Lotus improving but Williams struggle (Malaysian GP Friday practice analysis)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Williams have been the slowest of the established teams at Sepang
Williams have been the slowest of the established teams at Sepang

After the first two practice sessions for the Malaysian Grand Prix Lotus appear to have made a step forward but Williams are lacking pace.

And although Felipe Massa could only manage the 15th fastest time in the second free practice session, Ferrari’s genuine pace looks better than that.

Take a closer look at the times from Friday practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix below.

McLaren, Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes

Practice one

Malaysia FP1 lap times: Top four
Malaysia FP1 lap times: Top four (click to enlarge)

Practice two

Malaysia FP2 lap times: Top four
Malaysia FP2 lap times: Top four

All the teams ran the hard tyre in practice one as the track rubbered in.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Sepang, 2010

McLaren led the way in free practice one with Lewis Hamilton the fastest of its two drivers following a low-fuel stint in the middle of the session.

In the second half of first practice the pair did a longer stint with lap times a good three-and-a-half seconds slower suggesting a heavier fuel load. Once again Hamilton was the quicker of the two, doing a 1’38.522 with his penultimate lap compared to Button’s 1’38.955.

The McLarens were strongest in sector three, where straight line speed is important, suggesting their ‘F-duct’ is helping them here. We should get a better take on this when the speed trap data is published tomorrow – one figure mentioned during the second session suggested they were as much as 6kph faster than their rivals.

Hamilton set the fastest time on soft tyres in the second session. Jenson Button wasn’t able to match it, lapping four-tenths slower, and saying afterwards he wasn’t happy with the car’s balance yet.

Ferrari and Red Bull have tended not to go for lap times in practice one this year and that seems to be the case again here. Felipe Massa’s initial stint in the 1’37s and Fernando Alonso’s in the 1’36s were probably set with a half-tank or so of fuel.

Ferrari continued doing a lot of high-fuel running in the second part of qualifying. In the second session Alonso’s best time on the soft tyres was 1.4 seconds slower than Hamilton’s, which might be read as a sign they’re in trouble, but I doubt it. Their slowest laps, most likely set on the heaviest fuel loads, were no worse than McLarens, so I suspect they’re competitive.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Sepang, 2010

Tellingly, despite only setting the ninth fastest lap time Sebastian Vettel was quickest of all through the middle sector in FP1 and FP2. This section includes the high-speed turns five to eight, which play to the RB6’s aerodynamic strengths.

But as we’ve seen already this year, how quick their cars are is irrelevant if they’re not reliable. Both their drivers suffered problems today and Mark Webber’s second session was cut short by engine failure.

At Mercedes, Michael Schumacher missed much of the early session with a brake problem.

He and Nico Rosberg were both on-track at the same time towards the end of practice one and both set their fastest times at this point – Rosberg edging Schumacher by one tenth of a second with a 1’35.106.They did more short runs in the second session, with Rosberg faster by 0.2s.

They both did seven-lap runs on the soft tyres in the second session and here too Rosberg seemed to have an edge – his times falling consistently with the fuel load while Schumacher’s were close on pace but not as regular.

Renault, Force India, Sauber, Williams and Toro Rosso

Practice one

Malaysia FP1 lap times: Midfield
Malaysia FP1 lap times: Midfield (click to enlarge)

Practice two

Malaysia FP2 lap times: Midfield
Malaysia FP2 lap times: Midfield
Robert Kubica, Renault, Sepang, 2010

Robert Kubica underlined Renault’s pace with the fifth fastest time in session one, which he set at the end of a five-lap stint having backed off for two laps. He did another five-lap stint shortly afterwards but didn’t improve on his time.

Team mate Vitaly Petrov, however, only completed a single five-lap stint in that session after a fuel pump problem, and his second session was cut short by a water leak.

Petrov’s best time in the second session, a 1’35.872 good for ninth quickest, was his first lap of a four-lap run on the soft tyres. While some drivers found they were able to do one quick lap, slow down to revive the tyres, and then improve again, Petrov was a tenth slower when he tried this approach.

However the team seem to have retained their position of ‘best of the rest’ behind the top four, albeit it with Force India not far behind.

