Nico Rosberg was the fastest in both Practice sessions today at Sao Paulo, the Mercedes driver beating teammate Lewis Hamilton on both occasions in what were two interesting sessions today. The First Practice session got underway under overcast conditions. After most of the drivers completed their installation laps, Jenson Button stopped early on heading into the pits with what looked like an electronics problem. The Briton came over the team radio to say “Everything just cut off, all the power, electronics, everything,” with the issue putting an end to the session for the McLaren driver.
Elsewhere we saw electronics issues for Esteban Gutierrez, who was setback somewhat in the opening stages of the session. We also saw Kevin Magnussen running an aero rake on his car during the opening stages of the session, with team boss Eric Bullier confirming that he was testing parts for 2015 during the session.
One of the stories in Practice One was the track conditions, largely due to the resurfacing effort that made the track dusty and as a result minimised grip. Both Adrian Sutil and Daniel Juncadella – who was standing in for Sergio Perez – found that out at turn six, the latter of whom actually ended up spinning before rejoining the track. Max Verstappen who was in place for Jean-Eric Vergne was also finding the conditions tricky, which him jockeying his Toro Rosso around some of the corners rather than driving.
It wasn’t just at turn six either, turn one also saw Felipe Massa run wide onto the exit road they have there and Max Verstappen again after his locked his left front heading into the braking zone. Verstappen later experienced a lot of oversteer through turn two, with him just catching the backend on exit.
Shortly afterwords camera’s panned to a crashed Force India at turn eight, where Juncadella managed to understeer off into the barrier. That put an end to his session with 25 minutes to go, and a stop to the session as a whole as it got Red Flagged as marshals recovered the car. The extent of the damage done was soon found out by Sergio Perez, who was forced to miss Practice Two due to an overheating of the rear of the car.
During the closing stages we saw more spins from Kimi Raikkonen down at turn 6, then again at turn 12 before the Virtual Safety Car system got underway when the chequered flag came out. Its worth noting at the end of that session, Daniil Kvayt was third fastest with Max Verstappen finishing sixth fastest.
Then in Practice Two, contrary to the weather reports we saw blue skies as the cars headed out for the final time today. The first of the drama’s however came from Adrian Sutil, who managed to spin his Sauber heading through turn one with what looked to be a simple case of him carrying too much speed leading to oversteer.
Then later on we saw the first interruption of the session 20 minutes in, with the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne stopping with what looked like an electronics failure down at turn four. Drivers stopping at turn four was a trend throughout the session, with the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso later doing it after he also lost drive with what looked like a more serious engine failure. We’re unsure as to whether Ferrari will put a new engine in Alonso’s car this weekend or run older components, however the team are saving parts for Abu Dhabi where they think they will be able to nab fourth back from Williams.
Then about ten minutes after the session was restarted, the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez stopped at that corner, after complaining about MGU-K issues earlier in the day. This more or less put an end to any meaningful running for the day. Finally we saw Kimi Raikkonen go off at turn 12 again, this time nearly heading into the escape road that he took to in 2012, only to find that the gate was closed.
As for the tyres, we mainly saw the effects in Practice Two the Soft compound was having on what was a track that was supposed to have two of Pirelli’s hardest compound tyres. Lots of graining was the case for drivers on the front tyres, particularly after 18 or so laps, with Daniil Kvyat saying at the end of the session that his car was “undrivable” on his 20-lap old Softs, something which was certainly present from the onboard shots as he wrestled his car through the corners.
Performance gap wise, due to the stoppages no proper long runs were put in by the teams. Earlier on we could see in the high track temperatures that it was around eight tenths of a lap the difference between the two compounds, with the Soft lasting about 13 laps before it started to drop off. However with the lack of data, Pirelli are likely to err on the side of caution with the camber levels, in order to contain the amount of graining these tyres are experiencing.