It was raining earlier in the morning before FP1, therefore the tarmac was a bit soaked but not enough to use the intermediates. In Free Practice 1, Lewis Hamilton topped the time-sheets with his quickest lap on the medium compound of 1 minute 21.633 seconds. Team-mate Rosberg however, was seventh fastest, behind a majority of the lot who did sprint runs. From what it appears, the German was probably running different simulation programmes. But he was the second fastest on the medium compound after Lewis, although the difference was about seven tenths. All the other cars between these two were all on softer compound tyres. Seven-tenths of a gap between Lewis and Rosberg is irrelevant, as one lap pace on medium compound tyres doesn’t matter, as compared to the one lap pace on supersofts or softs, which matters in qualifying. In the sector times, Vettel dominated Sector 1 and 2, with a time of 27.952 seconds and 31.784 seconds, while Sergio Perez was the fastest in Sector 3 with a time of 21.013 seconds.
Lewis was followed by the two Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel with the second fastest time and Kimi Raikkonen with the third fastest time. However, the Ferraris clocked their quick times on the supersoft tyres, so theres not much to read into that P2 and P3 and they were probably running lighter fuel loads too. The key giveaway was Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India which was very close to Ferrari in their timings on the same compound. The Red Bulls were a bit lost in the first session with Daniel being eighth fastest whereas Max with fourteenth fastest time. The Dutch also had an early exit from the session due to a brake fire.
In FP2, the Ferraris and Mercs looked very close. Sebastian clocked the fastest lap of the session on supersoft compounds with a time of 1 minute19.790 second. He was followed by Lewis who also clocked his quickest time on the super softs, 0.004 seconds adrift Vettel’s. Rosberg was third fastest with a time of 1 minute 20.225 seconds on the supersofts while Raikkonen followed with the fourth fastest time 0.34 seconds behind him. The key takeaway here is clear that on tracks with the long straits, the Ferrari can be very efficient by using a flat wing, and they can take a couple of tenths of the Merc on similar compounds there. But on tracks like Austin where the wing is at an upward or slightly tilted angle, they suffer more than most cars on the track. The Red Bulls seemed slow with Daniel’s time which was the fifth fastest and Max’s was seventh fastest. However, on tracks with long-straits like Montreal or here, the Red Bull start staggering as they have too much drag and look underpowered in these track conditions.
In the sectors, initially Vettel was the fastest in all three, until Lewis clocked his quick lap on the supersofts, in an attempt to improvise his time from the softs. Hamilton was fastest in Sector 1 and 2 with a time of 27.6 seconds and 31.1 seconds respectively. While in Sebastian remained strong in Sector 3, with a time of 20.7 seconds. In this session one could see how close the Ferraris and Mercs were on their times on the supersoft compounds. Sebastian completed two long stints on the mediums too. However, the reason for the two front-running teams being that close on the suppressants was, the softer the compound the better the Ferrari looks, and supersoft is not the best compound with the Mercedes on a track of this nature with low temperatures.
So for qualifying tomorrow, the two Mercs can turn their engines up to a higher power mode to get one-lap pace and take pole. Therefore ideally, the prediction would be the front-row lockout for the Mercs and second row for the Ferraris, Third row could be a mix of the Red Bulls and maybe even the Force India’s or it would be a lockout for the two Bulls. The only alternate scenario possible is one Ferrari each in both rows splitting the Mercs, similar two the FP2 classification. But both one-lap pace on the supersoft and long-run pace on mediums for the Red Bull’s looked scrappy, their times were almost irrelevant to the close battle in the front. Another surprise performance from both the Force India’s should be on the cards, with Mexico being home ground for Perez and some of the partners, associated with Force India. Going into the race will the Ferrari’s play spoiler in the title-run? or be the unpredictable factor in the mix of race results, remains to be seen, and will only be determined after qualifying tomorrow.