2015: British GP Preview

It’s the British Grand Prix this weekend and, with seven of the ten teams on the grid based in the UK, it is one of the biggest events on the Formula One calendar. The Force India team are based in Silverstone while it is also the home race for Jenson Button, Will Stevens and reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Last time out Nico Rosberg won, cutting the gap to Hamilton in the drivers championship to just 10 points. Felipe Massa finished in third for Williams in a repeat of their podium finish there last year in Austria.

The British Grand Prix held at Silverstone is full throttle for over 60% of the lap and it is one of the fastest circuits on the calendar. The track requires medium to high downforce and features a mixture of high and low speed corners. Pirelli are bringing the medium and hard tyres for the weekend.

Circuit: Silverstone
Number of Laps: 52
Circuit Length: 5.891km
Number of Corners: 18
Lap Record: 1:33.401 Mark Webber (2013)
Previous British Grand Prix winners still on the grid: 5
Most Successful Team: Ferrari (15 wins)
DRS Zones: 2    
Pirelli Tyres: Medium and Hard

Last year’s race was won by Hamilton with Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo also on the podium. There was a big accident on the first lap as Kimi Raikkonen spun across the track and collected Felipe Massa which resulted in a red flag as the barriers needed repairing. Raikkonen had a first lap accident in Austria, this time collecting Fernando Alonso, bringing an end to both of their races. At a time when his future in the sport is under intense scrutiny, Raikkonen will be hoping to have a better weekend this time out. Rosberg retired from last year’s race with a gearbox issue.

Button was another retirement from the Austrian Grand Prix, as McLaren brought his car in as a precaution. He will be hoping for a better showing for McLaren at his home race. Stevens will be making his first home appearance for Manor in an F1 race.

2015: Austrian Grand Prix Qualifying

A drying track greeted drivers for the start of qualifying after heavy rain fell in FP3, which was topped by Sebastian Vettel. Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso went into qualifying knowing they would both take 25 place grid penalties (for engine and gearbox changes); while Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat would both be taking ten places.

Q1

Drivers went out on intermediate tyres for the start of qualifying as a dry line started to form on the circuit. After a few drivers discovered the track limits, Will Stevens ended up in the gravel but was able to get the car out of it again. Felipe Nasr was the first driver to go out on the slick tyres, using the supersoft with about 11 minutes of the session remaining. Not long after that Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas went out on soft tyres. Eventually the rest of the field followed suit although they opted for soft tyre rather than the supersoft compound. The times continued to drop as the track rubbered in and got faster and faster. Kimi Raikkonen dropped out in 18th, joined in the bottom five by Will Stevens, Roberto Merhi, Jenson Button, and Sergio Perez.

  1. Nico Rosberg 1:10.976
  2. Carlos Sainz 1:11.158
  3. Sebastian Vettel 1:11.184
  4. Max Verstappen 1:11.307
  5. Nico Hulkenberg 1:11.319
  6. Pastor Maldonado 1:11.661
  7. Romain Grosjean 1:11.821
  8. Felipe Massa 1:11.830
  9. Valtteri Bottas 1:11.894
  10. Daniel Ricciardo 1:11.973
  11. Felipe Nasr 1:12.001
  12. Daniil Kvyat 1:12.092
  13. Lewis Hamilton 1:12.218
  14. Marcus Ericsson 1:12.388
  15. Fernando Alonso 1:12.508
  16. Sergio Perez 1:12.522
  17. Jenson Button 1:12.632
  18. Kimi Raikkonen 1:12.867
  19. Roberto Merhi 1:14.071
  20. Will Stevens 1:15.368

Q2

Both Red Bulls were first out on track, joined by Carlos Sainz in the Toro Rosso. As was the case in Q1, the times got faster as the track improved. With five minutes of the session remaining, just three drivers were still on track while the rest remained in the garage. Traffic had proved to be an issue in Q1 on such a short track, as drivers fought for a prime position to get their laps in. Daniel Ricciardo had a brief excursion off track across the gravel while he was down in 14th place. Romain Grosjean also ran wide. Going out at the end of Q2 were Pastor Maldonado, Marcus Ericsson, Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso.

