Mercedes were fastest in both of Friday practice sessions tyre wear not as bad for the Spanish Grand Prix. In FP1, it was Valtteri Bottas who was three hundredths faster than Lewis Hamilton, while in FP2 Hamilton managed to outpace Bottas by eight-tenths of a second.
The pace of Mercedes hasn’t been a surprise, back in March I was writing when reflecting on testing that it was likely that Mercedes would be ahead. But their focus was on the tyres after extreme blistering, we saw in last weekend.
However, the team I still believe will be concerned about that as this is a long hot race on Sunday. The track temperature neared 50ºC through second practice on Friday afternoon, making for tough conditions in the cockpit for Hamilton.
Hamilton said “It’s definitely quite tough out there. It’s the hottest that it’s been. I don’t think I’ve been to Spain when it’s this hot. We’re there in February and March normally, or early May.”
“It’s beautiful weather, but it’s a killer in the car, and it’s tough on tyres as well. But it’s been an OK day. It’s been a good day.” This weekend the long run pace put them close with Red Bull, and Hamilton believes the higher temperatures would hide some of the steps made in the development of the Mercedes W11 car since its last running at the track during pre-season testing.
Renault calls for Racing Point to be disqualified
Renault is calling for Racing Point to lose all points scored in races where its brake ducts were protested as the controversy prepares to go to court. Racing Point who protest their innocence after being deemed to have broken the sporting regulations in the design of the rear brake ducts for its RP20 car.
The team are permitted to continue using the brake ducts for the remainder of the 2020 season, with the FIA deeming it cannot unlearn the designs it was judged to have copied from Mercedes. The case is set to go to the International Court of Appeal, with both Renault and Ferrari bidding for a harsher penalty.
Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul feels Racing Point should be excluded from the results of every race where its cars were protested for using the brake ducts.
Abiteboul said, “We were expecting a consistent sanction with other sanctions that we’ve seen in the past. The most recent one we accepted last year [was] after Suzuka, when we were found in breach of the sporting regulations, and not the technical regulations, and excluded from that event, therefore losing all our points.”
Renault has and looks as if it will continue to protest the Racing Point at the last four races, with this set to rumble on until the Court of Appeal has made a final decision on the case.
In response, his Racing Point counterpart Otmar Szafnauer remained confident the team could overturn the penalty it was awarded by going to the Court of Appeal.
Szafnauer said, “We’ve appealed the decision based on what the stewards had written in their findings, and the findings are pretty clear that we didn’t do anything underhand or dishonest.” He says that the rules on transitioning from a non-listed part to a listed part were ambiguous and unclear.
McLaren struggling with cooling
Carlos Sainz says that McLaren has to “keep digging” as it seeks a solution to a cooling problem that emerged on his car at Silverstone. Today Sainz was eleventh in FP1 before finishing FP2 in seventh eight-hundredths of a second ahead of Sergio Perez.
The issue first emerged last weekend when Sainz’s car was found to be running 2-3 degrees hotter than that of teammate Lando Norris. He said following practice, “We still see some discrepancies across the two cars, especially with my car obviously we’re having to run still with more cooling on the car, which costs quite a lot of lap time around here.”
“So still not fully into the bottom of the problem. We still need to keep searching because at the moment it’s a big question mark that we haven’t found… we are nearly at the limit of all the things that we’ve changed, so we still need to keep digging and keep finding stuff.”
That is likely to affect his performance in qualifying tomorrow, however, he says that he didn’t stuffer with blistering despite high tyre degradation.
Red Bull Mercedes main challenger
Max Verstappen appears to be the main challenger to Mercedes this weekend, with Red Bull being encouraged by the pace they still were eight tenths behind the two Mercedes. While he is not expecting to fight for pole, he believed there was the reason for Red Bull to be optimistic for Sunday’s race.
He said, “I felt quite good today – let’s see on Sunday if it’s going to be the same. I think today the car was performing quite okay. Over one lap we are clearly lacking to Mercedes, but overall I think it was a positive day. Especially on the long runs, the car felt pretty nice to drive, so of course that’s quite important.”
Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner was also encouraged by Verstappen’s long run performance on the medium tyre around Barcelona. Horner believes that Mercedes still has a one-lap pace advantage.
Saying “I think we take encouragement from Max’s longer runs, particularly on the medium tyre he looked really competitive, so that’s encouraging for Sunday and we’ll see what the weather does.”
Haas surprise with pace
Haas was one of the surprises in practice with Romain Grosjean running at the same pace as the Ferrari’s. In the first few races, the team hasn’t had really grabbed the headlines like McLaren or Racing Point, but we need to see how this develops through the weekend.
I think this is going to be interesting if this appears to be correct, as they have not delivered much this season and they are only ninth in the constructors’ championship.
Romain Grosjean saying “I don’t really know where this performance came from. In all fairness, it’s the same car from the beginning of the year, we’ve just been making some good set-up work since Silverstone. The performance there was really good, but it was power sensitive, here that’s maybe a little less.”
But it doesn’t yet add up as a step forwards as Kevin Magnussen didn’t get a quali sim in. saying “I didn’t get a great run on low fuel in FP2, so my best lap time doesn’t look good, but Romain (Grosjean) showed what’s in the car.”
“Running on high fuel, it was all very positive. The car seems to be working very well around here. It’s been very hot, there’s a lot of heat in the tires, but it seems to be working.”