Clear skies and abundant sunshine greeted the Formula 1 fraternity on the first day of track action at the Circuit de Catalunya, and while the drivers found little grip during practice, around Catalonia high pressure most certainly had a grip on conditions and will continue to do so through the remainder of this weekend.
Track temperature soared to 45 degrees during this afternoon’s second session – higher than any figure recorded during the 2009, 2010 or 2011 events – while air temperature climbed beyond expectation to 30 Celsius, as Jenson Button set the Friday pace by posting the fastest time of 1m23.399s.
Tonight, clear skies will continue until after dark, but through the hours of darkness some mist patches may develop, while air temperature is not expected to dip below 17 Celsius.
The difference of opinion that I described yesterday between global forecast models and the local meteorological agency is now set for an interesting comparison, when looking ahead to tomorrow and Sunday.
Saturday morning will begin dry but with the possibility of localised mist or fog patches early on before any track action commences. Quickly the sun will get going and conditions will brighten up, resulting in a dry and increasingly warm final practice session. Qualifying should also be mainly sunny but with some developing cloud through the afternoon from the north. Convection will build over Andorra and the far north of Spain during the afternoon and there is a slight chance of a thundery shower extending as far as Montmelo towards early evening – but again it is important to stress that none of this will affect the on-track action. A light breeze will continue from the south and air temperature is forecast to reach 29 degrees.
On race day the convection threat will increase slightly, but the first part of the day will mirror what we have seen so far – bright with some early morning sunshine. However, after midday cloud is likely to develop quickly from the north, resulting in a mainly cloudy scenario for the race start. Conditions are expected to deteriorate through the afternoon and the latest prediction is that rain could arrive by 16:00 local time. This estimate is slowly moving back towards the race as each new calculation is made, but like we have almost every day at Sepang for example, the devil hangs in how quickly things develop on the day itself – and only real-time satellite images and rain radar will give us that crucial information, so we will have to wait for another 24 hours and see how things evolve I’m afraid.
The most likely scenario at this stage is that any shower will be after the race, as the teams begin the de-rig, ergo a dry and cloudy race. Air temperature is expected to be several degrees lower, thanks to the increase in cloud cover. A maximum of 22 Celsius is expected.
Tomorrow, McLaren, Red Bull, Mercedes and Lotus will go against eachother in what looks to be a close fight at the front of the field. Qualifying should be spectacular, then I will be back a little later to chew over the latest numerical models and the likelihood of any rain interrupting the late stages of Sunday’s 66-lap race.