Friday, 27 March 2015

Malaysian Grand Prix Free Practice Two Report

(Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team)

Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team’s Lewis Hamilton bounced back from a disappointing opening practice session in Malaysia this morning as the reigning world champion set the fastest time of the afternoon with a 1m 39.790s completing 16 laps ending the day just ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. Speaking following the session, Hamilton stated:

It was an amazing job by the guys to get me back out this afternoon – particularly here in such tough conditions, so I’m very grateful to them. It’s not an easy track and the temperatures also make it difficult with the tyres, so it never helps to lose such a big chunk of a session. But fortunately I got a few laps in at the end on a longer stint. In terms of setup I didn’t have time to make any changes – I just went with what we brought over from the last race. It’s probably quite a bit off where I’ll eventually want it so there’s definitely improvements to be made. We’ll need to work hard too as Ferrari looked great out there. It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow.

Kimi Raikkonen completed 29 laps in the SF15-T and set a fastest time of 1m 40.163s. Speaking following the session the Finn who ended the day in second place in both sessions commented by saying:

Today we did all we were supposed to do. In the morning the feeling with the car was better, in the afternoon was a bit more tricky, we had some handling issues and some problems with the wind and the heat, but the lap time were not so bad. Unluckily we had red flag when we went out with new softer tyres. The car is still not perfect, but I’m sure we can improve for tomorrow. We have some work to do on the set up to make everything easier, but we’ll do our best and we’ll see where we end up in qualifying”.

The Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team’s Nico Rosberg was third fastest setting a time of 1m 40.218s. The German completed 26 laps and speaking following the session Rosberg stated:

I had a good morning session but I didn’t get it right with the option tyres in the afternoon, so I need to find out why that was. In general it was a difficult day for the team as we had reliability issues on Lewis' car and which meant he missed a session. The conditions are really crazy out there. It's so hot, the temperatures are really unbelievable. So us drivers and the cars have to adapt to that which is a big challenge. We also learned that Ferrari is strong again so it will be an interesting weekend.

Mercedes Benz Executive Director (Business) Toto Wolff commented on the opening day of track action by saying:

A mixed day for us. Nico had a difficult stint on the medium tyres with a lack of grip and his longer run was tricky too. Lewis lost track time with the engine problem, so it’s another reminder for us to keep our feet on the ground and keep working. In this business, winning and losing is decided by fine margins. The team and Lewis did a great job to recover, so we could collect some good data with both cars. Now we need to analyse the performance, ensure reliability and make good choices for tomorrow and Sunday.

Paddy Lowe, Mercedes Executive Director (Technical) concluded by saying:

Not an easy day. On Lewis’ car we had a failure of the inlet system on the Power Unit. We also had a problem with the telemetry on his car that wasn’t solved until just before the end of P2. This made managing the issue on his car doubly difficult – but the team did a fantastic job to repair the car. Nico had a less troublesome day – running through his programme smoothly. We have a lot of work to do overnight to improve the setup of the cars and understand the issues we had and fix them for the race.

Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Daniil Kvyat was fourth fastest for the Milton Keynes based outfit. The Russian completed 17 laps setting a fastest time of 1m 40.346s. Speaking following the session, Kvyat stated:

We had a few small issues at the end of the session, but nothing too big and it looks better for us here; we got some good laps today. We are looking to make some steps overnight and we will keep working. There is definitely potential and things are looking better compared to Melbourne, we just need to keep working hard. The time sheets look good, but it’s Friday, so you can’t read much into that and it’s more important to see what happens tomorrow and Sunday. We will keep fighting!

Williams Martini Racing Team’s Valtteri Bottas set the fifth fastest time. The Finn completed 31 laps in FW37 with a fastest time of 1m 40.450s. Speaking following the session Bottas stated:

The changes we have made to my driving position have been positive and it was nice to be able to drive without any pain. I am confident for the rest of the weekend that I won’t be troubled by my back. The track in the morning was really dirty with a lot of dust which will change throughout the weekend and the second session was very hot. The short runs were good but the car had some damage to a rear brake duct in the long runs so it is hard to give any accurate feedback.

Felipe Massa was sixth fastest in the second FW37. The Brazilian completed 27 laps with a fastest time of 1m 40.560s. Speaking following the session he commented saying:

It has been quite a difficult day. The tyres have suffered a lot in the conditions and the degradation is high, but it is the same for everyone. The aim is to close the gap to the people in front. There is time for this but we will study the data carefully to make sure we can get the best out of the car.

Williams Martini Racing Team’s Head of Performance Engineering: Rob Smedley commented on the days running saying:

It was a really busy day for us with plenty of experiments with the chassis and the power unit. We have made good progress in these areas both on low and high fuel. We have plenty to look at to be prepared for tomorrow. The cooling is so important as the temperatures are very high, but we have done a great job on this so we feel prepared.

Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was seventh fastest in the second Ferrari with a time of 1m 40.652s. The four time world champion completed 29 laps. Speaking following the session the German commented:

All in all it was a decent day. It was quite hot and slippery, which makes it difficult for the cars to work with the tyres. I am not entirely happy with myself, I was pushing too much, but it didn’t work out in the end and I spun. But if you have to choose a day where you want to try things, you choose the Friday. It will be close between us and Williams, and probably Red Bull as well. Mercedes didn’t have a clean day but is still very strong. But we have to look now after ourselves’.

Max Verstappen was eighth fastest for Scuderia Toro Rosso with a fastest time of 1m 41.220s completing 30 laps.

The Sauber F1 Team’s Marcus Ericsson was 9th fastest for the Swiss based outfit setting a time of 1m 41.261s completing 30 laps with a fastest time of 1m 41.261s. Speaking following the session the Swedish driver stated:

In the morning we had a good start to the weekend. We had promising runs with consistent lap times, and we also did some set-up work which was satisfying. During the second free practice we continued to build on what we have learned in the morning, so it was another decent session. We were a bit unlucky when I went on track with the medium tyres, because during my preparation lap the red flag came out. I had to box, so I lost the peak grip of this set of tyres. Nevertheless, I think the performance was good and the long-runs were quite positive. I also feel comfortable in the car. The high temperatures will be a challenge for everyone on Sunday, which is going to be difficult with regard to tyre management.

Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top ten in his RB11. The Australian completed just eight laps with a fastest time of 1m 41.799s. Speaking following the session he commented by saying:

Some things are definitely positive and the bulk of the driveability issues we had in Melbourne are a lot better now. The car was a lot nicer to drive. We got to do a few set up things this morning then we had a few issues this afternoon which limited our running. But there are some positives and we got some good feedback from Dany; he wasn’t too far off the pace of the Ferrari’s so that’s good and encouraging for tomorrow. We are finding improvements. If I see rain before qualifying tomorrow, I’ll probably have a little smile!

The Lotus F1 Team’s Pastor Maldonado ended the day just outside the top ten in his E23 Hybrid. The Venezuelan completed 15 laps with a fastest time of 1m 41.877s. Speaking following the session he said:

The car feels quite a bit different with the tyre allocation here and the different parts we’ve been trying and evaluating. Certainly, I felt happier in the afternoon and on the long run. We saw good pace from Romain in the morning and I was happy with the long run performance so we have some work ahead of us to piece the elements together to get the car where we want it for tomorrow.”

The Sauber F1 Team’s Felipe Nasr was 12th fastest for the Swiss based outfit. The Brazilian set a time of 1m 41.988s completing 30 laps in the C34. Speaking following the session he commented:

After missing out on the first free practice, I had to catch up quickly in the afternoon. As I know the track well, that was not an issue. It was not an ideal practice session as we were struggling with the rear tyres
due to the very high temperatures. This will give us plenty of work overnight. We need to understand how to handle this issue and put everything together for tomorrow.’
Raffaele Marciello was in the car in Free Practice One this morning and set a time of 1m 42.621 ending the session in 13th place. Speaking following the session he said:
It was a good session for the team. For me it was a bit challenging, as I was driving the Sauber C34-Ferrari for the first time ever on a track I have not driven on before. However, I felt confident in the car quite quickly and was able to improve from run to run. I completed the planned programme, so I think I did a good job. The temperatures were already high, so the grip level on track was low. Besides that, the circuit was a bit dirty, so the conditions were not the best, but this war the same was for everyone. Overall, it was good for me driving the Sauber C34-Ferrari in the first free practice.
The Sauber F1 Team’s Head of Track Engineering Giampaolo Dall’Ara commented on the day of running saying:
It’s not easy to read anything into this day. First of all with these extreme temperatures it was difficult for the engineers and drivers to keep the tyres alive, despite being the hardest compounds. This has an influence on the balance of the car. We have to analyse the data very carefully in order to understand everything. It will be important to have a good weather forecast. We expect the temperatures not to be as high as they were today. We will have a lot of work to do overnight in order to make the right changes. For the first time Raffaele was in the car in FP1. He had to get familiar with the Sauber C34 and to find performance at the same time, which is not easy, but he did a good job.
The Sahara Force India Formula One Team’s Sergio ‘Checco’ Perez was 13th fastest for the Silverstone based outfit. The Mexican completed 24 laps with a fastest time of 1m 42.242s. Speaking following the session Checco commented saying:

We did a lot today and I think it’s been a positive start to our weekend. We completed our programme and we covered a good amount of laps, which gave us a lot of information, especially about the long runs. The heat will have a big impact on the tyres and my feeling is that it’s relatively easy to get performance over a single lap, but on the other hand the track temperatures impact heavily on degradation, so our focus is to find the right balance of how to manage the tyres. We know the task ahead won't be easy as the grid is very competitive, but we will do our best.

Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz ended the session in 14th place with a time of 1m 42.291s. The Spaniard completed 31 laps. Sahara Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was 15th fastest in the VJM08. The German completed 28 laps of the Sepang circuit. Speaking following the session The Hulk stated:

It was a fairly straightforward day and we managed to almost maximise our time on track. The afternoon, in particular, was a good session in which we managed to do all the runs we were planning: we did some useful tests and I believe there is a lot we can learn from today, both for the rest of the weekend and for the future. The track conditions changed significantly between the morning and afternoon session, and this had a big influence on how the car felt, especially the tyre performance. We need to take all the information we learned today and work hard overnight to find some gains for tomorrow.

Sahara Force India Deputy Team Principal Robert Fernley commented by saying:

It was a fairly positive day in the extreme conditions that are typical of Malaysia. The morning was dedicated to gathering aero data with special instrumentation and sensors on the car, which is a important step to help us understand how the VJM08 is performing here and will help guide future development. For the afternoon, our focus shifted towards working on the set-up and preparing for the race. By the end of the second session, both drivers were happy with the balance. We obviously still have a lot of work to do ahead of qualifying, but from a learning perspective we’ve achieved a lot today.

McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button ended the session in 16th and 17th place respectively. Alonso completed 25 laps with a 1m 42.506s completing 25 laps while Jenson Button set a time of 1m 42.637s completing 24 laps. Speaking following the day of running Fernando Alonso stated:

It feels great to be back in the car – I enjoyed driving so much today. Maybe I’m not quite 100 per cent fit after two weeks on the sofa and two weeks out of the car, but I’m fit enough to enjoy it out there.
“Today really feels like the second day of testing for me – I had one solid day’s running in Barcelona during the winter, when I did 63 laps, and I managed 45 today. Plus, we ran with zero problems – so that’s an important step, too.
“We are improving the aero package, gaining a greater understanding of the power unit, and we also have better interaction between everyone working on the car. Every lap is a learning curve for us.
“The car feels consistent and easy to drive, and it’s giving me the confidence to push it to the limit. We had some issues with braking consistency today, but we should be able to resolve those overnight. I feel great – I enjoyed today so much.’
Jenson Button commented on his day saying:

I think everyone found it tricky with today’s heat, and it’s been tough to find a consistent balance today.
“A lot of people made mistakes – there’s very low grip out there – so the feeling inside the car isn’t as good as it was in Melbourne, but our overall pace over a single lap and over a long run is a little closer to the cars ahead of us. That’s a step forward.
“We learned a lot today about the engine; we have a bit more power, although we’re still learning about driveability in some areas.
“I may have been wrong yesterday when I said that we might not be racing other cars on Sunday: it would be a massive step forward for us if tomorrow we’re able to get in among some of the runners currently ahead of us in the pecking order.
McLaren Honda’s Racing Director Eric Boullier commented on the opening day of running saying:
Today has been a positive day for the whole team. We’ve worked incredibly hard since Melbourne to improve both the chassis and the power unit, and we definitely saw the results of those efforts during the practice sessions today.
“That’s very encouraging, as it shows that we’re heading in the right direction with our development programme, but we still have a significant amount of ground to cover before we can regularly fight competitively with the cars around us.
“Still, today has shown a definite step forward in performance – and I hope that we can maintain that momentum for the remainder of a weekend that has already proved more than somewhat arduous for both drivers and machinery.
Honda Racing’s Yasuhisa Arai commented saying:
We have been tweaking and developing the power unit for this weekend, and I can confirm that our adjustments have been working positively in both practice sessions.
“However, there is still a big time gap ahead of us, so I’m not satisfied with today’s results. Our reliability today has been encouraging, but we still have slight concerns in certain areas because, as ever, the heat is every competitor’s biggest challenge around here.
“Tomorrow’s practice session will give us a further opportunity to increase our understanding of the data before we head into qualifying.’
The Lotus F1 Team’s Romain Grosjean was 18th fastest for the Enstone based outfit completing just seven laps with a time of 1m 42.948s. Speaking following the session the Frenchman stated:
It was quite a limited day for me in terms of running. We looked quick out of the box in the morning but the afternoon session was way too short because of an issue we’re investigating. It’s quite a different circuit here compared to Australia and the tyres and weather conditions are not the same either so we have quite a bit of work to do in FP3 before we head into qualifying. It’s been a frustrating day for me today, but I’m sure we’ll bounce back tomorrow.

The Manor F1 Team’s Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi on the outfit’s first day on track following their return to Formula One rounded out the time sheets in 19th and 20th place respectively.
© Ben Johnston 2015

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