British GP Paddock Notebook – Friday

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In many of the team previews and media sessions this week, the drivers have been saying how wonderful the British fans are and how they make Silverstone such a great race.

Frankly, it is very true. Even on Thursday, the grandstands were packed, and Friday saw even more fill the seats to see the practice sessions and support races. After a cloudy start, things soon warmed up at Silverstone to produce a lovely English summer day. Romanticism aside, here’s the latest news and analysis from the F1 paddock.

SESSION REPORTS

  • Once again, the Mercedes drivers shared the practice sessions on Friday. First blood went to Nico Rosberg at Silverstone, although the session was disrupted by a number of incidents and red flags.
  • Hamilton bounced back in FP2 to finish first, but he suffered an engine failure that meant he lost some track time.

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

  • Susie Wolff’s practice run-out ended after just four laps thanks to an engine problem.
  • She admitted that she was disappointed, but has now turned her attention to the German GP at Hockenheim.
  • Susie also made some very interesting comments about women in motorsport, saying that she does not feel she has been treated differently because she is a woman.
  • Monisha Kaltenborn said that the fight for the two seats at Sauber next season is wide open, with Sergey Sirotkin and Simona de Silvestro both in the running.
  • She also questioned the support for standing restarts despite Charlie Whiting saying that the teams were very enthusiastic.
  • Kimi Raikkonen revealed that he is likely to quit F1 upon the expiration of his Ferrari contract.
  • Will Buxton brings you the latest behind-the-scenes news from the British GP paddock in Paddock Pass.
  • Many of the drivers gave their views on standing restarts; some were happy, some felt that the sport should stay as it is.
  • Lewis Hamilton was upbeat despite his engine problem during FP2.
  • Pirelli will test an 18-inch tire at Silverstone next week to try and make the sport more road relevant.

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

Great news for those of you not interested in the political side of the sport! This Friday, we didn’t have a team principal press conference, so no great fall-out or extended analysis of how the F1 Strategy Group works as per Austria.

That said, we did have a great chat with Monisha Kaltenborn this morning. She spoke about Sauber’s current position, its driver selection for 2015, and also about the introduction of the standing restarts for next season. The difference between her opinion and that of FIA race director Charlie Whiting is very interesting indeed. Once again, the Strategy Group is the driving force behind this idea.

Looking at the long-run pace, Mercedes is once again the dominant team, but that’s far from surprising. We look set for a great battle between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton this weekend at Silverstone, and in front of his home fans, Lewis will be keen to impress.

It also wasn’t a bad day for his compatriot, Jenson Button. The 2009 world champion has never finished any higher than fourth at Silverstone, and although he may not better that this weekend, he does look set for some points.

Ferrari and Red Bull should be the teams battling for the final podium position. Fernando Alonso finished third in both sessions, but Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel were never far behind. Kimi Raikkonen did well in FP1, but was less impressive in the second session.

The word at Williams heading into this weekend was “momentum”. After securing its best team result in nine years at the Austrian Grand Prix, many were expecting them to continue to impress. Said momentum lasted just 25 minutes as both Susie Wolff and Felipe Massa hit trouble during FP1. Wolff’s engine failure robbed her of a chance to show what she can really do behind the wheel of an F1 car, but she made history nevertheless. Massa, on the other hand, simply overcooked it and binned his car in a flurry of déjà vu from last year. The team managed to fix the car back up for FP2, though.

All in all, it was a pretty usual Friday – usual in the sense that Mercedes dominated proceedings. It will take something out of the ordinary to stop the Silver Arrows sweeping to a one-two tomorrow in qualifying.

You can watch qualifying for the British Grand Prix live on CNBC from 8am ET tomorrow morning.

Hamilton endures ‘difficult’ Russia F1 practice, impressed by Ferrari

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Lewis Hamilton was left disappointed by a “difficult” day of Formula 1 practice in Russia on Friday for Mercedes as Ferrari stole a march on the field.

Hamilton arrived in Sochi looking to take his third win in Russia and claw back the championship lead after falling seven points behind Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in the standings.

The Briton was left to settle for fourth place in the final timesheets in FP2 as Mercedes struggled to match Ferrari’s one-lap pace, finishing over half a second back from Vettel in P1.

“Bit of a difficult day for us,” Hamilton admitted. “We managed to complete everything that we needed to do on our runs, but in terms of the balance of the car, the Ferrari seemed very, very fast on the long runs.

“So we need to work out how we can improve our pace. But there’s still everything to play for. The tires feel very peaky, so it’s easy to drop out of the window of performance, but when they’re working they seem to be good.”

Teammate Valtteri Bottas finished third-fastest in FP2 for Mercedes, and said the team had work to do overnight to ensure it could get the maximum out of the ultra-soft tire for qualifying.

“It’s been an interesting day. It’s a very different situation here with the asphalt and the temperatures compared to what we experienced in Bahrain,” Bottas said.

“We were learning about the tires on long runs and short runs and it seems like over one lap we still have work to do to get the maximum out of the ultra-soft tire – that’s our focus tonight. But we can’t forget how important the race is.

“We have started the weekend in the right way. The car feels good and the balance is there. A good start but we definitely need to work hard to find some lap time for qualifying.”

Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix is live on CNBC from 8am ET on Saturday.

Stoffel Vandoorne set for 15-place F1 grid drop in Sochi

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Stoffel Vandoorne is set to receive a 15-place grid penalty for this weekend’s Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix after exceeding the number of permitted power units components for the season.

