N after the first GP training Australia was in a gloomy mood in Albert Park. Mercedes was as superior as feared. Niki Lauda packed his bag and moved to the hotel. “I've seen enough. We're ahead. ”Spoke and checked out of the paddock. The Austrian should have watched the second training session. It was much tighter at the top. On one lap, Lewis Hamilton took Max Verstappen only 0.127 seconds with his best time of 1.23.931 minutes. And in the racing simulations, the challengers were even closer on the heels of Mercedes. Daniel Ricciardo even took Hamilton three tenths off per lap on the ultrasoft tires, but was also five laps less on the track with this set of tires. Which can definitely make a difference with the softest tire compound available.
But the sensation was delivered by Romain Grosjean with his 11-lap stint on the ultrasoft rubbers. The HaasF1 driver achieved an average of 1.28.514 minutes and thus topped the ranking on Pirelli's super glue. But what is this time worth? Can the US Ferrari deliver the big sensation in the end and poach in the realm of the three top teams? Or did Grosjean buy the excellent cut with less fuel or without simulated saving fuel?
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Teammate Kevin Magnussen was at the other end of the table with this type of tire with 1.30.545 minutes on the Ultrasofts. However, the Dane had both training sessions about technical problems and got less driving than desired. So there is much more to it. Team boss Guenther Steiner was nevertheless satisfied: 'We shouldn't praise the day before the evening, but for the moment I prefer this position to a worse one.'
Mercedes impressed by Ricciardo's longrun
Despite the Grosjean highlight, the road to victory in Melbourne will again lead via Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari. The Mercedes engineers were particularly impressed by Ricciardo's long run: “He was clearly the fastest on the ultrasoft tires. The harder tire compounds are better for us. ”To prove this, Lewis Hamilton topped the Supersoft ranking with 1.28.008 minutes. Number one on soft rubbers was Ferrari. Sebastian Vettel is just ahead of Valtteri Bottas with 1.28.183 minutes with 1.28.260 minutes. Bottas reported difficulties with the in the first training sessionSuspension and the fuel system, but was much happier with his car in the afternoon. Vettel spoke of balance problems. So there is even more.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner sums it up with satisfaction: “It's our turn at the race pace. We might have been able to drive the Mercedes times for one lap if Verstappen hadn't made a mistake in Turn 2 and Ricciardo's attempt hadn't been interrupted by the red flag. ”The episode cost the Australians dearly. He will definitely not be on pole position on Sunday. Because he didn't slow down enough at the red flag, Ricciardo has to drop three starting positions. The driver apologized with incorrect information on the cockpit display.
Who saves how much fuel?
If the long runs with asphalt temperatures of 44 degrees were representative, then the three top teams are separated by two tenths. The big unknown is who played with open cards and who didn't. If the race stays dry then the Australian GP will be a fuel economy race. Consumption rose by three to four percent over the previous year because of the faster cars. And Melbourne is one of the three worst routes on the calendar in terms of fuel consumption. Those who did not do Lift and Coast at the Longruns as they will be forced to on Sunday can improve their endurance runs in the long term. The nasty surprise then follows in the race.
There are even more variables. From Saturday, temperatures should drop by 15 degrees. And that could give Mercedes better cards again. Because the conditions then adapt to the test drives in Barcelona. “When the temperatures drop, the rear tires are relieved. This shifts the balance because the front tires are put under more stress, ”explain the Mercedes technicians. From the winter tests we know: That helps Mercedes. The engineers warn: 'The drop in temperature and the possible rain could totally shift the picture on Saturday and Sunday.'
However, problems with blistering like in Barcelona are not to be expected. “The lateral forces on the tires in Melbourne are too low for that,” the tire experts know. Pirelli's new offer presents all engineers with a learning curve. The working windows have shifted. On a fast lap, the ultrasoft tire brings up to seven tenths of a rate compared to the super soft. There is only 0.3 seconds between Supersoft and Soft. Over the distance, the gaps shrink even further. According to calculations by the teams, the difference from variety to variety over a longer distance is only 0.15 seconds. Pirelli sports director Mario Isola thinks a stop is feasible, even if the soft tire is omitted. “The cooler it gets, the better for the ultrasoft tire, even if we can then see a bit of grain on the tread. But it could well turn into a combination of ultrasoft and supersoft in the racecoming, ”says Isola.
The Renault prefers harder tires
How are things in the tightly packed midfield? We have already talked about HaasF1. For one lap, the US Ferrari is currently number 1 in the second division. In the endurance runs, Grosjeans Ultrasoft-Longrun has to be given a certain question mark. Grosjean and Magnussen were slower than Nico Hülkenberg on the supersoft tires. The Renault works team had the opposite experience. Strong on the harder compounds, could be improved on the Ultrasoft tires. Nico Hulkenberg complained about the balance. “Sometimes it didn't fit in the front, sometimes in the back. Such a mix is always stupid because you don't know in which direction to correct. '
Force India cursed the traffic and the red flag for a problem with the data cable at the finish line. “That's why our lap times don't look so great on one lap,” says Tom McCoullough, head of operations. The long runs on the ultrasoft tires didn't go according to plan either. Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon complained about Hamilton and Raikkonen, who were disturbing their rhythm with alternating fast and slow laps. The way was clear on the soft tires and the redesigned Force India VJM11 with the music. 'There are indicators that our upgrade is working as expected,' said Andy Green, head of technology. “The drivers can attack the corners more and feel more downforce.” Green classifies his cars as the fourth force in the racing simulations.
McLaren also cut a good figure in the racing trim. Stoffel Vandoorne's second best average time (1.28.599 minutes) on the supersoft tires has to be questioned as well as Grosjeans ultrasoft best. The Belgian’s 9th place on ultrasoft tires between the two Force India’s is more realistic. “We have a basis on which we can work,” said Vandoorne with satisfaction. Fernando Alonso indicated with the eighth fastest lap that the speed was there. However, a defect in the exhaust cost him valuable training time in the morning. Alonso contented himself with a 6-lap turn on soft tires in the second part of the training. That was on par with Renault and Force India.
At the lower end of the field, Toro Rosso, Williams and Sauber met as expected. Whereby Toro Rosso and Williams cut a better figure on one lap than in the endurance run. Sauber could only keep up to some extent in the racing simulations. The Swiss troops refrained from ultrasoft long runs because the rear tires show a tendency to overheat even with the harder compounds. A problem that caused a headache last year.