Friday, 13 March 2015

Rosberg stays top for Mercedes in FP1 as Ferrari end the day as best of rest Down Under

(Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team)

The Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team’s Nico Rosberg set the benchmark time in Free Practice 2 on Friday afternoon in Melbourne as the German picked up from where he left off this morning setting a time of 1m 27.697s to end the session just ahead of Mercedes team mate and reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton who set a time of 1m 27.797s. Speaking following the session Rosberg stated:

It was great to be back in the car at this awesome track. Today we have the evidence that our Silver Arrow is quick again and it was a great start for the Team. I was very happy with my long run but on one lap I still need to work on the pace as I had a lot of oversteer in the car. It seems again that it’s very close between Lewis and me and he is a great driver, so I need to nail the setup every time to come out on top. This year will be a big battle again against him, I’m sure. I’m looking forward to the first weekend of the new season with all the great fans out there.

Lewis Hamilton commented on his day by saying:

It feels great to be back on track and back into a race weekend. In general it’s been a good first day. The teams back at the two factories have done an incredible job over the winter. To arrive here and have such good pace in the car for the second year in a row is an amazing feeling. But, naturally, as drivers we want to push the car to the edge and when you get to that limit it gets tricky. That’s where it’s our job to keep our heads down and really try to figure out how to maximise the setup and get the most out of the car. There’s a little bit of work to do on my side as I’m not 100% comfortable with the car – but that’s to be expected on the first day. Today seemed to confirm that we have pretty good pace. But there are still other quick cars out there and we can’t go into tomorrow’s sessions not thinking that they will be close.

Mercedes Executive Director (Business) Toto Wolff stated:

It was a good day. We need to keep our feet on the ground but it makes no sense to talk ourselves down: the performance is good and we look competitive. But it wasn't a seamless day, the drivers weren't too happy with the car on the final run, so we have some work to do overnight to find the sweet spot. Looking at the field, it will be close with Ferrari and Williams, too. Of course, we don't know fuel loads and don't know what engine modes were run, whether it was really spicy or if there is still more to come. Like always: when the flag drops, the bull**** stops. Let's see how it looks tomorrow.

Mercedes Executive Director (Technical) Paddy Lowe commented by saying:

Today was a good start to the season and we’re happy to have successfully run through our programme with no problems to report. We’ve had a look at the car on both high and low fuel and we’ve assessed the two available tyre compounds – both of which seem to be performing well at this circuit. We’ve also got quite a few new configurations on the car so we’ve got quite a lot of homework to do tonight to make sure we’ve got the right setup for qualifying and the race. Tomorrow we have the first qualifying session of the new season – arguably the most important hour on the calendar, where we see the results of our hard work over the winter. It will be very interesting to see how the field lines up.

It was a great session for the Scuderia Ferrari pairing of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen as the pair ended the day as best of the rest behind the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team in third and fourth place respectively. Speaking following the session, Sebastian Vettel stated:

It was a good day with no problems on the car. It looks like the hard work done during the winter, both on track and at the factory at Maranello, is paying off. Our positive trend goes on, notably as far as reliability is concerned. I can’t think of such a trouble-free Friday session in a long time. As for performance, the higher you are in the timesheets, the better: but then it’s only Friday and I’ve been in Formula 1 long enough to know that today’s lap times are not so important. Mercedes are out of reach, we must be realistic: but every team and driver strives for being eventually on top, and we can be pleased with the work we’ve done today”.

Kimi Raikkonen commented on his day by saying:

It was a typical Friday of free practice. In the first session I could not drive very well and it was difficult to put a good lap together. So, for the second session, we made some changes to the car before the long-runs and, in the end, the feeling was better. Now if we can put everything together and find a good lap, we should be OK. It was a positive day overall, and the feeling hasn’t changed since winter testing: I think the whole package has improved. On the other hand, it’s only Friday, and we know we still have a lot of work to do”.’

Valtteri Bottas was fifth fastest for the Williams Martini Racing Team with a time of 1m 29.265s completing 32 laps. Speaking following the session the Finn stated:

It was a very productive Friday; whilst Felipe was unlucky with a technical problem and lost some running, we managed to complete our run programme and get as prepared as we can for qualifying and the race. Straight out of the box the car felt good; it was particularly good in the long runs and the tyres felt consistent with not much drop off in performance. We can still find improvements in the short run pace and do more to unlock the tyre performance over one lap, so that will be a focus in tomorrow’s third practice session.

Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Daniil Kvyat ended the day in 6th place just ahead of Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jnr. The Russian completed 27 laps with a fastest time of 1m 30.016s. Speaking afterwards he stated:

“Everything went quite well and according to plan today – everything felt good. We will do what we can tonight to prepare for tomorrow. It’s too early to see where we are compared to the others as yet – but we’ll see where we can improve overnight. Tomorrow we will know more.”