  1. Nico Rosberg 1:08.634
  2. Lewis Hamilton 1:09.062
  3. Sebastian Vettel 1:09.392
  4. Valtteri Bottas 1:09.598
  5. Nico Hulkenberg 1:09.604
  6. Max Verstappen 1:09.631
  7. Felipe Nasr 1:09.652
  8. Felipe Massa 1:09.719
  9. Romain Grosjean 1:09.920
  10. Daniil Kvyat 1:10.187
  11. Pastor Maldonado 1:10.374
  12. Marcus Ericsson 1:10.426
  13. Carlos Sainz 1:10.465
  14. Daniel Ricciardo 1:10.482
  15. Fernando Alonso 1:10.736

Q3

Going into the pole position shoot out were Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas, Nico Hulkenberg, Max Verstappen, Felipe Nasr, Felipe Massa, Romain Grosjean, and Daniil Kvyat. Bottas and Nasr were the first drivers out on track, quickly followed by Massa and Rosberg. Grosjean remained in the garage as did Verstappen. It was Hamilton who took provisional pole by exactly two tenths of a second over his team-mate. Hamilton spun at Turn 1, bringing an end to his pole position run, while Rosberg had his own problems later in the lap after going faster in the first two sectors.

  1. Lewis Hamilton 1:08.455
  2. Nico Rosberg 1:08.655
  3. Sebastian Vettel 1:08.810
  4. Felipe Massa 1:09.192
  5. Nico Hulkenberg 1:09.278
  6. Valtteri Bottas 1:09.319
  7. Max Verstappen 1:09.612
  8. Daniil Kvyat 1:09.694
  9. Felipe Nasr 1:09.713
  10. Romain Grosjean No Time Set

Sebastian Vettel overcomes problems to go fastest in Austrian FP2

After completing just four laps in the first practice session – which was topped by Nico Rosberg – Sebastian Vettel came back to top the times in FP2.

A number of drivers instantly took to the track for installation laps while Vettel completed the first flying lap. Kimi Raikkonen instantly went faster than his team-mate but then locked up his tyres into Turn 1. Romain Grosjean was back in the car after sitting out FP1  to allow test and reserve driver Jolyon Palmer some time in the car.

Fernando Alonso was running McLaren’s new shorter nose while Jenson Button continued with the old specification. Following issues in FP1, Alonso completed 17 laps. He was forced to stop as a precaution in the second practice session after Button’s car suffered an ignition plug problem. As a result McLaren missed the opportunity to complete option tyre runs.  Many drivers complained about tyres and the handling of their cars as they progressed through the session.

Kimi Rakkonen was the first driver to put the super soft tyres on but Rosberg instantly beat his time on the option tyre run. Then Vettel went fastest by just hundredths of a second. A yellow flag was brought out at Turn 3 with twenty minutes of the session remaining. It was due to Roberto Merhi taking a trip across the gravel, something which then happened to Pastor Maldonado as well.

Free Practice Two results:

  1. Sebastian Vettel – 1:09.600 – 28 laps
  2. Nico Rosberg – 1:09.611 – 50 laps
  3. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:09.860 – 41 laps
  4. Pastor Maldonado – 1:09.914 – 44 laps
  5. Lewis Hamilton – 1:10.137 – 49 laps
  6. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:10.160 – 49 laps
  7. Romain Grosjean – 1:10.267 – 38 laps
  8. Max Verstappen – 1:10.356 – 48 laps
  9. Felipe Nasr – 1:10.495 – 39 laps
  10. Sergio Perez – 1:10.585 – 46 laps
  11. Carlos Sainz – 1:10.631 – 50 laps
  12. Daniil Kvyat – 1:10.686 – 48 laps
  13. Marcus Ericsson – 1:10.744 – 40 laps
  14. Valtteri Bottas – 1:10.746 – 34 laps
  15. Felipe Massa – 1:11.011 – 42 laps
  16. Fernando Alonso – 1:11.517 – 17 laps
  17. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:11.676 – 38 laps
  18. Jenson Button – 1:11.919 – 17 laps
  19. Will Stevens – 1:12.522 – 34 laps
  20. Roberto Merhi – 1:13.094 – 34 laps

