Notebook – Austrian Practice

F1 Today Notebook 2015-21 This Grand Prix

Mercedes top

Mercedes came out of the box strongly by topping both of Friday’s practice, Lewis Hamilton topped both sessions by a few tenths ahead of his teammate Valtteri Bottas. You have to say DAS is giving the team a slight advantage, it appears the pace we saw in testing.

The gap between Bottas and Sergio Perez was half a second in FP2, you have to say we knew that the Mercedes was going to be good and the winter and long break doesn’t seem to have brought anyone closer too the Silver Arrows.

Red Bull appeared to close to Mercedes, although there is still a big gap. I don’t think in FP2 we saw everything from Verstappen in FP2 we know following that session he had damage on the car. But he believes that they have the pace in the car.

He told Sky Sports, “I think it was a good day. The lap times didn’t really say anything, because I broke my front wing on the fastest lap. But we are, I think, confident. There are always things you can do better, but I think overall, it was a good day, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Ferrari surprise

Ferrari, we know going into this weekend weren’t believed to be at the front, Sebastian Vettel’s pace in FP2 was a surprise given the team said going into this weekend they were expecting to be that close he was six tenths off.

If this is genuine pace, which we and the team don’t believe it is we have been thrown a real curveball over the last few months with what they were saying building up to this race and in Melbourne. A lot depends on the qualifying when they turn up the cars.

If this is the same car you need to ask what did they learn in those two weeks in March and where will it put them when they get this update in Budapest.

Speaking in his press briefing at lunch Mattia Binotto said, “Difficult for us, we are not as fast as we wish. We knew that from winter testing. The car is not performing as expected on track so the project somehow needed to be addressed and reviewed, which is something we started back at Maranello.”

DAS Debate

The DAS debate continues as Red Bull has filed a complaint and seeking clarification from the FIA about Mercedes’ innovative moving steering wheel – with ‘DAS’ already in use at F1’s season-opening Austrian GP.

I saw in FP1 the drivers were using the device but it remains unknown how much of an advantage it gives. It has already been outlawed for 2021, the issue appears to be two pieces of the technical regulations.

Article 3.8 of the technical regulations, which outlaws moveable aerodynamic devices, and Article 10.2.3, which prohibits changes to any suspension system while the car is in motion.

Mercedes have insisted that the device is legal for this season, and the governing body has signed it off.

Horner said, “It depends what it actually does and achieves. Everything has to earn its place on the car. Obviously, it’s a clever system, it’s an ingenious system but obviously, these rules are so complex. It’s just understanding what part of the regulations it fits.”

Racing Point P3

Racing Point had a strong car in testing, Sergio Perez backed up the team’s pace by putting his car third fastest. The Mexican was six tenths off the pace and two tenths ahead of teammate Lance Stroll in FP1 behind Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris.

Perez stressed that he can’t afford any mistakes if he’s going to continue his form into qualifying. He said, “It’s been a good day. I think the margins are really close, everything is extremely close, but it’s a very small track.”

“I think tomorrow it will be very important to put it together, and we’ll see where we really are. We have an idea, but tomorrow is when everyone puts everything together, and it will be good to see us up there.”

I think we expected them to be there around the pace of Renault and McLaren, who were challenging Ferrari we believed. Perez was a hundred and a half faster than Vettel. We know margins are close I think should they manage to get the lap together in qualifying they could be a real challenge to Ferrari.

Close midfield

We still can’t write off Renault or McLaren in that fight with Racing Point, Lando Norris spilt Ricciardo and Stroll in sixth, these three teams appeared slightly further apart than expected, in FP2. Watching the McLaren I think they weren’t giving it everything, we know the car looked stronger in testing.

Sainz said, “It’s a positive first Friday for the team, it felt great to be back in the MCL35. We had some challenges and need to keep an eye on those yellow kerbs. I ran over one on my flying lap which cost me time on the final sector.”

“Another minor issue kept me in the garage towards the end of the session but until then the car was showing a decent pace. We are starting to see the pecking order a little better and we are up for a tight Saturday. Let’s see what happens tomorrow!”

I think McLaren are looking in a good place for this fight for best of the rest against Renault, although Daniel Ricciardo was ahead of them in both sessions I don’t think we saw them do a run on low fuel at the same time as McLaren.

Ricciardo believes the teams long run pace needs a bit of work, but there one lap pace looks good, obviously, that will be key in qualifying tomorrow.

Ocon said, “It’s getting there, the pace is promising and looking at the team today we are in a good place. Our short runs were fairly quick, and the pace is there. I just need to pull it together when it counts tomorrow.”

Qualifying Prixview

You have to say that Mercedes are the team to beat in qualifying, they looked the strongest on single-lap pace and we know they have taken pole here in five of the last six years. I think their closest rivals will be Red Bull but the interesting what happens when we get into the all or nothing modes.

Ferrari may struggle in qualifying they appeared not to have the pace to be at the front, they may have a battle to stay in Q3. McLaren and Renault could be the main benefactors from the Ferrari woes.



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