At the end of the first day of track activity at Shanghai International Circuit
ahead of the 2013 F1 Chinese Grand Prix, the two Red Bull
drivers had to admit to a less than vintage day for the team.
Although they finished the first 90-minute free practice session with Mark Webber
in third ahead of Sebastian Vettel
on the timesheets, their efforts were somewhat eclipsed by the 1-2 achieved by Mercedes. And in the afternoon the Red Bull
cars didn't match the improvement in their rivals' times, with Webber dropping to fifth and Vettel only tenth fastest at the end of FP2.
"Today was a tricky day for us," admitted the reigning world champion. "I struggled a bit this afternoon and the gap to the guys at the top is a little bit bigger than I'd like," he admitted.
"There are two or three things that we need to work on and then we should be in a better shape for tomorrow. I think we know what we need to do," he added. "I think pace is always difficult to judge on Friday. We really need to see where we are. Surely, we were not where we wanted to be, so we need to pick up a little bit of pace for tomorrow."
The newly-cropped Mark Webber
was a bit more upbeat about his day's work: “It was good today and we achieved a lot of mileage," he said, before acknowledging that it looked like Red Bull
faced some stiff competition in China this weekend. "There are obviously some pretty quick cars out there – we saw that in Malaysia."
Inevitably, tyre management was top of both drivers' concerns heading into Saturday.
"It looks like the soft tyre is the one for qualifying, but it seems that we won't see that many stints on the soft tyre during the race," was Vettel's verdict echoing the thoughts of many of the drivers in the paddock on Friday evening. "I think the soft tyre doesn't last very long, only five or six laps. So after that it's not too funny on the soft - but the medium tyre seems to hold up."
"We're still in this early phase of learning about the tyres," insisted Webber. "I think that we have a bit of work to do, but the car doesn't feel too bad, we just have to keep working on understanding the tyres.
Talking about the softer option tyre, Webber added: "It looks like the qualifying tyre. I don't know if it changes the strategy for qualifying but in the race we'll see. The soft tyres didn't last today, in fact not very long at all."
Pirelli's director of motorsport Paul Hembery later agreed that "The soft is degrading more than what we'd like. It's getting a lot of graining on the front left, which is exaggerating the degradation. But it doesn't really affect the way the race should be created - a two/three-stop race."
Both Red Bull
drivers will be happy if they can get through the weekend without any storm clouds overhead - either metaphorical ones left over from the row over team orders between the duo in Malaysia, or the literal meteorological ones that would force them to break out the wet weather tyres.
"It's nice to have a stable weekend in terms of weather, which is unusual in Shanghai," agreed Webber.