close fight on Sunday.
“We are very good on degradation, almost identical to Nico [Rosberg],” Lewis Hamilton was told by his Mercedes team. “Much better than other runners”, they added, and “pace to competitors [was] very good” too.
Rosberg, however, was eager to keep any advantage to himself. Asked “let us know how the tyres are when you can” he replied: “I don’t like doing that…”
Longest stint comparison – second practice
This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:
Complete practice times
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-Renault||1’14.449||1’13.585||66|
|8||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1’15.174||1’13.710||76|
|9||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull-Renault||1’14.696||1’13.848||65|
|11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1’15.408||1’14.056||66|
|14||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso-Renault||1’14.960||1’14.226||73|
|15||Carlos Sainz Jnr||Toro Rosso-Renault||1’15.314||1’14.326||83|
2015 Brazilian Grand Prix
- Verstappen takes third Driver of the Weekend win
- The 2015 turn-off goes on in Brazil
- Ericsson contact was a racing incident – Maldonado
- Williams drops Massa appeal on cost grounds
- Was Brazil more proof F1’s overtaking gimmicks aren’t working any more?