Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2015

Rosberg keeping quiet as drivers struggle with low-grip track

2015 Brazilian Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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The combination of a track surface which has deteriorated much more than expected since it was relaid last year, and the usual ‘green’ conditions of Friday practice, left drivers desperately seeking grip during first practice at Interlagos.

Driver after driver complained of problems getting their Pirellis to bite the bitumen during today’s two sessions. “Traction’s gone on holiday,” was how Daniel Ricciardo put it to his race engineer.

Sliding inevitably led to graining, with some suffering more than others. Felipe Massa was utterly flummoxed in the first session, languishing down in 17th place, and even when he noted the situation had improved in the afternoon it came with the caveat that the rear of the car had almost got away from him at Juncao.

“It was a very difficult day,” he admitted afterwards. “The car was unstable and I struggled to get the grip I wanted at the rear.”

Felipe Massa, Williams, Interlagos, 2015
“I don’t think I had one clean lap” – Massa
“I don’t think I had one clean lap without losing the rear at some point. The surface offers low grip but very high tyre degradation, so the car was sliding a lot.”

In the long race simulation runs Toro Rosso ran their tyres until Carlos Sainz Jnr was pleading “come on guys, box, please” and Max Verstappen was reporting “dead” fronts as well as rears – the latter being the initial cause for complaint for most drivers.

However the expected changes in weather conditions at Interlagos over the coming 48 hours makes it hard to take for granted exactly how the race will play out. Whether it arrives during qualifying or not, tomorrow’s forecast rain will keep the track surface in a low-grip state. However Sunday is also expected to be much cooler, with air temperatures potentially 10C lower than today.

Drivers at least had the benefit of the first ‘normal’ Friday since the Singapore Grand Prix. Even then, some drivers had their soft tyre runs disrupted by the red flag caused by Fernando Alonso in the afternoon, including his compatriot Sainz.

Compounding the difficulties they all faced was problems getting the GPS data to work reliably, leaving some in the dark about traffic on one of the shortest laps of the year.

On top of the tricky surface and the challenge of getting a clear lap in, today’s times also fell short of last year’s because of the higher kerbs installed at several points around the track.

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Interlagos, 2015
Ricciardo said drivers are giving the kerbs more respect
“We used to be able to put four wheels over the kerb and now they are a bit too high so that basically means the corners are a bit tighter,” explained Ricciardo. “It changes the approach a little bit for some corners but the asphalt was fine.”

Out of all that, the same two silver cars headed the field as usual. Their advantage was substantially greater on the soft tyre than the medium, and the two appeared close enough to each other to potentially make for a close fight on Sunday.

“We are very good on degradation, almost identical to Nico [Rosberg],” Lewis Hamilton was told by his Mercedes team. “Much better than other runners”, they added, and “pace to competitors [was] very good” too.

Rosberg, however, was eager to keep any advantage to himself. Asked “let us know how the tyres are when you can” he replied: “I don’t like doing that…”

Longest stint comparison – second practice

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:

Complete practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Nico RosbergMercedes1’14.0621’12.38578
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’13.5431’12.84367
3Sebastian VettelFerrari1’14.1681’13.34568
4Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’14.5491’13.50063
5Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-Renault1’14.4491’13.58566
6Valtteri BottasWilliams-Mercedes1’14.8861’13.60362
7Romain GrosjeanLotus-Mercedes1’13.63445
8Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes1’15.1741’13.71076
9Daniil KvyatRed Bull-Renault1’14.6961’13.84865
10Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes1’15.4691’13.87066
11Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’15.4081’14.05666
12Pastor MaldonadoLotus-Mercedes1’15.1921’14.12473
13Felipe NasrSauber-Ferrari1’15.3811’14.13473
14Max VerstappenToro Rosso-Renault1’14.9601’14.22673
15Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso-Renault1’15.3141’14.32683
16Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Honda1’15.3791’14.64465
17Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’15.7981’14.77272
18Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Honda1’15.4131’15.12939
19Jolyon PalmerLotus-Mercedes1’15.35233
20Will StevensManor-Ferrari1’18.0901’16.50157
21Alexander RossiManor-Ferrari1’17.8601’16.78758

2015 Brazilian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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9 comments on “Rosberg keeping quiet as drivers struggle with low-grip track”

  1. We used to be able to put four wheels over the kerb

    So in other words the old lap times were a result of drivers cutting the corners with only a sliver of rubber on the white line to keep it notionally legal. Sounds like step forward to me.

  2. It seems odd for Rosberg to try and get tough now, if anything he should do this when he’s still fighting for the championship.

    1. Good to get into stride for next year, keeping spirits up through the winter and be off to a positive start instead of the downer of losing out at the last race with a mechanical failure and start all over again @mike

    2. It’s always a bit awkard when Rosberg is talking smack. Especially since he has so little opportunity to do so. It’s like a boxer being beaten to a pulp by his opponent and then overly celebrating one punch that finally landed.

      1. @patrickl
        Where was Rosberg talking “smack”?

        1. @kingshark In the interview. Perhaps you should read it?

          He doesn’t do it often, but on the rare occasion that he does win a race it does come out.

          1. @patrickl
            I read the entire article and I still don’t see any smack talk.

            Perhaps you are just being paranoid?

          2. @kingshark,

            talk smack
            (v) To talk trash, insulting or casting doubt on a person’s ability.

            Also, it’s not in the article, but in the interview that Mike (and I) was referring too.

  3. Good to see those kerbs helped keep them all from abusing the track limits somewhat. And if the tyres are struggling a bit, that might make the race somewhat less predictable.

    All in all its looking good for an entertaining weekend then.

Comments are closed.