Paul di Resta was on duty for Force India again, this time standing in for Vitantonio Liuzzi. He was just under a second off Adrian Sutil’s pace.

In the second session Sutil and Liuzzi’s stint times compared favourably with Renault’s, while Sauber and Toro Rosso were around half a second per lap behind.

As in Melbourne the Toro Rosso drivers ran long stints, Alguersuari doing 25 laps uninterrupted at one point – typically in the high 1’39s/low 1’40s. Alguersuari’s running in first practice was hindered by an electrical problem.

Worryingly for Williams their cars were slowest of the established runners in practice one, with the eight Cosworth cars at the bottom of the times sheets. But for Webber’s stricken Red Bull the same result would have been repeated in second practice. The FW32s were half a second off the non-new teams in sector three in first practice. Again, those speed trap figures are going to make interesting reading.

Virgin, Lotus and HRT

Practice one

Malaysia FP1 lap times: New teams
Malaysia FP1 lap times: New teams (click to enlarge)

Practice two

Malaysia FP2 lap times: New teams
Malaysia FP2 lap times: New teams
Fairuz Fauzy, Lotus, Sepang, 2010

There was more reliable running for Lotus who ran Malaysian Fairuz Fauzy in the morning session in place of Heikki Kovalainen. They also tested a new shark fin wing.

In the afternoon session the green-and-yellow cars were within one second of Nico H?â??lkenberg’s Williams. It may be too soon to talk about them getting on terms with the established teams but the signs of progress are clear.

HRT F1 were pleased to log 110 laps – almost two race distances – today, and in the second session were just over a second slower than the Virgin cars.

Virgin, too, enjoyed a largely trouble-free practice apart from a power steering problem for Timo Glock late in the second session.

Top 50 lap times

Practice two

Rank Driver Lap time Lap
1 Lewis Hamilton 94.175 12
2 Lewis Hamilton 94.276 10
3 Sebastian Vettel 94.441 19
4 Nico Rosberg 94.443 12
5 Jenson Button 94.538 11
6 Michael Schumacher 94.674 10
7 Nico Rosberg 94.691 13
8 Lewis Hamilton 94.765 7
9 Michael Schumacher 94.825 9
10 Sebastian Vettel 94.863 16
11 Lewis Hamilton 94.954 2
12 Lewis Hamilton 95.043 4
13 Nico Rosberg 95.145 9
14 Robert Kubica 95.148 14
15 Michael Schumacher 95.309 6
16 Nico Rosberg 95.351 4
17 Jenson Button 95.401 7
18 Jenson Button 95.541 3
19 Fernando Alonso 95.581 26
20 Sebastien Buemi 95.66 12
21 Michael Schumacher 95.681 3
22 Robert Kubica 95.706 12
23 Robert Kubica 95.825 7
24 Robert Kubica 95.86 9
25 Vitaly Petrov 95.872 9
26 Vitaly Petrov 95.951 11
27 Adrian Sutil 95.957 8
28 Adrian Sutil 95.968 7
29 Sebastien Buemi 96.001 14
30 Robert Kubica 96.012 2
31 Kamui Kobyashi 96.018 14
32 Kamui Kobyashi 96.082 15
33 Vitantonio Liuzzi 96.221 19
34 Adrian Sutil 96.278 3
35 Jaime Alguersuari 96.325 8
36 Pedro de la Rosa 96.325 9
37 Vitantonio Liuzzi 96.36 18
38 Kamui Kobyashi 96.363 5
39 Vitaly Petrov 96.384 4
40 Vitaly Petrov 96.478 2
41 Nico Rosberg 96.575 2
42 Felipe Massa 96.602 29
43 Sebastien Buemi 96.727 9
44 Adrian Sutil 96.75 10
45 Rubens Barrichello 96.813 18
46 Jaime Alguersuari 96.824 10
47 Rubens Barrichello 96.847 19
48 Sebastien Buemi 96.861 6
49 Vitaly Petrov 96.904 6
50 Sebastien Buemi 96.926 2

