Free Practice 1
- Ferrari: Very positive practice for the team as Alonso gets very close to the top spot, and Massa goes 4th.
- Force India: Di Resta returns to the track after 6 years, and his apprehension puts him far behind the more experienced Sutil. Both had been tasked with accessing updates that were abandoned in Barcelona due to the weather.
- Hispania: Karthikeyan sets the first time. Liuzzi loses his front wing on the barrier into turn 10.
- Lotus: Gascoyne reports that their drivers have said grip is low. Trulli is backed by Tony Fernandes, who says his seat is safe for the year.
- McLaren: Hamilton has his steering altered, a big consideration around here and a must to get right. He also gets tied up with the traffic and has to back off while on a flying lap. Button has an issue with his KERS.
- Mercedes: Schumacher collides with the barrier after getting it wrong on his approach to Sainte Devote. Rosberg splits the Ferrari’s up.
- Red Bull: Webber was stuck in the garage due to a gearbox problem, but as the track evolves minute by minute it won’t damage his chances. Flo-vis paints goes on Vettel’s front wing, and he later comes in to put a new one on.
- Renault: Both drivers get out early for their installation laps. Heidfeld has a big lock up upon his exit from the tunnel into turn 10.
- Sauber: Perez spent a few minutes at the top of the timings, but has a lock up in the same place as Heidfeld.
- Toro-Rosso: Buemi has a crisis of confidence as he asks the team for more laps, oversteer is his problem he says.
- Williams: Great showing from Maldonado as he finishes 7th, but a second behind Button.
- Virgin: Both drivers get ahead of Hispania.
On a side note, the session was red-flagged due to a stream of water crossing the track along the start/finish straight.
Top FP1 times:
|1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing||1:16.619|
Free Practice 2:
- Ferrari: Alonso takes first blood on Vettel in this session as he goes top, hopes are high along the paddock that he can deliver this on Saturday. Massa has a messy session as he narrowly misses several barriers.
- Force India: Di Resta has a moment on his exit from turn 10, the cause being a gear selection issue.
- Hispania: Reports come through that Kolles will not protest the result here over the blown diffuser. Liuzzi doesn’t leave his garage as the team found a hydraulic issue when repairing the front right suspension.
- Lotus: Both drivers nip ahead of di Resta.
- McLaren: Hamilton pin points the middle sector as a place to find time.
- Mercedes: They were still repairing Schumacher’s car into this session, but he got out there and secured a P7.
- Red Bull: Horner reveals that Webber’s issue was electrical and affecting his gear change.
- Renault: Petrov sets the first time of the afternoon.
- Sauber: Perez gets close to the Renault of Petrov.
- Toro-Rosso: Alguersuari kisses the barrier at Sainte Devote, but continues without damage.
- Williams: Maldonado has a moment at Sainte Devote, but uses the run-off area instead of the barrier. The rookie also claims the supersoft debut as he gets out their and shaves almost a second off his FP1 time.
- Virgin: Both drivers are comfortably ahead of the sole Hispania.
Top FP2 times:
Free Practice 3:
- Ferrari: Both drivers are winding up the pace now as they sandwich Button.
- Force India: Di Resta obviously has his confidence back as he streaks ahead of Sutil.
- Hispania: Another crash for Liuzzi, at Sainte Devote and he brings out the red flags. Worryingly the car seems to fall apart quite easily.
- Lotus: Kovalainen gets ahead of Virgin, and Trulli bookends the rival pair.
- McLaren: The make use of the red flag caused by Rosberg to carry out more set-up changes to Hamilton’s car. He’s having issues with his front right wheel.
- Mercedes: Rosberg has a big crash after exiting the tunnel, bashing into the barrier he avoids hitting the corner head on. He exits the car and returns to the garage unhurt. Mercedes report that he locked his rears over the bumpy tunnel exit, low rear tyre pressures also contributed.
- Red Bull: Noticed by commentators, Webber hasn’t seemed to forgone using his DRS to concentrate on race pace for Sunday.
