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Friday, March 15, 2013

Revise your Predictions Free Practice indicates Chaos

Well, Well, Well, lots of performance we expected and a couple of things I certainly didn't see coming.

Jules Bianchi impressed in both Free Practice Sessions. Rookie of the Day.
No media rights for the Blog with Marussia so this is courtesy of Force India
© Sahara Force India Formula One
Talking about expectations I'd like to start at the back of the grid and point out the performance of Jules Bianchi.  This must be the outstanding performance of Free Practice.  He beat his teammate and both Caterhams in FP1.  He beat Max Chilton by 0.913s and left the Caterhams over a second behind.

Perhaps more impressively he was within 0.3s of Daniel Ricciardo's Toro Rosso in 18th and less than 0.5s off Jean-Eric Vergne's pace.  Stunning performance first time out.

In FP2 he did it again, taking 18th from the nearest Caterham of Charles Pic by 0.469s, and once again finished only 0.31s behind the Williams of Valtteri Bottas in 17th and 0.728s behind Jean Eric Vergne in 16th.

Rookie of the day without a doubt.

The Red Bulls dominated Friday's Free Practice sessions
© Pirelli F1
Elsewhere, meaning at the front, it was, predictably,  the Red Bull's leading the charge with Ferrari, Lotus and Mercedes forming up some distance behind them after FP2.  Whilst 0.3s is nothing at all at the back of the grid, once you get up to the front it's the difference between the 2nd and the 4th row.  If we remember last year the grid in Melbourne where the first 8 places were covered by less than a second and 3rd -7th by
less than 0.4s.

Mercedes once again impressed and, if it had not been for a problem with Lewis Hamilton's car in FP2, which saw him end up in the gravel, they may have been very much closer to the Red Bulls up front.

Lewis Hamilton (No.10 being the only way I can identify his car) ended up in the gravel but the indications are that the Mercedes is on the pace
© Mercedes AMG Petronas
In the midfield the surprise of the day was Adrian Sutil beating his team-mate in both FP sessons.  It will be vitally important for Paul di Resta to beat Sutil in Qualifying tomorrow if he is to lay down a marker for the rest of the season.

The surprise teams have been McLaren and Williams and not for the right reasons.  In FP1 Jenson Button was 9th, 1.2s off the pace, whilst in FP2 he didn't improve his time to any great extent whilst those around him did, with the result that the leading McLaren sat back in 11th some 2.4s behind Vettel in P1.  Sergio Perez remained stubbornly 2 places behind Jenson in both sessions.  The one note of caution which I might inject at this stage is that last year, in FP2, both McLarens sat some 4s off the pace before going out and dominating Qualifying.  They had sat on the top of the 2012 timesheets in FP1 and FP3 though so how much  credence we can attach to that is questionable.

No joy for McLaren in Free Practice with both drivers well off the pace
© Vodafone McLaren Mercedes 
Button summed the day up:
Our short runs weren’t particularly encouraging, to be honest. We’re a couple of seconds off the pace, by the looks of things, and that’s always going to be disappointing for a team as successful as Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
Whilst Martin Whitmarsh seemed very downbeat:
Well, today has been a very challenging day. Our car appears to be lacking in grip and consistency, and is suffering from significant understeer and poor ride. Try as we might, we didn't move forward in performance terms during the course of the day, either
Valtteri Bottas learns the Melbourne Track. Williams haven't shone in Free Practice
© LAT Photographic/WilliamsF1
Williams was another team which failed to follow through on the expectations of the F1 Journalists and Bloggers, with Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas both stuck behind the Force India's and the Sauber's in both practice sessions.  Only in FP2 did Maldonado break out of the 1m29s, but Bottas, never having tested the circuit before, couldn't break that time barrier.  In FP2 this put him behind the Toro Rosso's.  Mike Coughlan wasn't giving anything away at this stage, nor were the two drivers sounding very downbeat about their prospects:
We did some aero evaluations this morning comparing the two packages that we brought to Melbourne. We'll be running our FW35 launch aero package for the remainder of the weekend as it has proven better around the Albert Park circuit and in the conditions we have here. This afternoon we ran through a fuel level and tyre programme. We'll now look at the data and be ready for tomorrow
Whilst three of the back four managed to make times in the 1m30s region Giedo van der Garde in the second Caterham failed to break 1m32s.  Caterham could be facing into a very long season should this remain the case, and, whilst it is too soon to be talking of dismissing drivers, should Giedo fail to produce results within 10ths of seconds of his team-mate Caterham will not be able to afford to keep him on.  The first four, Fly-away races, will determine the fate of this Dutch F1 driver.

Free practice 1 Results

1 S Vettel (GER) Red Bull 1'27.211
2 F Massa (BRA) Ferrari 1'27.289
3 F Alonso (ESP) Ferrari 1'27.547
4 LC Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes 1'27.552
5 M Webber (AUS) Red Bull 1'27.668
6 KM Räikkönen (FIN) Lotus 1'27.877
7 N Rosberg (GER) Mercedes 1'28.013
8 A Sutil (GER) Force India 1'28.426
9 J Button (GBR) McLaren 1'28.440
10 R Grosjean (FRA) Lotus 1'28.520
11 S Perez (MEX) McLaren 1'28.597
12 N Hülkenberg (GER) Sauber 1'28.786
13 P di Resta (GBR) Force India 1'28.910
14 P Maldonado (VEN) Williams 1'29.443
15 V Bottas (FIN) Williams 1'29.928
16 E Gutiérrez (MEX) Sauber 1'30.203
17 JE Vergne (FRA) Toro Rosso 1'30.729
18 D Ricciardo (AUS) Toro Rosso 1'30.969
19 J Bianchi (FRA) Marussia 1'31.263
20 M Chilton (GBR) Marussia 1'32.176
21 C Pic (FRA) Caterham 1'32.274
22 G van der Garde (NED) Caterham 1'32.388

Free practice 2 Results

1 S Vettel (GER) Red Bull 1'25.908
2 M Webber (AUS) Red Bull 1'26.172
3 N Rosberg (GER) Mercedes 1'26.322
4 KM Räikkönen (FIN) Lotus 1'26.361
5 R Grosjean (FRA) Lotus 1'26.680
6 F Alonso (ESP) Ferrari 1'26.748
7 LC Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes 1'26.772
8 F Massa (BRA) Ferrari 1'26.855
9 A Sutil (GER) Force India 1'27.435
10 N Hülkenberg (GER) Sauber 1'28.187
11 J Button (GBR) McLaren 1'28.294
12 P di Resta (GBR) Force India 1'28.311
13 S Perez (MEX) McLaren 1'28.566
14 D Ricciardo (AUS) Toro Rosso 1'28.627
15 E Gutiérrez (MEX) Sauber 1'28.772
16 P Maldonado (VEN) Williams 1'28.852
17 JE Vergne (FRA) Toro Rosso 1'28.968
18 V Bottas (FIN) Williams 1'29.386
19 J Bianchi (FRA) Marussia 1'29.696
20 C Pic (FRA) Caterham 1'30.165
21 M Chilton (GBR) Marussia 1'30.600
22 G van der Garde (NED) Caterham 1'32.450