It was advantage Nico Rosberg on Friday as he dominated the two practice sessions at the Austrian Grand Prix. There’s a lot of work for a worried Lewis Hamilton this weekend as he attempts to again close the gap on his Mercedes team mate.
Hamilton isn’t just worried about the fact Rosberg has a 24 point lead over him. This season has been a worrying time for him concerning the ability of his car’s engine. Several problems already have hit him hard during practice, qualifying and the races itself. Time is running out for Hamilton and he just can’t afford for those problems to continue.
Why? Well cars are only allowed five changes to the six parts of an engine. Go over that number and it’s grid penalty time and that can cost you points as you start from back on the grid, especially If Rosberg is in dominant form.
Hamilton has seen his car endure five changes to two parts for this race and said this week, “We are putting in the last new engine this weekend and so at least one race I will start last and will need a sixth and even a seventh engine.” He has plenty of reason not just to worry but to sit and wonder ‘why me?’ There are seven other drivers who have Mercedes engines in their car and it’s only the defending world champion who is suffering major problems and he’s not happy about it. “If there are 40 engines then you’d hope that we would have the best ones. Everyone else is on their normal plan and have four engines left. There’s nothing I can do about it, it is what it is. I hope Mercedes learn from it and from the faults on mine.”
To Austria now and more problems for Hamilton as Rosberg had a great Friday finishing fastest in both practice sessions. The German was 0.357 seconds than Hamilton in the first session. Not a great time for Lewis with a spin and the safety car getting in the way of his best lap, it’s really not his year perhaps? Ferrari were close behind in that first practice with Vettel third and Raikkonen fourth followed by Daniel Ricciardo in his Red Bull. Not such a good time for rising star Max Verstappen who paid a visit to the gravel trap and broke the front suspension.
Controversy was raging over the new yellow kerbs that prevent drivers abusing track limits. An upset Verstappen had two words for those, “really dangerous.”
Bad news for Vettel though after his Ferrari had to have a new gearbox fitted so that’s a five-place grid penalty for this race.
The second practice session saw Rosberg fastest again with rain affecting performances. Rosberg was only 0.019 of a second faster than his team mate, I wonder just how far you can travel in 0.019 of a second? Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was in third with Vettel back in fourth, though like Verstappen before him he now has personal experience of the gravel trap. Not exactly a promising conversation with his team followed that: “I don’t know what happened there. I just lost the car completely when I touched the brakes.” Perhaps it’s not his weekend either.
Rain is forecast for the race on Sunday so an interesting weekend looks likely in Austria. I’ll be back with a report after qualifying, until then enjoy your racing.