Pastor Maldonado was eighth fastest for the Lotus F1 Team with a time of 1m 30.104s despite completing just eleven laps over the course of the session. The Venezuelan who ended the session just ahead of team Romain Grosjean said after the session:

I was happy with my time in the car today and the E23 feels pretty strong. For sure, we missed some of the second session, but the issue was easy to diagnose so the team is working on a solution. As always for the first day of running here, the track was improving all the time, but we were able to run good evaluations between us so we have plenty of info for building on today’s work. Our post-session debriefs have been very promising so it’s great to start the season with a real positive vibe.’  

Grosjean completed 37 laps in Free Practice two making up for the time he lost in the opening session, by doing so he completed the most number of laps of any driver in the session. The Frenchman set the ninth fastest time with a 1m 30.205s and speaking afterwards he stated:

It feels great to get out on track and get some laps at Albert Park, especially with such a lovely day here. I was happy not just for the weather as the car feels pretty good and the whole team is very positive at the potential we have. Certainly missing much of the first session was not to plan, but we know the issue and I’ve every confidence we’ll have it sorted for tomorrow. It’s the kind of thing you encounter in the early season. The big plus is the car feels good and I think we should be able to go well this weekend.

The Enstone outfit have had an extremely strong opening day in Melbourne and speaking at its conclusion Lotus Technical Director Nick Chester stated:

It’s been an interesting first day here at Albert Park and we’ve seen a lot of good potential from the E23. The car looks to be a big step forward from last year’s in every area and the drivers are pleased with balance and consistency of the car. We lost some running with both cars today due to the same problem which was time consuming to rectify but completed some useful setup work. We’re looking forward to building on this in FP3 and qualifying tomorrow.

The Sahara Force India Formula One Team’s Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top ten with a 1m 30 473s completing 30 laps in the process. Speaking afterwards the German stated:

“It was a fairly normal Friday with everything running smoothly. The long run performance was pretty good, especially the feeling and confidence I had with the car. So the balance is okay; it’s just that we need to find some more performance, especially over a single lap. With almost 50 laps today I think we are quite well prepared going into the weekend.”
After not running in the opening session the Sauber F1 Team’s Felipe Nasr was 11th fastest completing 33 laps ending the day with a time of 1m 30.755s. The Brazilian ended the day just ahead of Sergio ‘Checco’ Perez in the Force India and speaking afterward he said:

The second free practice session was important for us. As it was my first time driving the track in Melbourne, I had to catch up with learning the circuit, but in general I am quite satisfied with the session. We were able see how the car is reacting and got some good data. Even from my side as well as on the car side, there is much we can do.

Sergio ‘Checco’ Perez completed 32 laps on his to 12 place in the time-sheets and speaking afterwards the Mexican stated:

It was a day when we were able to achieve the objectives and hit our targets in terms of mileage – so that’s positive. We did a lot of work with both the soft and medium tyre compounds, and I think we’ve already got a good understanding of how they perform. In terms of my feeling with the car, there is still a lot to improve, but it’s the first day of the season and the first chance I’ve had to do proper performance work. There is a lot we need to learn from the data and a lot of decisions to be taken tonight.

McLaren Honda’s Jenson Button was 13th fastest for the Woking based outfit completing 21 laps having had to end the opening session early due to a mechanical issue.

Max Verstappen was 14th fastest for the Scuderia Toro Rosso Formula One Team.
The Sauber F1 Team’s Marcus Ericsson was 15th fastest with a time of 1m 32.303s completing 13 laps. The Swede completed 14 laps and speaking afterwards he stated:

It was a decent start today, but a pity we had a mechanical issue that forced us to stop running in the middle of the session. I still managed to do one complete run on the medium tyres during which I could improve my lap times and got a better feeling for the car, but I did not have the chance to test the soft tyres. Overall, it is nice to be back in Australia.

Kevin Magnussen set the final time of the day as Felipe Massa, Daniel Ricciardo, Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens did not complete laps.

Speaking afterwards Felipe Massa stated:

It’s a bit disappointing to have only run in one session today; a water leak in the power unit required a repair. The more you run the more you understand the best direction to take with the set-up and what the track conditions are like, but at least I managed to get some valuable laps under my belt in the morning and the overall feeling from the car is positive. It’s also good to identify any problems early on rather than experiencing them in qualifying or the race.

Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo stated:

In FP1 it took us a while to get going and we didn’t get out straight away. A problem with the ICE meant we couldn’t run in FP2, but it’s a problem that we can fix for tomorrow. There’s a lot of time to do what we need, so there’s no concerns – it wasn’t worth rushing it to get five laps this afternoon. We don’t believe it will affect one of the four engines, so it’s not a massive shot in the foot. I will look at what Daniil learnt in FP2 to get a direction for tomorrow – the circuit felt pretty rubbered in already in the morning so I should be able to get up to speed tomorrow. I’ve got to get these ants out of my pants now – I’m hanging out to drive! It’s been a bit of a tease all week, talking about driving, and now I just want to get out there.

© Ben Johnston 2015

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