Practice 2: Button tops as Red Bull get wings

Jenson Button ended day one in Turkey fastest of all

Jenson Button ended day one in Turkey fastest of all

May.28 (Grand Prix 247) McLaren Mercedes’ Jenson Button ended the first day of the Spanish Grand Prix weekend quickest of all again showing that the McLaren MP4/25 is comfortable on fast circuits such as Istanbul Park and in hot conditions such as those that prevailed on the day.

Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren.  Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Turkish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Friday 28 May 2010.

Jenson Button monitors the opposition

Button was on soft Bridgestones when he set his lap time of 1 minute 28.280 seconds, however the soft option seemed alarmingly fragile as a number of excursions by drivers (mainly at Turn 8) appeared to render them to canvas.

Button summed up his session, ““The car feels reasonably good around here – there are still some areas where we’re not so strong, and the Red Bulls will once again be the cars to beat in qualifying tomorrow, we can’t get away from that. I just hope we’re closer than we’ve been in the last two races.”

No doubt causing concern to their rivals the Red Bull Racing duo of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, who after a somewhat subdued opening session a few hours earlier, were again very much at the sharp end of proceedings with Webber second best in the session, a mere 0.098 seconds adrift of Button’s best.

Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB6  Formula One World  Championship, Rd 7, Turkish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Istanbul Park,  Turkey, Friday 28 May 2010.

Mark Webber in the Istanbul pit lane

At the end of practice there were creased brows on the Red Bull pit wall as Webber’s smoking car came to a halt at Turn 2, upon which the Aussie appeared to have a tantrum as a hapless marshal failed to decipher the driver’s request for a fire extinguisher to be used to prevent the RB6 from free wheeling away. Engine failure? Watch this space…

Vettel was third quickest in his “Randy Mandy” but almost a quarter second down on his team mate followed by Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes) who was fastest in the morning session.

Ferrari‘s Fernando Alonso was back on the pace ending the session fifth fastest in the Ferrari F10 sporting a new diffuser and their f-duct system. His team mate Felipe Massa was down in tenth after a scary moment which saw the three times Turkish GP winner return to the pits with the canvas showing on a set of his soft Bridgestone tyres after spinning at the daunting Turn Eight.

Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W01. Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Turkish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Friday 28 May 2010.

Nico Rosberg was fastest of the Mercedes GP duo

Sixth and seventh fastest were the Silver Arrows pair with Nico Rosberg bettering Michael Schumacher by a tiny 0.060 seconds.

Up next were the Renault pair with Robert Kubica eighth fastest and rookie Vitaly Petrov ninth on the timing sheets. The Russian running as close to his more experienced team mate as he has all season.

The experts often claim that the opening day practice sessions tend to mean very little. This author disagrees. Any racing team likes to end the first practice day of a racing weekend without problems and a good showing on the timing sheets.

And if anything the final session of the Turkish GP weekend does give an indication of the pecking order currently in Formula 1:

Lewis Hamilton in action at Istanbul Park

Lewis Hamilton in action at Istanbul Park

1. McLaren have a strong car on fast circuits in warm conditions with nothing to choose between their drivers Button and Hamilton;
2. Red Bull great all rounder  the RB6 (Monaco speed) and have a very quick car on fast circuits too, although a tad fragile when it matters. Webber currently has the slightest edge over Vettel in the cockpits;
3. Alonso is clearly flying the Ferrari flag virtually solo as Massa still tries to regain his pace of old. The F10, although a solid car, is a fraction off the McLarens and Red Bulls.
4. Ross Brawn has simply not delivered a Mercedes GP on par with the top three and the updates are catch-ups if anything. Rosberg still has the edge over Schumacher but the veteran German looks to be closing the gap.
5. Renault are probably on par with Mercedes GP, although could be slightly stronger when it comes to race distance pace. Kubica is no doubt the head driver with Petrov playing catch-up and actually doing so.

And that’s just by reading between the lines after day one at Istanbul Park.

Best of the non-big five teams was again Force India’s Adrian Sutil who was back where he belonged after his vicious Turn 8 shunt in the morning session. The team did a remarkable job to get the German out again, missing out on only 15 minutes of the second free practice.

Sutil’s team mate Vitantnio Liuzzi was 16th fastest and appeared to again be struggling to find a setup that works for him on the VJM03.

Rookie Nico Hulkenberg was fastest of the Cosworth brigade, 12th on the timing sheets in the Williams while veteran team mate Rubens Barrichello could only manage 17th best time of the session.

Kamui Kobayashi was fastest of the two Sauber’s with 13th best time and Pedro de la Rosa 14th fastest.

Complaining of a sore neck, no doubt thanks to the 5Gs at Turn 8, was Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi who was 16th quickest with team mate Jaime Alguersuari 18th best.

Lotus, particularly Heikki Kovalainen has made great progress to be within 3.3 seconds of the fastest pace around Istanbul Park and way better than any of the other new car drovers. The Finn ended the session 19th fastest, with Lucas di Grassi (Virgin Racing) 20th, Jarno Trulli (Lotus) 21st and Timo Glock (Virgin Racing) 22nd.

The Hispania Racing duo were at the foot of the timing screens with Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok 23rd and 24th respectively.

As has become the norm in Istanbul few people bothered to turn up to watch the pinnacle of motorsport on their doorstep which surely does not bode well for the future of Formula 1 in Turkey. And the rumours flying around the paddock is that this could be the final curtain for the Istanbul romance with Grand Prix racing.

Practice 2 – 28 May 2010

Pos No Driver Team Time/Retired Gap Laps
1 1 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:28.280 30
2 6 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:28.378 0.098 24
3 5 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:28.590 0.310 27
4 2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:28.672 0.392 32
5 8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:28.725 0.445 30
6 4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:28.914 0.634 22
7 3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:28.974 0.694 22
8 11 Robert Kubica Renault 1:29.225 0.945 34
9 12 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:29.501 1.221 36
10 7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:29.620 1.340 26
11 14 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:29.629 1.349 16
12 10 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:29.987 1.707 17
13 23 Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:30.053 1.773 34
14 22 Pedro de la Rosa BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:30.176 1.896 34
15 16 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:30.386 2.106 32
16 15 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:30.627 2.347 28
17 9 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:30.766 2.486 32
18 17 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari 1:30.933 2.653 37
19 19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:31.610 3.330 37
20 25 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:33.013 4.733 28
21 18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:33.081 4.801 11
22 24 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:33.312 5.032 29
23 21 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:33.420 5.140 35
24 20 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1:33.740 5.460 25