Who’s ahead in the battle at the top? Lewis Hamilton was fastest of all in practice but Ferrari seem to be quicker over long stints…
McLaren – Fast but frail
Lewis Hamilton ended the second session with the fastest time of all – but under somewhat unusual circumstances. It was very hot for most of the session and the Ferraris were substantially quicker in that time by at least a second per lap.
Late in the session track temperatures fell from the mid-fifties to high-thirties and Hamilton shot to the top of the times sheets using the softer compound (medium) tyres. He was set to do another quicker lap shortly after but elected to return to the pits instead. Heikki Kovalainen was almost 1.5s slower.
McLaren’s absolute pace, therefore, is something of a mystery. Are they struggling to make their car work in high temperatures? Or were they just working on a heavy-fuelled stint? Or do they just have much better single lap pace than they do over a stint?
McLaren also reported a minor gearbox problem with Hamilton’s car, a cause for some unease following their similar problems at Melbourne which were remedied before the race.
Ferrari – Frail but fast
After the nightmare of Melbourne the sight of Kimi Raikkonen’s car grinding to a halt early in the first free practice will have set Tifosi spirits plunging. But according to the team it was not a car problem but vaguely asserted it was down to “a communication problem within the team.”
Ferrari got excellent pace out of the harder tyre in the hotter conditions but lost out to Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren when the temperature dropped. Perhaps the team are still struggling to get heat into their front tyres during more normal track temperatures.
Interestingly, Felipe Massa had a slight edge over Raikkonen at the track where the Brazilian took pole position last year. He said he would have been quicker but was delayed by Hamilton.