At first look, Ferrari, Renault upgrades look like winners

I’ll leave this opinion to Lewis Hamilton:

The first session looked quite good for us. But it was always going to be interesting to see how quickly the blown-diffuser cars could get up to speed – and they looked very competitive this afternoon, particularly over a single lap. And the grip they appear to have through the high-speed stuff could make them difficult for us to touch. Nevertheless, I still think our race pace will be good, and we’ll keep pushing: this weekend is all about us taking as much as we can from the blown-diffuser cars while they have an advantage.

That’s Lewis following the first couple of practice sessions at this weekend’s European Grand Prix. In other words: It looks like we can ready ourselves for a fight.

It could be one that McLaren is a little ill prepared for, as the team has its next big upgrades ready for the British Grand Prix. Here’s Jenson Button on that issue:

I’m reasonably happy, but there are a lot of quick cars out there. The Ferraris look very fast; so do the Red Bulls, Renaults and Mercedes. But that’s because teams bring out upgrade packages at different points during the season, and we don’t have an upgrade for here, and many teams do.

I didn’t predict a McLaren run-away, did I? Maybe I misjudged the upgrades, and it wouldn’t be the first time.

Of course, that’s just what the McLaren boys have to say. How about the guys behind the wheels of Renault and Ferrari? First up, Fernando Alonso:

The F10 has turned out to be easy to drive and competitive in every situation, both with low and high fuel loads, but it is too early to say where we are: this morning, the McLarens were very quick, the Red Bulls are always on front running pace and even Mercedes and Renault are very close. However, our only aim is to be ahead of everyone, otherwise we wouldn’t be Ferrari.

A little bit cautious, much like his team mate, Felipe Massa:

The track was very dirty, which makes it difficult to understand exactly how much the new parts which we used for the first time today have improved the performance of the car. I never managed to get a clean lap when I was on new tyres with low fuel and this explains my position on the time sheet. Nevertheless, I am pleased with the handling of my car. I think we have made a step forward in performance terms and that we should be competitive this weekend: I hope I can fight for a place on the top rows.

Cautious, cautious. But that’s a heck of a lot more forthcoming than the Renault duo. First up, Robert Kubica:

It was a fairly normal Friday for us and we managed to do quite a lot of laps to understand the car and the new developments that we have for this race. It was quite easy to evaluate the new parts and I was able to feel the difference with the car. Track conditions were pretty good, overall: it was quite dusty to begin with, but things improved a lot during the day.

And then Vitaly Petrov, who at least seems to be learning from Kubica off track, if not on:

I had driven here before in GP2, but today was my first experience of Valencia in an F1 car. Obviously it feels very different and I had to adapt my driving style. We had a lot of new parts to try out so the car felt quite different and I spent the sessions getting used to that and understanding the car’s behaviour. Overall the car felt okay, but we’re still working on the set-up and will continue that tomorrow morning.

C’mon, guys. We want to know if the car is faster or not. Can’t you give us a little something? Anything? Maybe chief race engineer Alan Permane can enlighten us:

The cars started the day aerodynamically very similar and both cars ran with the new blown floor. By the end of the day they were both running with a reasonably similar set-up, although Robert tried a different downforce level towards the end of the day, which he preferred. We will look at the data tonight to decide whether we will try it with Vitaly tomorrow. We had a good look at our new parts today, including our first iteration of the blown floor. The data was encouraging and it seems to be working as the wind tunnel and CFD predicted. We expect to continue running with our updates for the rest of the weekend.

Fine. Fine. We’ll just have to wait until qualifying.

One final note, though. The Red Bulls both seemed surprisingly fast on a track they weren’t expecting to do very well at. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s Sebastian Vettel:

Overall a good day, we did a lot of laps, we didn’t have any problem with the car so we could follow our programme like it should be on a Friday. We need to see if we keep the F-duct in the car, we need to confirm that, but all in all I think the pace was promising today considering this shouldn’t be our strongest track. We did a step forward with the whole car – it was a good day for us.

Sounds like they are going to spend tonight figuring out if they will use the F-duct in the race. I’m guessing they will.

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