A On Friday afternoon, data studies are the order of the day. Everyone is brooding over the columns of numbers of the so-called long runs. They are the hard currency for possible performance in the race. The first day of training for the Spanish GP showed two things. First: It's getting really tight. Second: Lotus could win its first Grand Prix here. It would be the fifth winner in the fifth race.
How long do the soft tires last?
Pirelli has the put two steps between the two tire compounds for the first time. The soft tire is between one and one and a half seconds faster, depending on the car. On a lap. But it only lasts ten laps on most cars. The hard one much longer. This makes it clear which tire will be used in qualifying on Saturday. But the top ten must also start the race with this tire. When there are 150 kilograms of gasoline in the tank, of all things.
The big question is how long the soft soles would last, when the loss of grip begins and how strong it will be. 'After nine or ten laps you should get rid of the tires at the latest,' advises Nico Hülkenberg. From this point of view, the 17 laps that Kimi Räikkönen drove on one set of soft tires are a sensation.
Lotus, Sauber and Williams ahead of Red Bull?
He delivered six laps Tire set constant lap times. Then it broke in, but much more discreetly than on any other car. The 15th lap was only 1.5 seconds slower than the first. At Hülkenberg, the tenth lap after six constant laps was already four seconds above the starting lap. A McLaren engineer predicts: 'Our biggest opponent on Sunday will be Lotus and not Red Bull.'
Raikkonen couldn't say anything about the hard tires. 'I didn't do a long run with them. We have to compare the data with Grosjean first.' McLaren worked the fastest on the hard rubbers. Followed by Sauber, Red Bull, Ferrari and Williams.
You heard right. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber started faster than Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi, but then slipped behind the Sauber from the tenth lap. Team manager Beat Zehnder did the math: 'We were better than Red Bull over 15 laps.' Jenson Button also judged: 'The Lotus, Sauber and Williams look very strong in the endurance runs.'
Question marks at Mercedes and Ferrari
Mercedes and Ferrariare difficult to assess. Since the Silver Arrows were consistently one to 1.5 seconds slower than the competition from the starting lap, one must assume that they drove the racing simulation with more fuel in the tank. Fernando Alonso's lap times went up and down, but they were definitely with the music if you filter out the slow laps in between.
What Ferrari is still missing is the big leap in time with the soft tires. Alonso only won a few tenths, but apologized: 'In my two laps I ran into traffic on the soft tires. But it is true that I feel a little more comfortable on the hard tires.'
Lotus with problems in qualifying
The extremely different tires invite you to play tactical games. Would Raikkonen again sacrifice starting positions for fresh tires? 'For that I would have to know the hard tires better,' evades the Finn. A good starting position is probably more important in Barcelona. Overtaking shouldn't be as easy as in China and Bahrain.
The fast lap on Saturday will again be the big hurdle for Raikkonen and Grosjean. 'My second lap was the fastest on the soft tires,' confirmed Kimi. Despite 42 degrees on the asphalt, despite fast corners in which the tire can heat up.
The ex-champion was not entirely alone with that. Lewis Hamilton also drove faster on the second lap than on the first. However, with a cooling lap in between. 'Red Bull wins one and a half seconds with fresh, soft tires, we only win one. That's what our endurance runs are better for.' The McLaren seemed to get the tires into the working window faster than the Red Bull. Instead, the defending champions made the stronger impression on race day.
The big unknown is the weather. McLaren sports director Sam Michael reveals: 'According to the weather report, the thermometer should drop by nine degrees on Sunday. You have to anticipate that during setup, on the one hand to get the tires into their working window in cooler conditions, and on the other hand not to give up too much in qualifying. '