The tyres this weekend are medium and hard.
The Lotus seems like it may run the double-DRS, finally. This is basically a device to reduce drag on straights, enabling the team to run more downforce generally (the rear wing gets stalled by air flow that enters via two slots either side of the main air intake above the driver’s head when there’s low pressure under the front wing. I think).
Showery, wet-dry weather is expected throughout the weekend. Whilst lower downforce will ease overtaking in the race it will also make a car suffer more from the slippery conditions if the track becomes wet.
P1 began with the track mostly wet but partly dry. Running was limited and on intermediates. The track half-dried out, enough for hard tyres to be used but not enough for times to be considered representative of pace.
Alonso as fastest, ahead of Di Resta, Sutil, Perez, Rosberg, Vettel, Gutierrez, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, with Bottas rounding out the top 10.
Commentary suggested a low or high downforce setup could work, but that lower downforce was better for the race as it enables more overtaking whereas higher downforce is better for qualifying (faster overall) but makes passing harder. With 1-2 pit stops expected getting stuck behind someone could ruin a race.
Happily P2 was entirely dry. Vettel suffered some sort of tyre failure with his right rear (the most loaded tyre on this circuit). Unidentified cause as yet but the tyre held together pretty well, certainly compared to the dramatic disintegrations seen as Silverstone. Vettel and Webber were fastest, a clear eight-tenths ahead of Grosjean. He was followed by Massa, Vergne, Raikkonen, Alonso, Perez, Rosberg and Di Resta.
At this point Red Bull do seem fastest but whether that eight-tenths margin is true to life or not is hard to say. The cars immediately behind them are fairly tightly clustered together.
On Friday morning the puncture to Vettel’s tyre (and Alonso’s, the Spaniard suffering a similar situation in P2) was attributed by Pirelli to a piece of metal found at turn 13 which matched the size of the punctures.
The forecast for qualifying is a more than 50% chance of pretty substantial rainfall.
At the start of P3 the Lotuses had removed the double-DRS and blocked up the mini-intakes either side of the main air intake above the driver’s head, which is a shame. During the session in an interview Toto Wolff was asked about ‘even his car’ struggling to get temperature into the tyres, which suggests the Mercedes should be ok on their tyres.
Vettel was fastest in P3, just a tenth ahead of Alonso. Webber was close behind in third, then Vergne, Massa, Button, Gutierrez, Grosjean, Rosberg and Raikkonen. Ferrari seem to have improved since Friday, with Lotus and Mercedes dropping back.
It’s possible that Mercedes were sandbagging, as they’ve done in the past before plucking pole from under the nose of Red Bull, but I’m not sure that’s the case.
Because rain is probable for qualifying (and I’m pushed for time) I’m not offering a tip for it. My expectation is a Vettel pole, with McLaren reaching Q3 and Toro Rosso to do fairly well.