Malaysian Grand Prix – late Friday Practice

Posted on March 29, 2014

12


Ah well. It’s late, very late. But I got there in the end.

We’ll start with the picture then move on this time. Stints are put on a race history chart, as usual.

Malaysia_1

Degradation is high. Red Bull look a little better than Mercedes/Ferrari, but even so it looks like three stops might well be the norm (if it is dry…). We’ve regularly had four here in the past – it doesn’t look like a two-stop to me, no matter how conservative (supposedly) the tyres are.Β  Three stints would need nearly 20 lap stints – no-one was near that. As far as I can see the hard tyres don’t last much better than the mediums. Most must be planning on three visits to the pits.

There is a fair bit of evidence of different engine modes too. Ferrari definitely used a slower mode in their stints, as did Magnussen. What this means is anyone’s guess – but given Ferrari were 0.5s down on Mercedes/Red Bull before they turned the engine down, it doesn’t look great.

Red Bull are a little confusing – Vettel is right with the Mercedes, but Ricciardo is 1.5s down, and quite a bit slower than Ferrari. Their real pace is hard to see. But it might push Mercedes – Rosberg’s fit is faster, but there is a suggestion of a tweak of the engine from Hamilton – and his fast laps are a fair bit quicker. Favourites, yes. I’d guess Lewis is the most likely, but the Red Bull is not to be discounted.

Massa and Bottas are separated by 0.6s – which I’d guess to be the tyre compound difference. In the dry they are thereabouts again, but certainly not there. I don’t think Williams were as quick as they appeared in Melbourne – yes they did not have to fuel save so their pace is all real, but it wasn’t that much faster than the others. It looks like they are in the Ferrari/Riccardo zone, but my guess is that they would be slightly slower.

Force India, on the other hand, look better than they did in Australia. Both cars are faster than their counterpart Williams, and although less consistent, Hulkenburg’s stint was faster than either Ferrari. I think Ferrari are faster, from the curve shapes, but Force India look OK. However, their tyre degradation doesn’t look so good. Also in the mix here are Toro Rosso, each car bead, in fact.ing a little slower than the Williams/Force Indias. It’s close in the midfield.

Sauber are a little further back, and they are a little slower than, er, McLaren. The double podium seems a long way away. I can’t see any reason for McLaren to be so far back. They were clearly better in the wet, but the FP2 times are not good. Bad, in fact.

Caterham are 5s back, Marussia a bit over 4s.

There’s no data from Lotus. Hmm.

OK, the table:

  • Rosberg fastest
  • +0.1s Hamilton
  • +0.2s Vettel
  • +0.5s Alonso
  • +0.5s Raikkonen
  • +1.0s Massa
  • +1.0s Hulkenburg
  • +1.3s Perez
  • +1.5s Ricciardo/Vergne
  • +1.6s Bottas
  • +1.7s Kvyat
  • +2.2s Button
  • +2.5s Magnussen
  • +2.6s Sutil
  • +2.7s Gutierrez
  • +4.2s Bianchi
  • +4.5s Chilton
  • +5.0s Ericsson

McLaren are a mystery, but this stacks up reasonably well against the Australia numbers, except that Mercedes are about 1s closer to the pack. I’m not sure I believe that everyone has caught up so much. Maybe Red Bull should be discounted after all. Tomorrow will tell.

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