It’s still all about the tires

With the opening Friday practice sessions completed, a relatively clear picture of the competitive running order for this weekend has started to emerge

What we have learned so far is that with Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus have arguably the fastest car of the weekend. Over long and short runs, Kimi has been at the very top of the field, with only the Red Bull drivers able to truly compete with the Finn’s fast and consistent lap times.

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Further back, it seems there is a tight battle ensuing between the Ferraris and Mercedes, with the potential for the Force Indias to sneak into that group on occasion. The small midfield outfit has once again proven to be the fastest midfield competitor to the top four teams at the moment.

After their disastrous showing in Auistralia, Mclaren have gotten off to a better start in Malaysia. The car is more consistent and the lap times seem to be much closer to the leading teams than they were in Australia. The track conditions have proven beneficial to the Mclaren, with the smooth surface assuaging some of the more stark issues on the MP4-28.

After these five teams, there is a larger cutoff to the rest of the midfield, with Sauber looking a step ahead of Toro Rosso and Williams. After that, the battle between the back markers is set to be close once again. The star performer of this group, Jules Bianchi, was very impressive in FP2, as he put in a time less than 3 seconds off the fastest time of the session and finished ahead of the Williams of Valtteri Bottas.

The grid will be set tomorrow in qualifying, and a compromise must be made once again between ultimate grid position and having fresh tires. We could see some heavy hitters either fail to make Q3 or sit out the final qualifying session once they make it there. This will allow them to start on whichever tire they choose, giving them a tactical advantage over their rivals.

The race results and overall competitive order is still largely unknown and there are a barrage of variables that seem to make everyone reserve judgment on the subject. What we know for sure, is that tires will one again dominate the result of this race, as it did in Australia. Don’t expect the Lotus to run off with this race agin, though. There is nothing to suggest yet that another team couldn’t close the gap.

With rain expected during the race, the unknowns about this race keep compounding on each other. All the data gathered today and tomorrow morning could be all for naught if the rain kicks in and remains for the whole Grand Prix on Sunday.

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Get ready, everybody. This is going to be a good one!

Free Practice Session 2 results

Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m36.569 28
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m36.588s + 0.019s 27
3. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m36.661s + 0.092s 33
4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m36.985s + 0.416s 23
5. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m37.026s + 0.457s 29
6. Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault 1m37.206s + 0.637s 26
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m37.448s + 0.879s 32
8. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m37.571s + 1.002s 30
9. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m37.574s + 1.005s 32
10. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m37.788s + 1.219s 10
11. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m37.838s + 1.269s 21
12. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m37.865s + 1.296s 29
13. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m38.068s + 1.499s 31
14. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m38.645s + 2.076s 23
15. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m38.738s + 2.169s 31
16. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m38.801s + 2.232s 27
17. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m38.904s + 2.335s 31
18. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m39.508s + 2.939s 30
19. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m39.660s + 3.091s 28
20. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m40.757s + 4.188s 29
21. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m40.768s + 4.199s 32
22. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m41.438s + 4.869s 23

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