There were no great surprises in the leader boards after Friday’s running. It is incredibly encouraging to see just how close the field appears to be. Mercedes are definitely not looking as though they are going to charge 2 seconds clear of the rest. There time for them to show their true colours, but I sense there is more to come from Ferrari too.
Hamilton “In a league of his own”
Ferrari and Mercedes are close, although I am sure both teams will have more to give in qualifying. The exact competition between the top two teams is still not clear. Hamilton produced an excellent performance which will now loom ominously over the rest of the paddock in the build up to qualifying.
The half-second gap to Bottas is slightly worrying. Is that going to become the norm? The idea of Lewis Hamilton going unchallenged at Mercedes could allow him to take a very simple championship victory. Of course, Valtteri will grow into his new team, and I have no doubt that he will pick up the speed over the course of the season. But half a second is a big gap. He will be looking to close that up as quickly as he can.
There is still work to be done
Verstappen made a mistake which damaged his car in FP2. He was another driver who found himself down on his team mate over the course of the day. Red Bull do not appear to have the pace of the front two, they look as though they will have to settle for being the third quickest team this weekend.
The midfield looks to be as tight as predicted. So far it looks like Toro Rosso are in the running with Haas for ‘best of the rest’ status. Carlos Sainz was able to match the pace of Verstappen in FP2 which was extremely impressive. Kevin Magnussen has had a pretty torrid day. He appeared to struggle with the set up of his car, and failed to get within a second of team mate Grosjean in either session. No doubt he, along with the Haas team, will be looking to improve tomorrow.
I have purposefully avoided talking about McLaren. At this stage, all they can do is work harder than they ever have to try and salvage something from this disastrous period. Fernando’s 12th place in FP2 was less embarrassing than they would have feared, but its a long way off where they truly belong.
Time to get serious
FP3 will no doubt provide even more of an insight into what we can expect from the remainder of the weekend. The lap record is surely going to be smashed. I am excited to see just how fast these cars can really go.