McLaren’s problems with engine supplier Honda have been well-documented, with a revision of the design of the power unit by the Japanese manufacturer backfiring to create further reliability and performance issues.

Vandoorne has taken the brunt of the issues in 2017, failing to score a point and recording just one classified finish – P13 in Australia, two laps down on the lead car – as well as being forced to change a number of components on his power unit.

Drivers are only permitted to use four of each power unit component across the course of the season before triggering a penalty, but Vandoorne’s usage has been so high that he is set to receive a grid drop for the Russian Grand Prix – only the fourth round of the season.

By taking an all-new power unit for the event in Sochi, Vandoorne has moved onto his fifth MGU-H and fifth turbocharger of the year, combining for a 15-place grid penalty on Sunday.

For every other ‘fifth’ component Vandoorne takes this season, he will receive another five-place grid drop. His first ‘sixth’ component will be worth 10 places; every remaining ‘sixth’ is five places; his first ‘seventh’ is 10 places and so on.

Ferrari dominates Russian GP second free practice

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Once Pirelli’s softest compound, the ultrasoft tires, came out to play in second free practice for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom, Scuderia Ferrari dropped the hammer compared to Mercedes AMG Petronas.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen ran at 1:34.120 and 1:34.383, respectively, in the pair of SF70H chassis – which easily eclipsed the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. This followed Raikkonen’s leading FP1 this morning.

It’s only practice but the thinking going into the race weekend was with a couple long straights, it would play to Mercedes’ strengths and its top-end speed. But Ferrari’s fired a warning salvo into that thinking in this session.

Bottas and Hamilton were six and seven tenths adrift on the same ultrasoft tires, before long runs commenced for the final 35 to 40 or so minutes of the 90-minute free practice. The Russian Grand Prix is expected to be a one-stop race.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were next, far off the top four and far ahead of the midfield. Verstappen’s session ended early inside of 20 minutes, as he parked his car with an apparent loss of power just before pit lane.

Williams’ Felipe Massa, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Force India’s Sergio Perez – making it four teams in as many positions from seventh through 10th in the crowded midfield. In fact while 1.790 seconds covered first to sixth, just 1.18 seconds covered seventh to 18th, covering all remaining teams!

Romain Grosjean, who tries new Carbon Industrie brakes this week, made several radio transmissions noting he wasn’t yet satisfied with the new supplier. There’s still been a lot of brake dust released from the fronts on both his and Magnussen’s car.

Meanwhile further down the grid, McLaren Honda has made yet another power unit change to Stoffel Vandoorne’s car, which cost him the opening minutes of the session. This will resign the Belgian to his fifth turbocharger and MGU-H of the season, and see him saddled with a grid penalty.

FP3 is next up, streaming online live on Saturday morning from 5 a.m. ET. Qualifying commences at 8 a.m. ET live on CNBC.

Raikkonen leads topsy turvy first free practice session in Russia

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Kimi Raikkonen has topped the timesheets in the first 90-minute free practice session for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix, although times are never entirely representative in this first running of the weekend on the notoriously low-grip to start Sochi Autodrom.

Naturally then it took longer for the fastest times to come in. Raikkonen posted a 1:36.074 on Pirelli’s supersoft tires, with just under half an hour remaining, which eclipsed the pair of Mercedes AMG Petronas entries of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, who were 0.045 of a second and 0.607 of a second behind, respectively.

Vettel was fifth without really getting a proper lap in – more than one second back of his not-under-fire but perhaps under-duress teammate – just behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in fourth.

This marks the last race that Verstappen will be racing as a member of Red Bull Racing for the first time, as it marks the one-year anniversary since local hero Daniil Kvyat’s first-lap nightmare here last year. The Toro Rosso driver in his special edition “torpedo” helmet he’s made this weekend clocked in 11th.

Raikkonen’s fastest time was more than two seconds up on FP1’s fastest time last year, and times will only get quicker the rest of the weekend.

Both Hamilton and Vettel got away with “moments” during the session. Early on, Hamilton had had a quick moment over the Turn 2 curbs but landed without damage. In the final 15 minutes Vettel spun as well at Turn 17, but again without hitting anything. Hamilton then ran wide at the exit of Turn 14, looping his car, but stopping it before it hit the barriers.

Meanwhile Ferrari stated both Vettel and Raikkonen are using new turbochargers this race, and didn’t cite any potential reliability concerns as a reason why.

Raikkonen’s overall best time looked set to be bettered before the first red and only flag of the session occurred in a fairly abnormal manner.

With less than 25 minutes to go in the session, a bizarre incident occurred as Esteban Ocon’s engine cover off the back of his Force India Mercedes popped off as he closed his DRS on the run to Turn 2. Ocon limped the wounded Force India back to the pit lane with no additional damage but it put the session under a red flag, which thus provided a green flag for Twitter snark.

Meanwhile the young Frenchman wasn’t the only driver with issues this session. Stoffel Vandoorne reported in a loss of power to his Honda-powered McLaren inside the final 10 minutes of the session; the Belgian has had woeful luck of late with power units, notably at Bahrain, and the team was hopeful it had made a step forward in the post-Grand Prix test there. A grid penalty would loom with another power unit change.

To start the session, Renault test driver Sergey Sirotkin, in a run-out in his home Grand Prix weekend, didn’t even get to complete a timed lap as he stopped on the backside of the circuit with a mechanical issue. Reboot attempts failed and left him without a lap, same as the driver he was filling in for in Nico Hulkenberg, who will be back in for FP2.

Speaking of, FP2 comes up live at 8 a.m. ET, 5 a.m. PT on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App.

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