Practice one

Rank Driver Lap time Lap
1 Lewis Hamilton 94.921 6
2 Nico Rosberg 95.106 18
3 Lewis Hamilton 95.138 4
4 Jenson Button 95.207 10
5 Michael Schumacher 95.225 12
6 Jenson Button 95.245 7
7 Michael Schumacher 95.275 10
8 Michael Schumacher 95.331 13
9 Michael Schumacher 95.395 5
10 Robert Kubica 95.402 7
11 Nico Rosberg 95.463 6
12 Jenson Button 95.464 5
13 Mark Webber 95.479 8
14 Mark Webber 95.495 9
15 Nico Rosberg 95.525 10
16 Robert Kubica 95.538 13
17 Jenson Button 95.546 8
18 Robert Kubica 95.643 11
19 Nico Rosberg 95.674 15
20 Mark Webber 95.765 7
21 Michael Schumacher 95.795 6
22 Nico Rosberg 95.808 13
23 Nico Rosberg 95.821 9
24 Nico Rosberg 95.937 4
25 Michael Schumacher 95.951 3
26 Paul di Resta 95.955 8
27 Fernando Alonso 95.959 8
28 Paul di Resta 96.011 19
29 Sebastian Vettel 96.043 15
30 Robert Kubica 96.078 4
31 Sebastien Buemi 96.1 19
32 Fernando Alonso 96.145 15
33 Fernando Alonso 96.212 5
34 Sebastian Vettel 96.219 6
35 Lewis Hamilton 96.32 3
36 Fernando Alonso 96.325 17
37 Fernando Alonso 96.35 12
38 Paul di Resta 96.35 15
39 Sebastian Vettel 96.361 18
40 Paul di Resta 96.389 17
41 Paul di Resta 96.393 12
42 Sebastian Vettel 96.405 7
43 Felipe Massa 96.451 21
44 Fernando Alonso 96.452 4
45 Kamui Kobyashi 96.503 14
46 Sebastien Buemi 96.577 8
47 Fernando Alonso 96.582 7
48 Jaime Alguersuari 96.645 15
49 Sebastian Vettel 96.658 5
50 Vitaly Petrov 96.712 8

Over to you

Got a different take on the practice times? Spotted something interesting on one of the cars? Have your say in the comments.

2010 Malaysian Grand Prix

57 comments on “Lotus improving but Williams struggle (Malaysian GP Friday practice analysis)”

  1. thanks Keith. Youre as cool as always. Nice that both tests are together. So myb i can help u with FP3? I can make Top50

    1. Can you send me an email about this?

      1. So if i send u top50 from free practise 3, u will make analysis?
        And whats your email?

  2. I am putting my money on hamilton showing the way to the rest of the field.

    The 2 straights are Mclarens to dominate. With rains, Hamilton should be doing well.

    Malaysia isn’t known for tyre wear as well, so 1-stopper should be the norm.

    1. Im putting my money that u will lose your money :D

      1. And I’m putting my money in my wallet! =)

        1. and im buying your wallet :D

          1. i’ve already bought it ;)

      2. everyone is betting on mclaren and they are going to see that betting on mclaren is a mistake at this stage everyone thought they would do well on australia and that wasnt visible on qually and only butts holy choice gave them the win

      3. the Sri Lankan
        3rd April 2010, 0:04

        ill double that lol

    2. You know you could argue that Saturday is the more important day for Mclaren. If they can qualify in front they’ll be hard to pass especially because of their straightline speed advantage.

    3. What is the full weight of the car now including the driver? 620kg or more?

      1. Off the top of my head, yeah, 620kg inc driver before fuel is added.

  3. Wow, great job Keith! I have no idea how you manage to fit in sleep.
    There were a few offs that kept me awake. Massa needed silver tape for hsi wing after he had an excursion :P

    1. This question may be off topic. Does the F Duct affect the the aero of a car that is following the F Duct car down the straight?

      And, I’ll join in the chorus of “Where do you find the time Keith.”

      Great article!

  4. Interesting read, what do you think keith of the proposed tyre changes for next year with michelin bringing much bigger tyres? Personally i think its all a bit silly that fota bang on about cutting costs but such will the changes be to the cars that they will all spend lots to keep up. it seems F1 does this every year now so they never do bring costs down in some areas

  5. Does anybody know where we can read those speed trap figures?

    1. The FIA publish them for qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday, we don’t see them for practice. I believe the teams have access to that data and the media at the track.