- Renault: Petrov reports that he has trouble getting his rear tyres up to working temperature and understeer.
- Sauber: Perez has another good outing as he gets ahead of Kobayashi.
- Toro-Rosso: Alguersuari’s session ends early due to a right rear puncture.
- Williams: Barrichello had sensors replaced in his gearbox.
- Virgin: This time both their drivers get ahead of Trulli’s Lotus.
Top FP3 times:
So like we do every qualifying session, everyone is eligible for a bit of track time in the first session, and they are all desperate not to be in the first cull. Will we see another top team exit early due to error? First error of the day, the sight Eddie Jordan in pink polka dots and purple.
With the raft of repairs being made up and down the paddock, questions hang over whether Rosberg will make an appearance for qualifying at all, but the team do themselves proud and get him out. Same goes for Liuzzi’s car down at Hispania, unfortunately he doesn’t get to set a time and the same goes for Karthikeyan with a rear suspension failure. With the importance of grid position due to overtaking being at a premium, teams will not be as eager to save tyres. Petrov sets the first time, but he’s soon overtaken by Button and Vettel. Rosberg puts in a great time with his first flying lap of the day, laying the gauntlet down for Schumacher. He goes out on the supersofts (options) and can’t quite match his time. Buemi also goes out on the options feeling under pressure to reel in the confidence needed to get around the track. Star of the track was Hamilton, who gets ahead of Red Bull with a spectacular time, he’ll be looking forward to speaking to his team after that…unless the Bulls are merely taking it easy on their inevitable entry to Q3.
Out in Q1 are: KOV, TRU, ALG, GLO, DAM, KAR, LIU, all are within the 107% rule at the moment. Hispania will have to await the stewards decision as none of the times they set in practice were within 107%. The stewards have decided that Hispania will participate in the race.
All drivers go out for the second session on the options now, and Hamilton again has the measure of Vettel again. Two thousandth separate them but Vettel can’t improve and Hamilton stays top. Surely on his way to pole position. Schumacher burns another set of the options for no reason as he fails to improve his position. Both Renault drivers are struggling with the lack of downforce generated by their car, Heidfeld commented on how the cars is ‘bouncing from bump to bump’. Massa has some more messy laps but punches one in to get himself into Q3. His team mate Alonso gets his eye in, but doesn’t manage to find the pace his exhibited this morning.
Out in Q2 are: PET, BAR, KOB, DIR, SUT, HEI, BUE.
Schumacher is out first this time, trying to get ahead of his often faster team mate Rosberg. Alonso comes in next but with a time just a shade quicker than the one set by Virgin’s d’Ambrosio in Q1. Button and Webber get close but the Brit prevails, but when Vettel finished his flier the thick air of inevitability penetrates the paddock. On a track when driver skills outstrips aerodynamic superiority, this is a soul destroying message to the rest of the field. No wonder Paddy Power has already paid out on those who had a punt of Vettel winning the championship.
No time to dwell on that as Hamilton finally leaves the garage behind a slower Massa, who does move over but proves to be just enough of a distraction to spoil the McLaren driver’s sole flying lap. Then rookie Sergio Perez has a massive crash after exiting the tunnel onto the dusty off-line surface. Red flags are out as the session is stopped with 2:26 left on the clock, drivers return to the pits inquiring into how the Mexican is. Worrying moments when the marshalls surround the car from enquiring cameras, but good news floods the circuit when he is reported to be conscious and talking. He’s to spend the night in hospital as a precaution as he suffered from a concussion and sprained thigh, drivers who have concussion are usually kept out of the race and it’s no different for Perez.
Hamilton gets to the pit lane exit first, but his tyres are left to cool for 3 minutes before he is given the green light. It’s a big ask from the team, and as the drivers soon realise, there isn’t enough time to do any damage to Vettel’s lead. Although Hamilton doesn enough to get himself into P7 (however his time was later discounted as he cut the chicane corner on that lap, he’s starting from P10).
Top Qualifying times:
|1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:13.556|
|3||Mark Webber||Red Bull||1:14.019|