Michael Schumacher has unsurprisingly been pressed further this weekend on his feelings about the Pirelli tyres that he was so critical of after Bahrain. Well, around Barcelona they continue to mystify the best engineering brains in Formula 1. Whether that's good or bad depends upon your viewpoint, for they are certainly contributing unpredictability, and that continued on Friday.
With all those engineering teams desperate to assess in competition the effectiveness of the upgrades made during the recent Mugello tests, the baffling behaviour of how the track and tyres seemed to be interacting made that difficult to judge. Unclouded skies had the track temperature at 32 degrees C already in free practice 1 - when teams were generally finding lots of understeer on the hard compound, against expectations - and a whopping 42C in the second session. This only increased understeer, particularly on the soft tyre.
But within that, a picture did begin to emerge from the Fan Vision laptime screens - one in which McLaren and Red Bull vied as fastest qualifiers, with Lotus looking comfortably the fastest racers. The Mercedes looked somewhere between the front and Lotus over one lap, but the slowest of the lead four teams over lots of them. The revised Ferraris appear still to be struggling for ultimate pace, looking set to fight for a place in Q3 with the likes of Sauber and Force India.
Jenson Button went out in the afternoon, complaining of incredible understeer, even after dialling it out of the car in the first session. As the track grip ramps up from both the heating and cleaning up of its surface, the car's grip increases both front and rear - but with the rear tyres being bigger the effect is greater, thereby increasing understeer. But this was beyond even that and Button was straight back in just one lap into his first afternoon run for more front wing. Upon rejoining, he reported the balance being at least as bad - and he returned again for a huge three-and-a-half turns of yet more front wing. That elusive front-end grip magically appeared - to the extent that Button was able to nail the fastest time of the day, by a significant margin.
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