Mercedes lead, Force India surprise, Ferrari lurk

2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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It was an increasingly familiar refrain from Lewis Hamilton after he was edged by team mate Nico Rosberg after the first day of running in Abu Dhabi.

“It’s very hard to overtake here so of course it’s better to be up on pole,” the world champion said. “But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to win from further back.”

Beating Rosberg to pole position has proved beyond Hamilton in the last five races, and in the last two Rosberg has converted it into victory. But with the number six Mercedes also at a slight disadvantage on the straights, Hamilton must fancy his chances of denying his team mate a hat-trick of wins over the final three races.

Vettel was disappointed with Ferrari’s performance
Hamilton found his super-soft tyres went off quickly during his brief stint on them but race engineer Peter Bonnington suggested he would be able to make them last as long as Rosberg with more careful management of them at the beginning of the stint.

Kimi Raikkonen spent far longer on the super-soft than Hamilton but also couldn’t sustain his pace on them as well as Rosberg was able to. His team mate Sebastian Vettel did a long and very consistent run on the softs, but afterwards was dissatisfied with the team’s initial performance: “I would like the gap to be smaller [to Mercedes] and bigger to the cars behind.”

Degradation was far better on the soft than the super-softs, and peak performance was little worse, indicating the strategy this year will be much the same as it was 12 months ago: start on super-softs then switch to softs for two stints. Any drivers who can make the super-softs last well may be in a position to use them again at the end of the race, ideally if they have a fresh set left over from qualifying.

The closest challenger to Mercedes over a single lap was Sergio Perez. “Force India were quick and surprisingly strong here,” noted Daniel Ricciardo, although Perez’s long run was scuppered by a fairly serious brake fire.

“Both drivers were happy with the baseline balance,” said chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer. “The cooler temperatures in the second session were much more representative of what we expect for qualifying and the race, and both Nico [Hulkenberg] and Sergio remained happy with the balance and the changes we made between the sessions.”

Longest stint comparison: All drivers

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:

Longest stint comparison: Fastest drivers

This chart shows six drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint on the super-soft tyres. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:

This chart shows six drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint on the soft tyres. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:

Complete practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Nico RosbergMercedes1’43.8951’41.98369
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’43.7541’42.12158
3Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’44.9341’42.61050
4Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-Renault1’44.8931’42.64761
5Sebastian VettelFerrari1’44.7421’42.71758
6Daniil KvyatRed Bull-Renault1’44.7021’42.79857
7Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’44.5001’42.84963
8Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes1’44.7511’42.92857
9Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Honda1’45.8651’42.95551
10Pastor MaldonadoLotus-Mercedes1’45.3141’43.43165
11Valtteri BottasWilliams-Mercedes1’45.6031’43.44154
12Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes1’45.4331’43.50651
13Max VerstappenToro Rosso-Renault1’45.7181’43.66271
14Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso-Renault1’46.2201’43.85441
15Romain GrosjeanLotus-Mercedes1’43.92927
16Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Honda1’45.7731’44.05046
17Felipe NasrSauber-Ferrari1’46.1151’44.11656
18Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’46.4071’45.24556
19Will StevensManor-Ferrari1’48.8361’46.45054
20Jolyon PalmerLotus-Mercedes1’46.5018

2015 Abu Dhabi 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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10 comments on “Mercedes lead, Force India surprise, Ferrari lurk”

  1. It’ll be interesting to see how the teams’ pace will play out, particulary Force India’s. Also, the Ferraris finished in their racing numbers(5 and 7).

    1. A 1 stop for Perez, or are they going to let him off the leash this weekend ?

      1. some of the front runners might have to do 3 stops, so if Perez and Force India can do a 1 stopper they can be a serious threat for a podium and who knows, maybe a first win?

        It sounds extreme but…
        i’d say to two drivers it is possible to do a 1 stopper: Perez and Raikkonen because they manage their tyres really well and probably better than most others.

  2. Speed Trap:

    Rosberg has no shot at pole position this weekend, not enough engine power. His PU has 800 km more mileage than Hamilton’s, that is equivalent to about 2.75 distances.

    I think pole will be between Hamilton and Vettel. Ferrari did a tremendous job improving the car between FP2 and FP3 in Singapore. The conditions here are, in many ways, quite similar.

    1. @kingshark so how on earth did he unsettle Hamilton from FP2 top time with such straight line deficit ??? I am beginning to wonder if Lewis partied more than he should, he is really loosing to Rosberg theses times, frustrating.

    2. But are you sure Rosberg’s not just using more wing and talking up the old engine hp deficit in order to put LH off the scent?

      1. that is a possibility but if its true i highly doubt hamilton would fall for it

  3. Force India are indeed a surprise, but I think Alonso’s Mclaren is also worth mentioning as it was only 3 tenths off of the quickest Non-Mercedes. Promising signs given the 2016 aero parts. (Not that I’ll hold my breath)

    1. What is really ominous about McLaren is that they seem to have made absolutely no compromise over downforce and drag other than what Mercedes- and Ferrari-engined teams did – Red Bull, Toro Rosso and McLaren regularly use less downforce than what would be ideal to claw back some of their straightline speed deficit.

      Not here – McLaren was dead last in the speed traps in FP2 with Alonso clocking at just 316kph and Button at 310kph.

      The upside? Alonso was 5th quickest in the downforce-heavy sector 3 – yes, you read that right, 5th, just 0.3s behind the best and only behind the Mercedes and the Red Bull. That MP4-30 sure did flash some brilliance as far as low-speed cornering go.

      (It’s just a bummer that the 2nd and the 3rd best chassis on the grid have this poor power units.)

  4. to me that lap from perez seems fake! probably lower fuel than others!
    but yeah like someone said pole might be Hamilton vs Vettel, which would be great cause i believe that is the main battle we will see next year. This could be a slight preview to next year, who knows?

    On the other hand i do feel for rosberg, he’s had a bit more bad luck than hamilton this year.

    I believe we may see some strategy difference unlike last year, Remember Massa almost won that race, so?

    All four will start on the Super Soft:
    The Mercedes and Vettel will probably be on a similar strategy, but i can see ferrari trying something different with Kimi, who knows? Maybe kimi might try what massa did last year? considering that kimi probably manages his tyres better than the other 3 so? here’s how i see strategy planning out.
    Ham – Super/Soft/Soft
    Vet – Super/Soft/Soft
    Rai – Super/Soft/Soft
    Ros – Super/Soft/Super

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