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Friday analysis - McLaren, and tyres, spring a surprise 25 Mar 2011

Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/26 practices a pit stop.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 25 March 2011 Pirelli tyre engineers.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 25 March 2011 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB7. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 25 March 2011 Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber C30. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 25 March 2011 Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) Hispania Racing F1 Team (HRT). 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 25 March 2011

The track was very slippery on the hard Pirellis early in the first session but rubbered in quite quickly. Teams focused mainly on learning about set-up, tyre wear, actuation of their drag reduction rear wings, and KERS. Generally, they reported that despite the relatively cool conditions that pertained all day the tyres worked better and exhibited less degradation than expected…

McLaren
Jenson Button, 1m 25.854s, P1
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 25.986s, P2

McLaren brought heavily revised exhaust systems and undertrays for their MP4-26s and were pleasantly surprised when they were quick straight away and finished the day 1st and 2nd. Both drivers were happy, but said they were not getting carried away and that this was just the start. Both were grateful for the reliability that had been missing in pre-season testing.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, 1m 26.001s, P3
Felipe Massa, 1m 26.789s, P7

Alonso said he was pleased that the 150° Italia ran better than he had expected in the cool conditions and that the times didn’t really mean much at this stage. Massa struggled to generate grip all day and had several minor off-course moments.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 26.014s, P4
Mark Webber, 1m 26.283s, P5

Webber was fastest in FP1 but neither he nor Vettel was able to use their rear wing actuation systems until late in FP2, when they jumped up the order until a late shower precluded faster running in the final 10 minutes. Neither paid too much attention to the times.

Mercedes
Michael Schumacher, 1m 26.590s, P6
Nico Rosberg, 1m 27.448s, P10

Schumacher was very happy after sitting atop the timesheets for a while in FP2. Rosberg was less happy, reporting undisclosed problems on his MGP W02 in FP2.

Sauber
Sergio Perez, 1m 27.101s, P8
Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 28.095s, P15

Perez was very pleased with eighth fastest time in FP2 on his debut, but Kobayashi was less happy with his C30’s balance than the Mexican rookie.

Williams
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 27.280s, P9
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 29.386s, P18

At times Barrichello looked menacing in the Williams FW33. The Brazilian tried a new front wing and the car ran KERS successfully, for only the second time. Maldonado was cautious, but reported no problems.

Toro Rosso
Jaime Alguersuari, 1m 27.525s, P11
Sebastien Buemi, 1m 27.697s, P14
Daniel Ricciardo (FP1 only) 1m 29.468s, P16

None of the three drivers reported any problems at Toro Rosso, as they got used to their KERS and rear wing devices. Ricciardo did a fine debut job in FP1 to lap within a tenth of Buemi, who went off track in FP2 trying to match Alguersuari.

Renault
Vitaly Petrov, 1m 27.528s, P12
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 27.536s, P13

Renault were disappointed with only 12th and 13th fastest times. Neither driver reported any specific problems as they worked through their scheduled programmes.

Force India
Paul di Resta, 1m 28.376s, P16
Adrian Sutil, 1m 28.583s, P17
Nico Hulkenberg (FP1 only), 1m 31.002s, P18

Di Resta was not allowed to drive in the morning, when Hulkenberg got a run, which made the Scot’s subsequent performance all the more impressive as he lapped quicker than team mate Sutil, who complained of an undertray problem.

Lotus
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 30.829s, P19
Jarno Trulli, 1m 30.912s, P20
Karun Chandhok (FP1 only) No time, P22

Lotus’s day could not have got off to a worse start as Chandhok lost control of Trulli’s T128 in Turn Four on his out lap due to cold tyres and smacked into the wall. The damage was repaired for FP2, when Trulli and Kovalainen were able to get their cars sorted. The former had fuel pressure problems, the latter electronics.

Virgin
Jerome D'Ambrosio, 1m 32.106s, P21
Timo Glock, 1m 32.135s, P22

D’Ambrosio did a fine job to head Glock in both sessions, but though the cars were generally reliable, they were disappointingly off the pace.

HRT
Tonio Liuzzi, No time, P23
Narain Karthikeyan, No time, P24

The team were still completing the F111s as the first session began, and the work continued right up until the last moments of FP2. Liuzzi was able to do one slow lap before the flag fell, but somehow it was symbolic.

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