D he radio message from Lewis Hamilton in the middle of the second training session speaks volumes. “The track is incredible. It's a breathtaking feeling to drive here. ”His race engineer asked:“ So you're having fun? ”Hamilton replied euphorically:“ I've just had a wonderful day. ”Looking at the timesheet, the Mercedes driver could be more than satisfied. On one lap he left team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 0.461 seconds, and World Championship opponent Sebastian Vettel by eight tenths.
Same picture in long run on supersoft tires. An unleashed Hamilton flew away all of them. Ferrari received a bit of smack there too. Vettel was again eight tenths missing on average. Only its endurance on soft tires gives hope. Since Vettel drove only a tenth slower than Hamilton. Worryingly, Ferrari brought its rear tires back into the pits with blisters. Ferrari even has to fear Red Bull on the supersoft tires.
The picture of the last races continues in the rest of the field. Force India leads the midfield just ahead of HaasF1. Then come Sauber and Toro Rosso. The new Honda engine is making an impact. Renault continues to sag. That can get bitter. At the bottom of the field are McLaren and Williams, as in Russia. Because of different reasons. Some lack power, others lack downforce.
Six things you need to know
1) Why is Mercedes so strong?
Let's put it that way . There are two categories within Mercedes. Team A is Lewis Hamilton. The English flew away from everyone. He swims on a wave of success on which everything succeeds. Even the evasive maneuver when Pierre Gasly with his Toro Rosso suddenly stood in front of the chicane in the approach path of the World Cup leader during the first training session. The daily best time of 1.28.217 minutes surprised even his engineers. “Our predictions were four tenths ahead of time.”
Team B is Valtteri Bottas. The Finn was still 0.372 seconds faster than Sebastian Vettel on one lap. Despite slight understeer. In the supersoft long run, Bottas and Vettel were almost equal. Bottas drove 1.34.978 minutes over 10 laps, Vettel 1.35.085 minutes over 13 laps. Here too the alien struck again. Hamilton's long run cut on supersoft tires was out of this world. Hamilton only has to fear competition in the racing simulation on the soft rubbers. Vettel was only a tenth slower. The Mercedeswin in a Ferrari in Turn 2, in the complete uphill winding and in the chicane. There is a tie on the straights.
2) Where does Ferrari stand?
Sebastian Vettel looked a bit at a loss. The only bright spot was the long run on the soft tires. “The supersoft tires have deteriorated too much.” Consequence: They blistered. Otherwise the same picture as in Russia: “The car doesn't feel bad, and it's not slower than before. But Lewis's times are insane. At no time in the year have we been so superior. If we have won, then it will be barely. Mercedes poured us one in Barcelona, in France and in the last two races. ”Vettel is also clear:“ Such a leap in time does not come from a development stage. In the area in which we are moving, you are not making up half a second. ”Nevertheless, the pendulum has turned dramatically since the Singapore GP. Net by at least half a second. And there can only be two explanations for this. Either Mercedes found something that is not visible from the outside, or Ferrari had to back off. In the car and in the engine.
3) Does Ferrari only have problems with blisters on the tires?
Pirelli also observed blisters on the rear tires of a McLaren. But they weren't as extreme as with Ferrari. There was a deep furrow in the middle of the tread of the rear tires. Pirelli sports director Mario Isola suspects a mistake in the vehicle set-up. “Now we have to find out where the bubbles are coming from. Either the car slides too much, which is caused by overheating on the surface. Or too much energy is being introduced into the tire. Then it comes from within. ”
4) What can Red Bull achieve?
Not much at the moment. Max Verstappen expects that he can annoy the Ferrari in a racing trim. “Mercedes is too far away.” Small caveat: Red Bull first has to find the perfect mix in the setup. Verstappen drove with a smaller rear wing than team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. And he still had an old B-engine in the rear to save kilometers for the C-engine. “We still have to find the right compromise for top speedand find downforce on the rear axle. I still lacked some confidence in the grip. That's why I couldn't attack in the corners. ”Ricciardo was happier with his long runs. On the soft tire, he lost Verstappen an average of five tenths per lap. In his fastest lap, the Australian was 0.256 seconds short of his team-mate. Ricciardo explained it with traffic in the first sector.
5) Why is Renault following again?
Nico Hülkenberg could have been a prophet. His announcement that the fight for fourth place in the Constructors' Championship would be tough was confirmed after the first day of training. In the long runs even more than one. Hülkenberg considers a starting place in the top 10 to be ambitious. “The balance in the fast corners is not right. The car behaves differently at the entrance to the curve than at the exit. This is particularly difficult in the first sector. I am correcting a lot, I can't get into a rhythm. That slows you down on a route where you need a good river. ”The only glimmer of hope. On the first day of training, Hülkenberg was still driving an old Series A engine. “There'll be a little more power tomorrow. But unfortunately for the others too. ”
6) Who is the king in midfield?
Esteban Ocon won the race behind the three top teams. Team boss Otmar Szafnauer cheered: “We are clearly the fourth force.” Ocon left Romain Grosjean four tenths behind. Behind them, 13 drivers jostle to nine tenths. In the long runs, the Sauber again cut a strong figure, especially on the supersoft tires. The C37 is careful with Pirelli's softest option. On the soft tires, Marcus Ericsson even pushed himself between Max Verstappen and Kimi Räikkönen in the endurance run. However, this is due to the fact that Raikkonen tried the soft tires right at the beginning of the training and Ericsson at the end. That means: The Ferrari had significantly more fuel on board.
You also have to cut back on Lance Stroll's supersoft long run. The Canadian used the soft rubbers in the end, and he only got five laps on them. Sergey Sirotkin's supersoft long run shows better where Williams stands. At the end. Where McLaren cucumbers too. Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso even ranked behind the Williams. Toro Rosso, on the other hand, has made a leap. Brendon Hartley set the tenth fastest time. This is an improvement on the rest of the world. The new Honda engine has shown its teeth for the first time. Pierre Gasly had to watch for 75 minutes because of fuel pressure problems. In the end he did ten more laps. A usable long run was not included.