Friday practice in Baku was a stop/start affair after one session was called off early due to a loose drain cover and another was interrupted by 2 Red flags.
Things got off to a bad start when, after 13 mins of FP1 a drain cover came loose and ripped the floor of George Russell’s Williams to pieces. Such are the aerodynamic forces acting on an F1 car that the drain cover was literally sucked from its mountings by the low air pressure generated by the floor of the car.
At 320km/h, the suction generated by the front wing has the ability to lift an object of over 110kg and at the front of the floor the suction generated by the underneath of the car could lift an object as heavy as 200kg. An inspection of the aftermath revealed that the underside mounting of the drain cover had corroded, and as a result the heavy metal disk came loose as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc passed over it and fully displaced as Mr. Russell followed him.
The drain covers had been checked prior to the session, and the 1st F 2 practice session took place without incident, but short of lifting every drain cover up and remounting it, there was no way of checking whether drain cover would withstand the extreme forces of an F1 car. The result was a cracked chassis for Williams and a cancelled session for everyone else as circuit workers set about making further checks on the 300-plus drain covers dotted around the track.
“Surprisingly it didn’t hurt at all going over that,” Mr. Russell said afterwards. “It set the fire extinguisher off in the car, and that was so cold I thought something was burning!
“I was lucky. If the impact was 10 or 15 millimetres higher it’s going straight into where I am sat, so it could have been much worse, but a shame for all the guys.
“You’ve got your full programme, plans for the weekend and it all gets thrown down the drain, literally.”
Deputy team principal Claire Williams was clearly upset about the situation, but following an explanation from race director Michael Masi accepted that such things can happen on street circuits.
“My reaction is probably not a surprising one, I am pretty annoyed,” she said. “However, we have had it explained to us, the circumstances around the manhole and what’s happened. I don’t necessarily believe it’s probably anybody’s fault, but still it’s pretty disappointing for us. It just seems like it’s one thing after another for our team at the moment. However, it’s happened, we’ve got to repair the damage.
“Our chassis is cracked so we have got to revert to chassis 3, the floor is a write-off, and we’ve got some other small bits of damage around the car. The guys are obviously working pretty hard to make sure that we deploy chassis three; we clearly will not get out for 2nd practice and George will just have to get all his learnings in tomorrow.”
The rest of the field had 2nd practice to get to grips with the track, but with next to no running during FP1 session the circuit was very dusty.
Over short runs Ferrari had a clear pace advantage.Over 0.6secs separated Mr. Leclerc in the fastest Ferrari and Mr. Hamilton in the fastest MercedesAMG, but the track conditions were improving at such a rate that it made it hard to trust the gaps with any certainty.
Mr. Leclerc set his fastest time on the 3rd flying lap of his low-fuel run, when normally the first flying lap would yield the peak amount of grip from the tires and best lap time. That is partly down to the low levels of degradation experienced by Pirelli’s tires in Baku, but also the cool conditions in the late afternoon that made it hard to get generate tyre temperature with just a single out lap. Add to that the unforgiving nature of the circuit and the difficulty of hooking up all 20 corners in 1 go, and only a lap like Mr. Leclerc’s fastest attempt will shine on a day like today.
“It is very tight, very technical and very difficult, so you have to be very precise,” Mr. Leclerc said. “As soon as you make a mistake in one corner you are late for all the others, so maybe it fits my driving style better than other tracks. But overall it has gone well, and I hope tomorrow will be a good day for me.”
Messrs Leclerc and Hamilton both appeared to hook up good laps based on the onboard footage from both cars.
Sebastian Vettet looked less at home with his car, struggling to get on the throttle as early as his teammate through the tighter section around the castle. But with Ferrari holding a 0.4sec advantage on the straights alone, Mr. Hamilton believes it will be hard for MercedesAMG to make up the full gap to their rivals on Saturday afternoon.
The fairest comparison between Ferrari and MercedesAMG appeared to be between Mr. Vettel on an 11-lap run on the medium tires and Mr. Hamilton over a nine-lap run on the same compound.
“They [Mercedes] were quite fast in the race run,” Mr. Leclerc said. “So I expect them to be there for the quali run too when they put everything together [on low fuel].”
Ferrari is the Aristocrat of the automotive sector.
The iconic Italian Supercar manufacturer claimed the title according to the latest Brand Finance Global 500 2019 report launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
HeffX-LTN overall technical outlook for RACE is Bullish across the board, and there is very little resistance here and none above 140.26. All of our Key indicators are Very Bullish in here.
Tune in and enjoy the racing this weekend