2015: Austrian Grand Prix Preview

Following a brief interlude in North America for the Canadian Grand Prix, Formula One returns to Europe for the Austrian Grand Prix. The race returned to the calendar in 2014 for the first time in 11 years and was won by Nico Rosberg. The event marked the first and only time in 2014 that someone from a team other than Mercedes secured pole position. Felipe Massa led an all Williams front row while it was team-mate Valtteri Bottas who finished on the podium behind Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

Mercedes once again come into the Austrian Grand Prix as the team to beat. Lewis Hamilton leads the drivers championship while Mercedes lead Ferrari in the constructors. Hamilton won last time out in Canada, leading yet another Mercedes 1-2, with Bottas in third.

Circuit: Red Bull Ring
Number of Laps: 71
Circuit Length: 4.326km
Number of Corners: 9
Lap Record: 1:08.337 Michael Schumacher (2003)
Previous Australian Grand Prix winners still on the grid: 1
Most Successful Team: McLaren (6 wins)
DRS Zones: 2    
Pirelli Tyres: Soft and Supersoft

The Red Bull Ring is made up of fast straights joined by a mix of slow and medium speed corners. Teams come into this weekend with data from last year, in contrast to last year’s race when they did not know what to expect. It is another power track, which requires good aerodynamics and traction. The track is considered medium-downforce due to the mix of corners, despite there being few of them. Last year drivers saw qualifying times deleted for exceeding track limits so they will have to be careful to keep all four wheels on the track.

Last year only one of the four Red Bull affiliated cars made the finish with Sebastian Vettel and the Toro Rosso duo of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat retiring. Only Daniel Ricciardo saw the chequered flag and he finished eighth. They will be hoping to have a better showing at their home track this year, despite the difficulties they have endured so far this season. Another team struggling are McLaren-Honda who, following the highs of their first points of the season in Monaco, suffered the disappointment of a double retirement in Canada. Kimi Raikkonen put in a strong showing in Canada to finish fourth while team-mate Vettel fought through from the back of the grid to finish in fifth. Massa was another driver who had to come from the back of the grid and he ended up in sixth. Williams are bringing a significant upgrade to their car this weekend which they hope will help them close the gap to Ferrari.

Sunny days – Canadian GP quali

With the Wall of Champions waiting patiently for the unwary, it was McLaren’s Fernando Alonso heading the pitlane queue out onto a dry track as the Q1 session light went green. All hopes for a decent qualifying for McLaren were riding on him, as team mate jenson Buton was forced to watch from the garage, his car withdrawn from qualifying due to an enforced engine change. It was an eventful first lap for Sebastian Vettel: with the Ferrari promising a performance step forward this weekend, Vettel found himself withdrawing from his first timed lap with turbo problem. With much of the pre-race discussion being on the state of Lewis Hamilton’s mindset after his Monaco strategy mishap, it was Merecedes team mate Rosberg setting the pace in the first session. Lotus’ improving form was compromised somewhat by Maldonado taking a spin on his flying lap. Nothing serious though. With just over two minutes left on the clock, Vettel rejoined the session after frantic work in the garage, taking to the track on the supersoft tyres to try to guarantee his progression to q2. Ultimetaely, he did not have the power and found himself eliminated in P16, along with a struggling Massa (Williams) and the two Manors of Merhi (P18) and Stevens (P19). To round off a topsy turvy session, it was Grosjean’s Lotus topping the timesheet.

