Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2016

Ferrari show signs of progress on Friday

2016 Spanish Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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Six tenths of a second. That’s how far Ferrari were behind Mercedes at the end of second practice in Russia two weeks ago. Coincidentally, it was also the gap between the two on Friday at the Circuit de Catalunya 12 months ago.

Today the difference between the two – both using the same tyre compound – is a much closer 0.029 seconds. So, can we expect a closer race?

Unlike in Russia, where drivers could bank on getting a second quick lap out of their tyres, on the abrasive Circuit de Catalunya the soft tyres are a one-shot proposition. And with both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel having compromised runs in second practice, the true state of play between the two teams may be somewhat hidden.

Ferrari produced their quickest lap time in the cooler conditions of first practice, when Vettel set a session-topping 1’23.951. The track was around 10C hotter – and more rubbered-in – three hours later when Nico Rosberg narrowly beat it.

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Unknown fuel loads aside, there’s no clear reason to assume Ferrari’s lap time was massively flattered. Although the track heated up for second practice it was still quite a bit cooler than the same session last year, when the track temperature hit 51C.

For those hoping for a closer fight between silver and red, this is encouraging. The long-run stints looked comparable as well.

Vettel and Rosberg used soft tyres for their longest runs (below) and both found they only produced quicker lap times than the softs for around half-a-dozen laps. Rosberg’s tyre seemed to hold on a couple of laps longer than Vettel’s. Hamilton only did a short run on mediums – Kimi Raikkonen’s run demonstrated very well how long they can go for without losing too much lap time.

Although Mercedes declared themselves happy with the results of a back-to-back front wing test, Hamilton says there is still a lot of work to do on his car’s set-up.

“I struggled with the car balance through the day and this afternoon in particular it felt really tricky to drive,” he said. ” I had traffic on my quick lap, so the lap times don’t tell the full story, but it’s clear we have plenty of work to do this evening to get the car driving like I want it to.”

Carlos Sainz Jnr emerged a quickest of the Toro Rosso/Red Bull quartet, but the times in the midfield are as close as ever. Also in the mix is Fernando Alonso, who appeared in a strong seventh place for McLaren.

“Looking ahead to qualifying I think we’re in the same situation as we were in Russia,” Alonso said. “The practice times suggest that we can get into the top ten, but you tend to need an extra push to get into Q3, and we don’t have that step quite yet.”

“Still, power unit performance is not as critical here as it was in Russia, so maybe we’ll be able to crack it.”

However it’s back to the drawing board for Romain Grosjean, who after an unhappy day in his Haas decided to “revert on a few things we’ve done” with his car’s set-up.

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

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Nico RosbergMercedes1’24.4541’23.92269
2Sebastian VettelFerrari1’23.9511’25.01757
3Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’24.0891’24.17649
4Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’24.6111’24.64160
5Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso-Ferrari1’26.0781’25.13158
6Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’25.4161’25.19462
7Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Honda1’26.2431’25.34249
8Max VerstappenRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’25.5851’25.37560
9Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’27.0641’25.43741
10Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes1’26.9381’25.45362
11Valtteri BottasWilliams-Mercedes1’25.6721’25.70866
12Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Honda1’27.6101’25.89339
13Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’27.2581’25.89950
14Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes1’26.1861’26.49168
15Kevin MagnussenRenault1’26.5761’26.24470
16Daniil KvyatToro Rosso-Ferrari1’26.5831’26.37565
17Jolyon PalmerRenault1’26.77016
18Pascal WehrleinManor-Mercedes1’28.0841’26.96069
19Rio HaryantoManor-Mercedes1’29.0521’27.25273
20Felipe NasrSauber-Ferrari1’27.2531’27.81267
21Esteban GutierrezHaas-Ferrari1’27.2831’28.20527
22Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’27.3921’28.50166

NB. Esteban Ocon did not set a lap time.

2016 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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10 comments on “Ferrari show signs of progress on Friday”

  1. Teams usually find time between FP1 and FP2; not in Spain …

  2. pastaman (@)
    13th May 2016, 20:06

    And then Merc flip the switch for Q1 and gap is back to .5s

  3. I’ve been saying that I’d be surprised to see Mercedes win at Spain but I might have to eat my words as the Mercedes keeps looking oddly light, nimble and outstanding on the slow chicane, that said as I suspected aero is where they lose, but anyway that first sector doesn’t make an indentation on the lap, if it doesn’t do it in Spain it won’t anywhere else.

    1. I’ve no idea why you would bet against the best overall package on the grid winning here, their chassis is still better than Ferrari’s and they have the power.

      1. Infact Spain has been an extremely strong track for Mercedes. They were mega-fast in 2013 (but shredded their tyres like there is no tomorrow), 2014 and 2015.

  4. Even if they are on the same race pace, they still need to overtake. Unless Mercedes has some issues, it’s unlickly Ferrari going to win

    1. Best chance on start, and mega in quali. Mercedes has to overtake them and Mercedes is very poor in dirty air.

  5. The longest stint comparison chart is quite interesting if you look at some of the drivers with the most consistent lap times and may hint at a few surprises : The Red Bull (Verstappen, 10 laps) was consistently ½ a second quicker than Ferrari (Räikkönen, 12 laps). McLaren (Alonso, 10 laps) was only marginally quicker but then slower than Sauber (Ericsson, 16 laps) whereas Renault (Magnussen, 14 laps) was initially as quick but then tailed off to a second slower than either. Given the necessary reservations for the uncertainty as to which tire each driver was on and their respective fuel loads, could the surprises of the race be that Red Bull is in the mix for podiums (with a good chance to beat even a Mercedes if that car finds itself not in clean air) and Sauber for a points-scoring finish?

  6. We shall see. Times are promising on every friday for Ferrari, yet in quali and and race, they are far from mercedes.

    But this is Barcelona, all teams know this track inside out and should show their true pace.

    Also Russian torpedo is well down the grid, maybe S.V. can spell a Scuderia Victory.

    1. I think this race is going to go down to the start. If Seb can jump the Mercs at the start, then he’s won the race, if not, there’s no way he can overtake or out strategise the Mercs

Comments are closed.