Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Korea International Circuit, 2012

Hamilton struggling, Ferrari confident in Korea

2012 Korean Grand Prix Friday practice analysisPosted on Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton went from the top of the times in the first practice session to struggling in the second as track conditions changed in Korea.

Things seemed to go better for Ferrari. Although they couldn’t match Red Bull’s sheer one-lap pace they declared themselves pleased with their race stint performance.

Here’s the data from the first two practice sessions for the Korean Grand Prix.

Longest stint comparison

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint:

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/2012drivercolours.csv

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Sebastian Vettel 106.259 106.398 106.339 106.259 106.258 106.394 111.783 105.959 105.778 114.446 105.641 106.434
Mark Webber 106.572 106.28 107.82 106.691 106.678 106.636 106.481 106.267 106.414 106.13 110.666
Jenson Button 106.519 105.868 106.005 105.717 106.152 105.75 105.54 105.705 104.946 105.827 108.954 106.133
Lewis Hamilton 112.562 109.474 100.072 118.218 99.816
Fernando Alonso 105.909 105.935 105.69 105.41 105.803 105.399 104.975
Felipe Massa 105.314 105.641 106.235 105.703 106.031 105.574 105.646 105.8 105.863
Michael Schumacher 107.349 107.462 107.394 107.411 107.352 108.782 107.1 106.937 107.051
Nico Rosberg 106.56 106.835 107.033 106.813 107.452 109.124 107.32 107.418 108.09 107.933 108.971
Kimi Raikkonen 107.416 106.837 106.211 106.483 106.458 106.219 105.751 106.62
Romain Grosjean 106.227 105.978 106.174 106.928 106.606 110.439 106.307 106.157 106.223
Paul di Resta 106.66 106.666 106.423 106.336 106.388 106.253 106.295 106.121 106.786
Nico Hulkenberg 107.343 106.597 106.273 106.532 106.428 106.522 111.813 105.879 111.01 106.196 106.142
Kamui Kobayashi 107.693 108.886 106.809 107.559 107.408 106.916
Sergio Perez 102.276 100.745 115.054 107.53 100.842 101.048
Daniel Ricciardo 107.535 107.452 106.86 110.565 107.434 107.173 107.173 110.613 107.251
Jean-Eric Vergne 109.111 108.444 108.374 107.978 108.083 107.776 111.932 107.589 107.459 115.422 107.888
Pastor Maldonado 111.95 108.203 108.133 108.975 108.471 108.326 108.439 107.794 108.752 108.559 109.211
Bruno Senna 107.064 106.455 106.47 106.696 106.749 106.152 105.895
Heikki Kovalainen 107.355 109.444 107.401 107.306 107.241 110.234 107.376
Vitaly Petrov 107.366 107.447 108.142 107.898 108.613 108.388 108.508
Pedro de la Rosa 110.634 108.448 109.396 113.453 108.964 108.251 108.139
Narain Karthikeyan 115.306 111.983 107.925 107.909 108.609 108.844 107.816 108.98 108.604 108.49
Timo Glock 108.06 108.066 107.395 112.451
Charles Pic 105.424 109.665 103.636 115.675 103.066 119.162

Following today’s practice sessions Sebastian Vettel said “I think we have to improve ourselves to match the others”. On the face of it, given his 0.3s advantage over the next non-Red Bull in second practice, that seems a tad pessimistic.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Korea International Circuit, 2012Perhaps Vettel has concerns over Red Bull’s race pace. As the graph above shows Ferrari, McLaren and Lotus were quicker during their long runs at the end of second practice.

Of course we don’t know how much fuel was in their cars. But Vettel will know how much was in his, and therefore whether he might have cause for concern.

Certainly the other three teams all improved their lap times at a faster rate on the long run: see Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen’s time lines, and note Button was still quicker than Vettel after a dozen laps at that pace.

Ferrari have reasons to be positive about their race prospects as sporting director Massimo Rivola explained: “Today went well and our race pace seems pretty strong on both the soft and the super-soft tyre. But we have to remember that tyre degradation and even blistering can be a problem here. However, it?s the same situation for everybody and we look particularly competitive on the soft.