Out from 20: Button (DNQ), Stevens (Manor), Merhi (Manor), Massa (Williams), Vettel (Ferrari).

Vettel’s early exit from qualifying seemed to be the spur that those chasing a second row spot needed. Raikkonen was the early pace-setter until, that is, the Mercedes duo set their first representative times. Bottas, carrying the Williams flag in the absence of his team mate, seemed to be running well, if still nearly a second off Hamilton’s mid-session time. There was half a second from Mercedes to the Ferrari/williams/Lotus scrap for those higher Q2 slots. Alonso’s day did not improve, finding himself qualifying in 14th. All eyes are on those second row slots. With McLaren showing a serious deficit in straight line speed, it was Grosjean topping that chart, being clocked at 212mph.

Out from 15: Nasr (Sauber), Alonso (McLaren), Ericsson (Sauber), Verstappen (Toro Rosso), Sainz (Toro Rosso).

Force India’s Hulkenberg was first out for Q3, with both cars in the final session for the first time this season. Rosberg, trailing Hamilton, was complaining of a lack of rear grip, leaving him vulnerable to a charge by any of the chasing pack. For the final scramble, both Lotuses exited their garage at the same time, almost colliding in the pitlane. As the session drew to a close, it was Raikkonen heading the chasing pack. So, Hamilton on pole (his 44th, fact fans), from Rosberg, prompting Rosberg to comment “what a rubbish end to qualifying”, with Raikkonen and Bottas sharing Row 2 in the absence of their team mates. A Lotus Row 3 and then Hulkenberg putting his Force India ahead of the Red Bulls and then his team mate Sergio Perez rounding out the top ten.

(grid positions provisional on pending penalties).

Hamilton fastest in Canada FP2 before ending session in barriers

Lewis Hamilton went fastest again in Canada, having already topped the times in the first free practice session.

This time he was ahead of the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. The session was curtailed, however, by the rain. With the threat of rain hanging over the session drivers wasted no time in getting out on track to complete laps on the super-soft tyres.

Vettel set the initial pace before eventually being knocked off the top spot by Hamilton, who struggled on his first super-soft tyre run. When it looked like he was on a fast lap – with two purple sectors – he got the final chicane all wrong and narrowly bounced over the kerbs. Elsewhere Nico Hulkenberg was forced to limp back to the pits with a puncture, reporting to his team that he had not hit anything on the track. Pirelli later reported it as a ‘rim problem’. After Daniil Kvyat struggled with the rear of the car in FP1, Daniel Ricciardo reported that his car was more responsive but a bit aggressive at the rear.

About half an hour into the session the rain started to fall and it turned out to be heavy. All drivers retreated to the pit-lane before the Mercedes duo lined up to go out again on intermediate tyres. That run did not last long as Hamilton aquaplaned at the hairpin and made contact with the tyre barriers, damaging his front wing. Nico Rosberg returned to the pit-lane and that proved to be the end of running for the afternoon. The forecasts for Saturday and Sunday look dry meaning there would be nothing to gain from going out in difficult conditions with the risk of damaging the car, as proven by Hamilton.

Free Practice 2 Results:

  1. Lewis Hamilton – 1:15.988 – 22 laps
  2. Sebastian Vettel – 1:16.304 – 19 laps
  3. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:16.310 – 20 laps
  4. Nico Rosberg – 1:16.440 – 22 laps
  5. Pastor Maldonado – 1:16.600 – 15 laps
  6. Valtteri Bottas – 1:16.849 – 18 laps
  7. Romain Grosjean – 1:16.864 – 15 laps
  8. Felipe Massa – 1:17.041 – 19 laps
  9. Daniil Kvyat – 1:17.092 – 10 laps
  10. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:17.111 – 16 laps
  11. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:17.120 – 15 laps
  12. Marcus Ericsson – 1:17.261 – 17 laps
  13. Carlos Sainz – 1:17.318 – 23 laps
  14. Sergio Perez – 1:17.367 – 20 laps
  15. Fernando Alonso – 1:17.627 – 21 laps
  16. Max Verstappen – 1:17.657 – 23 laps
  17. Felipe Nasr – 1:17.751 – 21 laps
  18. Jenson Button – 1:18.135 – 20 laps
  19. Roberto Merhi – 1:19.531 – 15 laps
  20. Will Stevens – 1:19.734 – 13 laps

