The brave new era of F1 without the teams' fancy FRIC systems – which, for those of us without engineering degrees, stands for Front Rear Interconnected Suspension – has arrived. Overall the cars looked much more unstable, with the whole grid slipping and sliding around and everyone getting nasty cases of understeer on apexes.
One could think that these handling issues will be eliminated over the weekend as the teams fine-tune their front suspension, but it might not be that simple. All the teams ran the Silverstone test last week without FRIC, and despite having a few days of data they're still skidding off the track. It might well not be a quick fix to get the cars planted again.
Either way, it's definitely shaken the grid up a little.
The biggest loser seems to be Lotus. They are a team who have spent all year clawing their way back up the grid, but with the removal of FRIC they are right back to square one, propping up the rest of the main players and only above the Marussias and Caterhams. The Lotus cars look like they have a severe allergic reaction to corners, running wide and kicking out on Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado for having the sheer audacity to want to turn in.
Although no team will have an easy time unlocking stability straight away, Lotus may find it harder than most. They have been running the system, or early predecessors to it, for at least five years. The stability on the front of their car seems to have become dependent on it, and until they find a way to squeeze a more orthodox system onto their chassis, it looks like they'll be having a torrid time.
The biggest winners, though, seem to be Sauber. The Swiss squad had taken a major step back this year, with a big budget cut coinciding with a drop down the grid and out of the top ten. However, Adrian Sutil managed to show some of the form that has kept him in F1 for so long by putting his car in tenth, and reserve driver Giedo van der Garde was only two tenths off in 16th.
That said, the Sauber car looked as terrible as ever. It was flopping all over the place like it has done all season, but with everyone now flopping around it seems to have made the car more competitive. The removal of FRIC has leveled the playing field in the midfield, and Sauber finally seem able to race with some conviction.
Elsewhere, Williams might have some nervous faces this afternoon. The team who've spent the last few races firmly in the top six and racing for podiums were 11th and 15th in practice, with Felipe Massa 1.4s off the ultimate pace.
Conversely, Ferrari might have some cautious optimism. Although Mercedes looked like they had pace in hand, it'll still be a comfort for Fernando Alonso to come home third, only 0.29s off of Nico Rosberg's ultimate pace.
It is obviously too soon to definitively say that the removal of FRIC has put Ferrari and Sauber up the grid while demoting Williams and Lotus. The timing sheets weren't policed for cars running wide today – and if you didn't see the session, there were a lot of them – and in general the whole grid was close, with only six tenths separating Kimi Raikkonen in eighth from Van der Garde.
Still, the popular Sauber outfit badly need some points and may well see this as their chance, while Lotus must be feeling at their lowest since Vitaly Petrov went on his crusade to insert his car into the barrier in every single session.