Button provides 'tough' answers to tyre riddle and finishes fastest
If anything highlighted Formula One's peculiar tyre situation it was Jenson Button's experience yesterday in practice for the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. On Pirelli's hard compound prime tyre he struggled to be competitive; on the soft compound option tyre he was fastest.
"It was a good afternoon, but a tough one, trying to understand the tyres," the McLaren driver said after beating Bahrain winner Sebastian Vettel by 0.164sec. "On the hard tyre I just can't get the car working, I just can't get the temperature into the tyres. It's something we need to sort out for Sunday. There are a lot of quick cars out there, but, aerodynamically, I think we've got a strong one. We've just got to make sure that the four things touching the road are working properly for us too."
Pirelli have deliberately brought tyres here separated by two compounds, rather than the one-step difference that has been the case in the first four races. Thus they have hard and soft rather than hard and medium, or medium and soft or soft and supersoft. Button said the gap between the two was "massive." Yet team-mate Lewis Hamilton seemed quicker on the harder prime tyre than he was on the other option, as he set the fourth fastest time behind Mercedes' Nico Rosberg.
"I still smile, but it's not been a great day," Hamilton admitted after battling inconsistent handling. "We struggled a little bit with the set-up, but the upgrades have worked pretty well." These included a revised, higher nose to promote better airflow down the sides of the car and thus generate more downforce and grip.
"We are in the fight, at least, but we didn't really show it because we had a bit of an inconsistent set-up today, which means it's very difficult to pinpoint exactly what I need to change to make it better," Hamilton added. "But the car already feels better than it did in the last race and we are still trying to work on managing our tyres."
Local hero Fernando Alonso, fastest in the morning, was only 14th in the afternoon, three places adrift of Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa. "We tried to adapt the car set-up to the track conditions, but we are not yet completely satisfied," Alonso said. "Actually, it was a rather different Friday to usual, with the times even more mixed up than we have seen at the first four races this year. The tyres? No surprises for me."
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