Sebastian Vettel sets the pace in the third and final practice session in Monaco

Sebastian Vettel set the pace in FP3 ahead of qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix.

It was a dry session for the drivers after some wet running on Thursday, giving them the first opportunity to try out the new super-soft tyres. Lewis Hamilton lead rookie Max Verstappen in the first practice session before going fastest again in FP2, this time ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg.

After compromised running on Thursday, teams wasted no time in getting their drivers out on track for the start of the third and final practice session. Both Mercedes drivers and both Manors went straight out on the super-soft tyre and Hamilton set the initial pace with a 1:19.074 before improving to a 1:17.504. Rosberg slotted into second place behind his team-mate after his first couple of laps.

Ferrari did not go out of the garage straight away as some adjustments were carried out to both car, and Kimi Raikkonen set his first lap-time with nearly 20 minutes of the session gone. It was enough to see him go third fastest on the soft compound tyre behind the Mercedes duo. When he put the super-soft tyre on he improved his lap time before ending up in the barriers at Sainte Devote, causing damage to the left rear tyre. The session was red flagged in order to allow marshals to recover the stricken Ferrari.

Elsewhere Fernando Alonso had been about to start a lap in his McLaren but was compromised after coming across the Ferrari. The session was quickly green flagged again and the action recommenced as drivers instantly took to the track. Having already lost significant time on Thursday due to the weather time is of the essence to get some substantial running in ahead of qualifying and the race. A number of drivers throughout the session struggled to get their cars stopped out of the tunnel and ran across the Nouvelle Chicane.

Verstappen, who had gone second fastest in the first practice session, got it wrong at Anthony Noghes, losing part of his rear wing as a result. Marcus Ericsson complained throughout the session about lack of grip and locked up going into Sainte Devote. Rosberg had a late improvement to end up six hundredths behind his team-mate. Vettel set a very impressive lap-time with about five minutes of the session remaining, going five tenths quicker than Hamilton and Rosberg. Rosberg improved to within two tenths of Vettel’s pace.

In the closing minute of practice, cars backed up at the final corner trying to find clear space to set a final lap-time. There were a number of improvements including Carlos Sainz and Jenson Button.

Free Practice 3 times:

  1. Sebastian Vettel – 1:16.143 – 27 laps
  2. Nico Rosberg – 1:16.361 – 31 laps
  3. Lewis Hamilton – 1:16.705 – 31 laps
  4. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:17.120 – 26 laps
  5. Carlos Sainz – 1:17.256 – 39 laps
  6. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:17.401 – 11 laps
  7. Daniil Kvyat – 1:17.471 – 28 laps
  8. Jenson Button – 1:17.767 – 28 laps
  9. Max Verstappen – 1:17.788 – 23 laps
  10. Romain Grosjean – 1:17.806 – 28 laps
  11. Sergio Perez – 1:17.832 – 30 laps
  12. Pastor Maldonado – 1:17.956 – 28 laps
  13. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:18.102 – 32 laps
  14. Fernando Alonso – 1:18.197 – 26 laps
  15. Valtteri Bottas – 1:18.212 – 29 laps
  16. Felipe Massa – 1:18.242 – 32 laps
  17. Felipe Nasr – 1:18.767 – 38 laps
  18. Marcus Ericsson – 1:19.269 – 37 laps
  19. Will Stevens – 1:21.093 – 31 laps
  20. Roberto Merhi – 1:22.225 – 30 laps