The weather conditions are warmer in Korea than they have been previously on F1’s previous two visits, and they are set to stay that way. Warm temperatures plus soft tyres is a combination Lotus have thrived on in previous races.

Trackside operations director Alan Permane indicated his team could be one to watch over a race stint: “Both drivers reported that they were very happy with the balance of the car when on high fuel loads and degradation levels look manageable from the tyres so it?s been a productive first day.”

Meanwhile Sauber discovered their car prefers the harder of the two compounds: “Generally speaking the soft tyre compound is definitely the better one for us,” said head of track engineering Giampaolo Dall?Ara. “We have to look deeper into the data to find solutions on how to manage the super-softs.”

However Vitaly Petrov’s attempts to compare both types of tyre were compromised: “[Second practice] didn?t start as we?d have liked as I could almost immediately feel like we had a right rear puncture.

“We cut run one short and when I got back in the garage we found we did have a puncture so we changed the session plan to avoid using up another set of the soft tyres. On my first run on the super-softs the balance wasn?t quite there so we made a couple of mechanical changes and they definitely improved the handling on the long run.”

Sector times and ultimate lap times

Car Driver Car Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3 Ultimate lap Gap Deficit to best
1 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 34.548 (4) 43.486 (3) 20.717 (2) 1’38.751 0.081
2 2 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 34.705 (9) 43.456 (2) 20.621 (1) 1’38.782 0.031 0.082
3 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 34.713 (10) 43.367 (1) 20.959 (4) 1’39.039 0.288 0.180
4 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 34.619 (6) 43.691 (6) 20.850 (3) 1’39.160 0.409 0.000
5 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 34.504 (3) 43.651 (5) 21.009 (5) 1’39.164 0.413 0.258
6 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 34.443 (1) 43.612 (4) 21.142 (8) 1’39.197 0.446 0.133
7 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 34.715 (11) 43.716 (7) 21.134 (7) 1’39.565 0.814 0.152
8 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 34.473 (2) 43.891 (10) 21.220 (13) 1’39.584 0.833 0.000
9 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 34.593 (5) 43.800 (9) 21.346 (15) 1’39.739 0.988 0.000
10 11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 34.662 (8) 43.979 (12) 21.176 (12) 1’39.817 1.066 0.295
11 9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 34.883 (16) 43.790 (8) 21.147 (9) 1’39.820 1.069 0.019
12 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 34.823 (13) 43.961 (11) 21.173 (11) 1’39.957 1.206 0.000
13 19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 34.833 (14) 43.999 (13) 21.160 (10) 1’39.992 1.241 0.097
14 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 35.070 (19) 44.074 (14) 21.089 (6) 1’40.233 1.482 0.212
15 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 34.761 (12) 44.548 (16) 21.226 (14) 1’40.535 1.784 0.210
16 16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 34.882 (15) 44.333 (15) 21.519 (17) 1’40.734 1.983 0.263
17 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 34.639 (7) 44.574 (17) 21.576 (18) 1’40.789 2.038 0.000
18 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 34.991 (17) 44.574 (17) 21.436 (16) 1’41.001 2.250 0.199
19 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 35.028 (18) 44.689 (19) 21.695 (19) 1’41.412 2.661 0.190
20 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 35.466 (21) 45.167 (21) 21.861 (20) 1’42.494 3.743 0.102
21 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 35.462 (20) 45.133 (20) 22.017 (22) 1’42.612 3.861 0.455
22 25 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 35.726 (22) 45.187 (22) 21.949 (21) 1’42.862 4.111 0.204
23 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 35.772 (23) 45.539 (23) 22.360 (23) 1’43.671 4.920 0.198
24 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 35.796 (24) 46.133 (24) 22.380 (24) 1’44.309 5.558 0.224

Button’s sector times suggest McLaren may be closer to Red Bull than it appears, but both he and Hamilton are lacking speed in the first sector.

