Friday analysis: Red Bull and Ferrari fail to close the gap on Mercedes
Those who thought the start of the European leg of the season would cut down Mercedes’ advantage at the front of the field were devoid of any cheer as the German manufacturer maintained a massive advantage – both on single lap and in the long runs – during the first day of Spanish GP weekend.
Lewis Hamilton’s laptime of 1m 25.524s was four tenths quicker than Nico Rosberg’s 1m 25.973s, who spent much of the morning session in the garage after an ERS cooling problem. In the long runs too, Hamilton had the edge over his German teammate.
It must be disappointing for Rosberg who has been beaten fair and square by Hamilton during the last three races. Problems in FP1 didn’t help Rosberg’s case either. But more alarmingly, if Hamilton again comes on top this weekend, he’ll steal the championship lead from Nico Rosberg, putting the latter under serious pressure. As we all know, Rosberg has never ever fought for a championship and hence hasn’t dealt with such pressure before.
Meanwhile. the upgrades that Red Bull have brought this weekend are likely to put them ahead of Ferrari, if Friday practice is to go by. However, neither of the two outfits closed the gap to championship leaders Mercedes who continue to be in a league of their own.
At Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel was hit by a wiring loom failure during FP1 which also prevented him from venturing out of the pits during the second practice session. However, this issue had nothing to do with the defending champion switching back to an old chassis. The 26-year-old now has just one hour of free practice three to select the set-up for qualifying and the race.
Meanwhile at Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen surprisingly had the edge over Fernando Alonso in the long runs.
McLaren have brought major updates this weekend which should at least put them back in top 10 after two non-point finishes. Jenson Button wasn’t hoping for much either, suggesting that his P2 finish in the morning session was misleading and not a true reflection of MP4-29′s real pace. The Woking-based outfit struggled with front tyre graining in China last month and the same issue is likely to continue in Barcelona.
Interestingly, Williams had the edge over Force India in long runs on a track which doesn’t particularly suit the latter. But with the Williams FW16 hungry on tyres, expect a good spat between those two outfits.