      1. Thanx for the reply. I am also looking forward to seeing them!

          1. The speed trap times are more telling than the free practice lap times. When Button is down 7.4 km/h in the same car, it accentuates the various tire/fuel load/testing strategies of the drivers and teams. This is why I generally do not put too much stock in practice lap times.

            Thanks for the link, Lenny.

          2. never knew that page existed! thanks.

  6. I find it more telling that despite the Red Bulls being fastest in sector 2, they were still on 9th fastest, rather than the other way round.

    Surely this means that if they are able to run low fuel (as shown by their quick S2) then why can’t they get to the top of the timesheets?

  7. samakafuzzy
    2nd April 2010, 14:23

    On the Formula1 official site, there is a picture labelled ‘Williams ‘F’ Duct’ Now I’m no expert, but Williams have no Shark Fin, so what the **** would a Williams F duct ‘blow’ on?!?!?!?!?!

    1. Eddie Irvine
      2nd April 2010, 14:46

      I noticed that too. Maybe they have enough money just for the front of the f-duct system… This should be an F-Duct, can’t be anything else

      1. any chance you could provide a link? I’m afraid I can’t find it…

      2. Did you spot the one on the Mercedes? right behind the front suspension fork on both sides of the body, or are they just ducts for cooling the drivers as Mercedes have no shark fin?

    2. Maybe they blow it out the diffuser, or something. But since that duct is not raised out of the boundary-layer like McLaren’s, I doubt the purpose of that hole is to channel high speed air. I wonder what the legal limits are on that scoop, and whether we will soon see giant snorkels on cars—and drivers with gigantic knee-pads.

      1. Eddie Irvine
        2nd April 2010, 18:06

        McLaren have said that rival teams haven’t fully understand the use of the f-duct, so they just experiement with holes on the bodywork. The air could be blowned through the rear wing support( McLaren used to have two, but now has only one fatter, maybe it’s a channel for the air)

        1. If anyone understands the F-duct it’s probably the master of aero, Adrian Newey. I expect we’ll see one show up on the Bulls before too long.

  8. These graphs are priceless now. It looks like Ferrari have strong high-weight pace again. However, the whole race is not run at 1900 lbs. And we have no evidence that they have the ability to run away from the field in the final third after nursing their tires. This folklore will expire after this race. Also the McLarens get four solid shots to use that F-Duct on lap one and if they qualify up front it will a long day behind them for Alonso. Given that the McLarens do lack downforce, this pace must be coming from the knee, and I expect those speed trap numbers to be shocking— and the hopes of drafting past them accordingly will be slim.

  9. If the McLarens have the lap times to pass anyone on Sunday, those two straights will really help. Lap after lap we saw Hamilton close in on Kubica on Melbourne’s curved straights and then get no closer, because they were effectively cornering and the slipstream became dirty air.

    Two long straights and the F-duct will help them out very nicely.

  10. Something wrong here, I think you have di Resta and Sutil mixed up.

  11. “Ferrari continued doing a lot of high-fuel running in the second part of qualifying. In the second session Alonso’s best time on the soft tyres was 1.4 seconds slower than Hamilton’s, which might be read as a sign they’re in trouble, but I doubt it.”

    I’m afraid, it isn’t quali yet! And for that time he set with the soft tyres (1.4 secs off to Hamilton), he was using one of his old set of tyres which he used for a heavy fuel run and we don’t know how old they were!

    BTW, the article is exceptional, hats off to you!

    1. Seeing the difference between the Renaults and the RB’s, Renaults new F-duct seems to be working.

      I can’t remember the difference being there in Australia or Bahrain.

      1. U can check it out in the same link, just instead of Malaysia, press Australia or Bahrein

    2. The McLaren’s have 6.5 kph over the next competitive car, Rosberg, and more than 9 kph over the Ferrari. This is terminal speed, so tire and fuel should not be at issue here.