Complete practice times

Pos Driver Car FP1 Total laps
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’40.088 1’38.832 54
2 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’39.575 1’38.864 54
3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1’39.148 1’39.717 48
4 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’39.450 1’39.160 49
5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’40.480 1’39.219 50
6 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’40.221 1’39.330 52
7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’39.854 1’39.422 53
8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’40.396 1’39.584 60
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1’39.739 33
10 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1’40.929 1’39.839 40
11 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1’40.422 1’39.957 50
12 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1’40.089 32
13 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1’40.440 1’40.112 53
14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1’41.220 1’40.445 47
15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1’41.514 1’40.745 31
16 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’42.021 1’40.789 56
17 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’41.596 1’40.997 55
18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1’41.048 1’41.200 58
19 Jules Bianchi Force India-Mercedes 1’41.140 21
20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1’42.104 1’41.602 47
21 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1’42.027 23
22 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1’42.175 1’42.596 41
23 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1’42.708 1’43.066 43
24 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1’42.820 19
25 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1’43.067 22
26 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1’43.869 36
27 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1’44.517 1’44.533 47
28 Dani Clos HRT-Cosworth 1’45.735 22

Hamilton went from fastest in first practice to eighth in the second session. He had problems with his set-up in Japan due to an undiagnosed problem on his car and is having trouble getting it dialled in again.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Korea International Circuit, 2012“I struggled a little bit with set-up today,” said Hamilton. “There was quite a big difference in feeling between [first practice] and [second practice], which we don?t fully understand yet. This morning?s session was fine, but I made some changes for the afternoon and wasn?t quite able to get a good time out of either [tyre].”

“So now we?ll work hard to figure out what direction we want to take. The Red Bulls look pretty quick, but Jenson wasn?t that far off their pace this afternoon. So that?s good. We?ll make some changes to the balance overnight, and hopefully we?ll be in better shape for tomorrow.

“As I say, this afternoon Jenson showed that our car has pace; all we need to do is fully extract it. If we can improve the balance overnight, I think we can be competitive.”

Pastor Maldonado could only manage 18th in the second session following a technical problem on his car.

Another driver who feels there is more to come from his car is Paul di Resta: “The long run pace looks quite competitive, but I don?t think my short run pace was representative because both my runs were compromised by traffic and I didn?t get a clean lap.”

Speed trap

# Driver Car Engine Max speed (kph) Gap
1 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Mercedes 320
2 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes Mercedes 319.5 0.5
3 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault 318.2 1.8
4 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 317.6 2.4
5 11 Paul di Resta Force India Mercedes 317.5 2.5
6 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso Ferrari 316.8 3.2
7 15 Sergio Perez Sauber Ferrari 316.5 3.5
8 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault 316.3 3.7
9 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Renault 316.2 3.8
10 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari Ferrari 316.1 3.9
11 16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso Ferrari 316 4
12 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber Ferrari 315.8 4.2
13 25 Charles Pic Marussia Cosworth 315.4 4.6
14 9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus Renault 315.4 4.6
15 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Ferrari 315 5
16 24 Timo Glock Marussia Cosworth 314.5 5.5
17 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham Renault 312.3 7.7
18 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham Renault 311.4 8.6
19 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT Cosworth 310.5 9.5
20 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT Cosworth 309.7 10.3
21 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams Renault 308.7 11.3
22 19 Bruno Senna Williams Renault 308.7 11.3
23 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren Mercedes 308.4 11.6
24 3 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes 308.3 11.7

Lotus ran their new Coanda exhaust on Kimi Raikkonen’s car. The previous version had been designed to extra maximum power from the engine and, in Romain Grosjean’s hands, it was quicker in a straight line. However if the Coanda exhaust allows them to generate more than enough downforce to make up for that it will be an upgrade that pays off.

Red Bull continue to show much-improved straight-line speed following the introduction of their much talked-about Double DRS.

The cause of McLaren’s poor times through the first sector is revealed to be the lowest top speeds out of all 24 cars. McLaren have already started using their eighth engine this year – if they use one more they will take an engine change penalty. Perhaps they had their practice units dialled down further to last longer?

2012 Korean Grand Prix

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Image ?? Red Bull/Getty images, McLaren/Hoch Zwei