High temperatures and an abrasive surface in Spain.

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High temperatures and an abrasive surface in Spain.

Eight different drivers have won in Spain over the last eight years, which means that the Spanish Grand Prix is actually much more competitive than most people think.

The free practice sessions in Barcelona today put the contained wear and degradation of the 2015 Pirelli Formula One compounds in evidence, underlining the trend that was initially seen at the Spanish circuit during pre-season testing.

Improvements to the rear tyre structure for 2015 have helped distribute heat and forces more evenly, limiting wear and degradation despite the fact that the latest generation of hybrid turbocharged cars are putting out even more torque than last year.

As a result the front-left tyre was once more the limiting factor during free practice, held in track temperatures in excess of 50 degrees centigrade, and this is expected to remain the case for the rest of the weekend. Last year, the notoriously abrasive Montmelo circuit was rear-limited, but this trend was already reversed during the pre-season Barcelona tests in February.

The two hardest tyres in the range, P Zero Orange hard and P Zero White medium, have been selected for the Spanish Grand Prix, and during the first free practice session this morning the teams used only the harder compound, as stipulated by the rules.
They used the medium tyre for the first time during the second session this afternoon, resulting in lap times that were more than a second faster, depending on individual teams and set-up. The teams used the second session, held in temperatures close to 30 degrees centigrade, to assess the behaviour of both compounds on different fuel loads. This is unlikely to change significantly between now and Sunday, as Barcelona traditionally has a relatively low degree of track evolution.

The qualifying simulation was particularly important, as 11 out of the last 13 races in Barcelona have been won from pole position. This makes it the circuit that has the highest conversion rate of pole positions to victories – also thanks to a very low incidence of safety cars.

Mercedes dominated both free practice sessions, with Nico Rosberg going fastest in FP1 on the hard tyre, and then Lewis Hamilton raising the bar on the faster medium tyre in FP2.

Eight different drivers have won in Spain over the last eight years, which means that the Spanish Grand Prix is actually much more competitive than most people think. The only drivers to have won the race twice are Fernando Alonso (2006, 2013) and Kimi Raikkonen (2005, 2008). Lewis Hamilton, who went fastest today, has been on the podium for 11 races in a row now: the longest such run of his career.

Paul Hembery: “The conditions we had in free practice were quite different to what we experienced during pre-season testing, with much higher track and ambient temperatures today, but we have seen the same basic trends confirmed. The work we carried out on the 2015 rear structure has clearly paid dividends, with much less wear and degradation seen on the rears compared to last year, despite higher energy loads. Consequently, we are probably looking at a two-stop race for the majority of competitors. The teams know this track so well that the competition is incredibly close. So it’s obvious that even the smallest advantage when it comes to tyre management could translate into quite a significant gain on track.”

FP1:
1. Rosberg 1m26.828s
2. Hamilton 1m26.898s
3. Vettel 1m27.806s

FP2:
1. Hamilton 1m26.852s
2. Vettel 1m27.260s
3. Rosberg 1m27.616s

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