Brazil GP Friday F1 Talk: Top 3 close, Toro Rosso failures, Kubica and more
The Friday in F1 Brazil GP started off on a wet note with rain showers in FP1 but it dried up by FP2 with Ferrari pace being talked about along with Toro Rosso failures.
The F1 paddock woke up to rain on Friday morning at Interlagos in Sao Paulo, with the FP1 session in Brazil GP being a wet affair, where Red Bull Racing's Alexander Albon led the pack, looking set to cap off a great work week, as he was contracted for 2020.
In the closing minutes of the F1 practice, though, it was contact with the tyre barrier that cost him dear. He retained the top spot, but the incident still gave the Red Bull crew more work than they anticipated preparing the car for FP2, where he was ninth.
"FP1 was tricky in the wet and obviously it wasn’t ideal crashing but it was quite a minor off," said Albon. "I just lost it on the brakes and it happened at the worst part of the track. The guys did a great job to get the car ready for FP2, and the car felt ok on the prime tyre.
"Then I switched to the option and got a flat spot so that was my session over really. I think our performance looks quite good though and our race pace is strong so we can take positives, I just don’t know where I’m at because I haven’t had a clean session."
In the other Red Bull, Max Verstappen didn't set a time in FP1 and was third in FP2, with a time he mentioned was not representative, due to varying conditions and more. The Dutchman felt that the car was working well with the Top 3 F1 teams closer than expected.
After their poor weekend in USA, Ferrari were back on form in preparation for the penultimate F1 race of the 2019 season, with both their drivers succeeding in the sessions. Sebastian Vettel was the better of the two, finishing third in FP1 and first in FP2.
His teammate Charles Leclerc, though, was fourth and second. "The car was decent, but it was not an easy day on track with the weather conditions, as we did not get so much consistent running," said Vettel. "I think we understood what the car needs.
"Now we’ll take it from there and hopefully we can improve it. I believe we can and we must. My pace was better on a single lap than on a longer run. We need more grip which is not so easy to find. But we can balance the car a bit more.
"I am pretty confident we can make a step forward, but for the race it could be quite difficult, in line with what we saw at the last two races. Now, we must focus on our own work and make sure we are in better shape for the rest of the weekend.
Leclerc echoed Vettel, albeit, feeling slightly more positive, despite him being behind his teammate. The Monegasque has a 10-place grid penalty with a new power unit - which is not an advanced spec as per Ferrari - but he feels confident still.
Similar to Ferrari, Mercedes were content with their day, although the German manufacturer was disappointed to miss the trick regarding Lewis Hamilton, who failed to set a time in FP1 and only got started in FP2, when he finished fifth.
"I didn't really go out in the first session when the track was wet," said Hamilton. "The afternoon session was nice and smooth, we started on a good baseline and made a couple of adjustments in the short space of time that we had in that session.
"We will do more work to refine the car which is going to be quite crucial as we only really have two sessions to get it right for qualifying, so it's compacted a little more and we need to be a little bit more precise with the changes that we make.
"But we started off on the right foot, so we should be okay to progress forward." Teammate Valtteri Bottas was the happiest of the Mercedes pair, however, as he finished second and fourth in both sessions respectively despite some run-ins.
The Finn expects a good fight from Ferrari and Red Bull. Outside the Top 3 F1 teams, before getting onto the stronger midfield outfits, it was a dismal end to Toro Rosso's session, with both car facing an apparent engine issue.
Toro Rosso, who found great success in US GP's Friday running a fortnight ago, were not quite as lucky in South of Texas, as both cars failed to finish FP2. Pierre Gasly was eighth and 12th, while Daniil Kvyat was ninth and 14th.
The failure for Gasly was confirmed to be in ICE but Kvyat's complete shoutdown of the car is being investigated. "The ICE on Gasly’s car failed and then Kvyat crashed due to a complete shutdown," said Honda's Toyoharu Tanabe.
"We are investigating the cause of both these problems. However, they have no effect on the rest of the weekend from a PU point of view, as both of them were running “Friday only” PUs, due to be changed before Saturday."
Like Albon and Kvyat, Williams also fell victim to the conditions as Robert Kubica found his way to the wall early in FP2, which hurt especially following his absence from FP1, as Nicolas Latifi took his place. Kubica felt the wet patch resulted in the incident.
"I lost the car in a nasty way in-between turns two and three," said Kubica. "Initially I did not understand the accident. However, once I reviewed it, I understood that a Haas had gone off the track ahead of me, which pulled quite a lot of water onto the track.
"It was my first lap on the hard tyre, so with all of these factors, I ended up in the wall. It was unfortunate, but this is motorsport and it can be frustrating at times." It was Kevin Magnussen, who had a slight off before Kubica, which resulted in slippery conditions.
The Dane, though, had a fruitful session to be sixth but said it was due to the colder conditions which helps in tyre management unlike the hot sessions, where the American team struggle hugely. Despite the good session, Haas can only hope it stays like that.
The real contenders for the points will certainly be McLaren and Renault but it was the latter who had a much better running than the former, who felt it was a struggle. Should either of them miss, Racing Point and Alfa Romeo Racing will be ready to challenge.
[Image courtesy: Ferrari] [Note: The story was co-written by Duncan Leahy on FormulaRapida.net]