      1. dont make any decisions until wet Q ends :)

      2. To get to the point where the ‘F-Duct’ makes an aerodynamic diference, first the cars must attain that velocity.

        The ‘Duct’ advantage is displayed at the higher end of the speed scale and then, only at the end of the long straights. That is, to deploy this advantage (when the others have effectively hit the aero ‘wall’), the McLaren’s must still accelerate efficiently up to that speed. This is where tyre use and cornering speeds enter into the equation.

        Since the competitors are generally geared/aero’d to max out near the braking points, the Maccas must still employ effective cornering exits to utilze this advantage to the point where it shall provide sufficient staight line advantage to accomplish the overtake.

        Now, this velocity advantage may allow McLaren to alter their gearing/aero options, but then, the lessoned aero will prohibit braking that may not be as efficient as a rivals upon entry to the after-straight corner.

        And, the resultant loss of aero drag is only felt in clean air, as the slip-streaming effect accomplishes the same thing.

        ‘Course, your mileage may differ …

        1. I must disagree. My reading of the system is that it’s injecting extra air below the rear wing. Since F1 cars are effectively upside down airplane wings, they’re using this air to change the “attack angle” of the rear wing and cause it to stop working entirely.

          That eliminates downforce from the rear of the car but it also eliminates the drag. The beauty of it seems to be it’ll work at any speed since the faster the car moves, the more air is forced through the duct at a comparable rate to the car’s speed.

          Look up aerodynamic stall of airplane wings on google. Wiki is a good start. They’ve really pulled one out of a hat here.

          I still don’t quite understand how they’re ducting all that air from the nose of the car to the rear bodywork via a control by the driver’s left hand or leg. Seems hellishly convoluted to me.

    3. Cool I didn’y realise F1.com had those. And look who’s top…

      1. I also didnt knew that there can be found top speeds in Free practises

  12. Just published in my twitter page statistic about FP1. It is called ”Laps in 101%” . Keith sometimes publishes such info.

    1. What is that supposed to show? The number of light fuel laps they attempted?

      1. Ho many laps are in 101% from personal best, so myb how persistant driver is :)

  13. Interesting to see how Vettel’s speed was much worse than the top guys and still place himself in the front row.

    1. True. Last year, Button took pole but was 5kph off the top speed mark in qualifying. And the horrible Renaults were generally fastest. The fastest cars rarely have the best lap times. Actually, the backmarkers often have crazy top speed. So it’s remarkable to have both top speed and overall performance at any stage of a weekend. I’m not sure McLaren will keep ahead in qualifying, but if they do, the next race will see more scoops than a Baskin Robbins.

    2. Sush Meerkat
      3rd April 2010, 0:08

      top speed isn’t an indicator of a good lap, take Luca Badeor from last year, he was the fastest guy through Eau Rouge by about 15 KPH.

  14. I knew that would happen, Button said he doesn’t expect miracles in Malaysia, but I thought that if this F-duct was so special it would have a big advantage on the long parallel straights of Sepang!

  15. nice too see lotus improving.. i still think there car is a bit of a bath tub compared to the other though :\

  16. Superb analysis, Keith.

  17. The speed trap figures are influenced hugely by setup choices.

    If the Red Bull cars decide to run with more downforce they could make up a ton of time in the corners while losing some on the straight. Doesn’t mean they could get the same speed trap figures if they adjusted thei wings.

    Last year in FP2 Nelsinho set the fastest speed at 308km/h. 4km/h faster than Vettel with 304

    In FP@ 2010, Hamilton sets a speed of 303 and Button 296. 7kph faster. Does that mean that Button doesn’t have an F-Duct anymore?

    1. Good point. I think Lewis was on a slippery, low fuel set-up when he did his fastest times. Most of the other drivers, IMO, did not do stints like that.

  18. It would be cool if you colour coded the practice lap times so each driver had their own colour. It would make it easy to visualize a particular drivers dominance or a lack thereof.

  19. I think Macca and Lewis (and Brawn er… I mean Merc too) are looking for new sponsors or new managers or something the way they’ve been going for lap times in Practice thus far this season.

  20. Looking at practice it seems like that Mclaren & Mercedes are back with the big boys.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.