After I closed my computer and before left the circuit yesterday, I had the time to sit around at Sauber hospitality and i got introduced to a 1997 World Champion- Jacques Villeneueve. The Canadian has been a legend since my younger years of following Formula 1. Dropping by the Sauber paddock is almost a ritual at every Thursday and Friday of the Grand Prix, they are becoming my new favorites for 2016 after Force India.
Today has been a contrast of yesterday weather wise, its been raining all day with the sun out only for a few seconds and crosswinds across the track. Free Practice session one saw Lewis Hamilton topping the timesheet and the same followed in the second session. The weather played a major role throughout the day. Nico Rosberg spun off in the second session 2 with Nico Huldenberg taking second place on the timesheet behind Hamilton.
The practice sessions involved quick times on various tyre compounds, mostly the drivers were on wet tyres. Post the sessions various media events carried on at every team building as usual. However the most deserted hospitality was Force India. Since i was the only journalist waiting for the media session to start I got a five minute slot with Sergio Perez (shall give a full transcript later). The Mexican didn’t seem too delighted with the new qualifying rules and expressed his views about it.
Post-race press conference had all the Team Principals sitting there but most of the buzz was about the radio clampdown, new qualy rules and the pecking order. American team principal Gene Haas debut at a Friday press con was the highlight of the session.
At the end of the day while strolling across the paddock, i got introduced to Helmut Marko and Pascal Wehrlein (Manor driver / DTM champion). Most of the day involved following the sessions and trying to understand the new qualy format after being briefed by fellow journalists and Charlie Whiting.
The rumour of the day has been about two drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. If yesterday’s joke between Vettel and Ricciardo had to be taken seriously, the grapevine says the Red Bull driver might make a move to Ferrari in 2017. If Ricciardo moves to Ferrari, Verstappen is likely to fill the second seat at Red Bull and as far as Kimi Raikkonen goes, his contract is in the open and renewed only till the end of 2016. Most people say this might be his last year in Formula 1 as a driver. Speculation has been rife after the Thursday Press Conference and Sauber’s financial woes have been another talking point.
While I was waiting at the Force India building Bob Fernley was interviewed by the Channel 4 team and questioned about Vijay Mallya’s absence. According to that interview Bob dodged most of the questions saying Vijay didn’t intend on attending the initial few races and would join in by the Spanish GP. Another statement was made that it was only a media storm and there is yet to be an official ruling on the crisis faced by Vijay on the Kingfisher problem, also being made clear that it did not affect Force India as a team.
An entertaining day with dominating Mercedes pace, but in race mode Ferrari and other teams do seem to be closing the gap with the Silver Arrows. Its still very difficult to determine the pecking order. Tomorrow’s qualifying should have more giveaways.
Here’s an interesting way of looking at the season opener the Red Bull Racing way: