Ahead of today’s opening free practice session, the air temperature is 29 degrees C, while the track temperature is 39 degrees. We are in for a hot weekend, which is particularly good news for Lotus and Ferrari… and not exactly bad news for Red Bull.
Just in case proof were needed that there is more, much more, to life than F1 – despite what some inhabitants of Planet Paddock might think – the Lotus’ are sporting the flag of Galicia on the rear wing endplates of both cars, in respect to the train disaster in the Spanish province. At Ferrari, Fernando Alonso is wearing a black armband in respect of his countrymen.
Just one reserve driver on duty this morning, Rodolfo Gonzalez taking over Max Chilton’s Marussia.
Tyre options this weekend are medium (prime) and soft (option), this weekend witnessing the revised Pirellis which feature the 2012 structure with a 2013 compound – as tested at Silverstone last week.
There are two DRS zones – one on the main pit straight, the other from Turn 1 to Turn 2 – but just one detection point, at the entrance to Turn 14, the final corner.
The lights go green and shortly after Ricciardo heads down the pitlane, the popular Australian in contention with Kimi Raikkonen for the second seat at Red Bull next season.
He is subsequently followed by Bianchi, Grosjean, Gutierrez, Gonzalez and Bottas.
As is the norm, one by one the cars pour on to the track and one by one they return to the pits after an installation lap.
In many ways this is a Last Chance Saloon as far as some teams are concerned. Though running updates debuted at Silverstone last week, a number of teams, should they fail to take a step forward this weekend, are likely to switch focus to 2014 over the forthcoming summer break… good news for Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull but not for the rest of us.
Despite the ‘greenness’ of the track, very dusty due to the total lack of use throughout the year, there are no significant moments.
Ten minutes into the session all but Vettel, Rosberg and Sutil have been out. Those cars that have been out were sporting a wide array of sensors and lashing of flo-vis.
Almost twenty minutes into the session, as Vettel prepares to come out, Gonzalez posts the first time of the day, the Marussia driver posting 1:37.942.
Vettel finally takes to the track – leaving Rosberg as the only ‘no show’ – this being one of the few current F1 tracks he hasn’t won on, the other being Austin.
Hamilton, who is expecting a difficult weekend, not helped by the fact that his teram was excluded from last week’s test, comes out for a second run. He sets a strong pace in the first two sectors before diving back into the pits.
At the half-hour mark, Rosberg finally leaves the pits, the only driver yet to put in an appearance this morning. Pic and Perez are also on track.
Rosberg posts 29.998, eclipsing Gonzalez by almost eight seconds. Moments later Perez crosses the line at 25.476.
A 24.588 sees Raikkonen go quickest, the Iceman subsequently banging in a 24.056. Webber goes third with a 24.959 ahead of Gutierrez and Maldonado.
Perez retakes the top spot with a 23.591 whilst mechanics work frantically on Hamilton’s car, the focus appearing to be the rear suspension.
Massa goes fourth (24.723), ahead of Gutierrez, Bottas, Pic and Maldonado. As the Venezuelan improves to second (23.911), Webber goes quickest in S1, finally crossing the line at 23.624 to go demote the Williams driver.
At ‘half-time’, it’s: Perez, Webber, Maldonado, Raikkonen, Gutierrez, Massa, Bottas, Pic, Hulkenberg and Van der Garde. Nine drivers yet to post a time.
Hamilton, having posed 29.342 on his first lap, goes quickest in S1 of his subsequent lap, finally crossing the line at 24.157 to go eighth.
A 23.503 sees Alonso go quickest, the Spaniard desperate to keep his and Ferrari’s hopes alive before the Italian outfit loses heart and opts to focus on next season.