Brazilian Grand Prix - day one


Interlagos is a fabulous place, steeped in atmosphere, but as anywhere else rain does tend to put a literal dampener on proceedings. It can add a little spice to a race, or even qualifying, but it doesn’t help much on a practice day.

Today it fell for most of what turned out to be a very low-key pair of sessions. Drivers ran relatively few laps, mindful of the fact that rain is due to continue for the rest of the weekend, and both wet and intermediate tyres are in relatively short supply.

“You can tell that people didn’t run a lot this afternoon simply because they want to save their tyres,” said Sebastian Vettel. “We have one set for free basically today. So it’s a bit of a shame for the people who went out in the grandstands, but unfortunately it’s like this. In the end on Saturday and Sunday you need the tyres.”

For the record Nico Rosberg was fastest in both sessions, with his FP1 best time some 2.6s faster than the afternoon, but really there wasn’t a great deal of significance to the order. Although it’s worth noting that Russian youngster Daniil Kvyat took to the conditions like the proverbial duck to water, taking an impressive eighth for Toro Rosso in the morning. A man to watch…

Tyres were the main talking point of the day. Today was supposed to be an opportunity for everyone to run prototype 2014 tyres, and it was an important day for Pirelli, who are in dire need of some data. It’s equally crucial for the teams to get some information, especially in aerodynamic terms, about how the tyres behave.

To give an idea of the importance of the test in a similar situation last year Force India put a great deal of effort into trying the 2013 prototypes. In just one session the team learned some very interesting things, which led to a renewed focus over the winter on making the new tyres work, and did much to define the direction the car was taken.

It also led for example to the left/right swapping that the team tried early in 2013. And until the spec was changed at mid season the team was a regular top six contender. In other words a lot of engineers will be extremely frustrated that there was no dry running today.

Vettel did manage to sneak out for one slow lap on 2014 slicks in FP1, even as the rain intensified, with a car packed with data gathering equipment. An intriguing team radio message told him that the required info had indeed been logged…

So has Red Bull stolen a march on its key rivals and bagged some information that could have a fundamental impact on how the RB10 is fine tuned in the next couple of months?

“We always work on the principal that bad information is worse than no information,” said a sceptical Ross Brawn. “With all due respect Red Bull may have found something out that we don’t anticipate, but we couldn’t understand what you would learn in those conditions, even though it looked like they were trying to take the profiles of the tyres and so on.

“It was difficult to see how it could be useful, and certainly our conclusion there was no use for us for what we wanted to do to run the tyres this morning.”

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Ferrari’s Stefano Domenicali added that given that the other three top teams are fighting for vital constructors’ positions perhaps Red Bull was more able to risk a Friday shunt by sending a car out in the wet on slicks…

For Pirelli the rain was something of a headache, and it came on the back of bad weather at a recent test with McLaren and Kevin Magnussen at Vallelunga, in which the Dane impressed, but didn’t get a lot of dry running. However, Paul Hembery played it down.

“We obviously wouldn’t have brought them here if we didn’t want to run them,” he said. “It’s just an opportunity lost. That’s life, that’s the weather, there’s nothing we can do about it, nothing the teams can do about it. We just wanted to do some benchmarking against this year’s tyres, with new compound, new structure on the current car, just to give us a scaling, in reality. It was an interesting test, it’s not the be all and end all.

“As long as it’s the same for the teams, I don’t think it changes too much. If they’re getting the data at the same time, then it’s a level playing field. From our point of view it just gives us a little bit of an indication about finalising everything for next season.”

Pirelli is keen to do some more running with a 2011 car in Bahrain December, and has asked the teams to tender for the opportunity, ie give the tyre company a quote on what it would cost to provide a car for the test. There’s been no shortage of takers – it would be a great chance for McLaren to give Magnussen more miles for example – but it brings up the thorny issue of whether one or two privileged teams will have the chance to do gain an advantage on the rest.

“I think whatever comes now needs to be fair for all the teams,” said Brawn. “I think we’re in a delicate position. I think we all want to help Pirelli provide the best tyre they can next year, but it will be unfortunate if one team had the benefit of running a tyre to the exclusion of all the other teams.

“Today would have been the ideal situation for everyone to get a first look at the 2014 tyre take the data away, and that would have been reasonably fair. I think if we end up with only one team running the 2014 tyres before next year, with no provision today or no ability today to run the tyre, that could end up being an unfair situation, that someone is going to have an insight into what the tyre does, and how it works. I think we have to look at that very carefully at how we can do something that is fair and proper for all the teams.”

It was a good point and well made, but it raised a few wry smiles given the Barcelona testing controversy of just six months ago. If you remember the Mercedes and Pirelli view at the time was that no advantage had been gained by the infamous secret test since the work was focused on 2014. Time moves on quickly in F1.

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f1  Brazilian Grand Prix   prologue

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