What the men at the sharp end thought of the new track
The Formula One drivers finally got to sample the Bahrain International Circuit in anger on Friday, producing positive impressions and one of the tightest practice sessions this season.
Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari (1st, 1m 31.450s):
I think the car has been performing quite well on this the first day here. I am happy with the set-up, but there is still a lot of work to do, as the track is very dirty, so we are having to second-guess the set-up for Sunday. The track has less grip than I expected after walking the track yesterday. But it is not because of the sand, but simply because the surface is still new. It has been a positive day in terms of our work with the tyres, the engine and on set-up.
Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams (2nd, 1m 31.451s):
I definitely like this track because it's quite challenging and this is how a good circuit must be. Of course the facilities are amazing, as everyone can see. Also the grip is not too bad, in spite of all we have heard so far, and the track has become quicker and quicker throughout the session. The tyre choice won't be too easy, though, because both the types that Michelin has taken out here are good in different ways. It will be quite interesting to see what happens tomorrow and especially in the race. I am confident.
Anthony Davidson, BAR (3rd, 1m 31.488s):
"I've had a very positive day today and I'm really pleased to end it in third. The circuit just kept getting faster and faster with each lap we did as more and more rubber went down, but that has made tyre choice quite difficult. We have a lot of data to go through after such a reliable day's running with all three cars, so there's a lot of work to be done this evening. I think the track is great; they've done a fantastic job with the layout. There are some nice undulations and the heavy braking zones mean it's quite difficult to string a clean lap together because you have to be careful not to overshoot on braking into the first gear corners and then concentrate on getting a clean exit. I think overtaking will be tough in the race; there are opportunities but its very dirty off-line. A good first day though and it looks like our car is going to be strong here. It's just disappointing that I can't stay to race here myself!"
Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (4th, 1m 31.732s):
Its been an interesting start on this circuit. I enjoyed driving and I have to say the track layout is very demanding. It looks like the rest of the weekend will be a great challenge and I am looking forward to that. It seems that everyone is very close and from our point of view, we can say we have everything in place to be very competitive.
Christian Klien, Jaguar (5th, 1m 31.789s):
I really like the track and it was good fun out there today. I spent the morning session learning the circuit and there are some good corners where you are going from 300kph down to 80ish and it's not easy to find the ideal braking point on such a new track. If you go off-line it's really dusty and of course this is affecting the tyres and the set-up. The engineers and mechanics did a good job setting the car up for the second session, hence my good time. The track may change come tomorrow but either way we are looking good and I am encouraged going into tomorrow.
Ralf Schumacher, Williams (6th, 1m 31.842s):
I am very happy with today's Free Practice sessions, when we could thoroughly complete our programme. A small problem is the fact that since the track gets quicker and quicker, we don't know if our car goes faster thanks to the set-up changes we make or just because of the improved grip-level. I generally like the track very much even if it is still quite dusty.
Jenson Button, BAR (7th, 1m 31.879s):
"The session was encouraging and I am relatively happy with the performance of the car. It was tough to do any testing in the sessions and work on set-up because the circuit kept changing and improving every lap. It will be difficult to know which tyres to choose but we are lucky that we run three cars and Anthony did a lot of laps, so we will go through all the data tonight and we should have more information about what will work best.
"I like the layout of the circuit. There are some really good high-speed corners and the low-speed corners are not just low speed first or second gear corners; they actually have a bit of interest to them and you do have to work at them. On line, the circuit is really rubbering in, but it's very dusty off the circuit. If you run off the track there is so much dust and you lose a lot of time. I think that it will be pretty close competition this weekend, similar to Malaysia. If we are strong for the rest of the weekend then we will be fighting for a podium position, and definitely in the points. It's going to be very exciting."
Mark Webber, Jaguar (8th, 1m 32.041s):
It's been a good first day for us here and we have managed to gather a lot of information from the track. I worked through my programme and completed it fully. As you can imagine with it being a new track we have spent a lot of our time working on tyres. Until you get out there you really don't know what to expect but there were no surprises and we are in good shape. The track cleaned up a lot as the day progressed which makes a big difference to the car and the grip was good by this afternoon. We will work on set-up tonight in preparation for tomorrow and I am already looking forward to getting back out on track.
Fernando Alonso, Renault (9th, 1m 32.234s):
"It is always fun learning a new circuit, and as a driver, you enjoy finding the right lines and learning about the small details. It is not really a demanding circuit for the drivers, because the straights give you a bit of time to rest. However, if you go off line, you need at least half a lap to clean the tyres up again. Our objective for today wasn't to get a definitive set-up, but rather to do lots of running to learn about the track. We didn't make too many set-up changes because the circuit was changing a lot, and we should get a better idea of performance tomorrow."
Ricardo Zonta, Toyota ( 10th, 1m 32.335s):
"I think we have done a good job in these two sessions to find the right tyre for the weekend. In the second session we did a long run with the compound we have chosen and I think we found a good balance. The track improved a lot over the last fifteen minutes of the second session and I felt a much bigger difference during the long run. The Bahrain track itself is very nice. The changes in direction and the undulations of the track are particularly enjoyable to drive. Overall, I am very happy with the car, the work we have done and the improvements we have made today."
David Coulthard, McLaren (11th, 1m 32.495s):
"Obviously not the best start to the weekend. Towards the end of the second session I had a left rear tyre failure which caused me to go off the track and we are looking into why at the moment as it can be a number of factors. However I did manage to get a few laps in and the track does represent an interesting challenge."
Takuma Sato, BAR (12th, 1m 32.680s):
"It has been a very good start for us considering this is a brand new circuit. We haven't experienced any major problems so have been able to do some good work with the tyres and set-up. The circuit is very interesting to drive and the track conditions changed considerably during the day. When we started out this morning it was very 'green' and dusty but it has improved a lot with the amount of running today. There was actually a lot of grip on the line towards the end of the day so I was able to keep improving my lap time. It was a shame that I lost six or seven tenths on what would have been my fastest lap of the day when I picked up debris from Alonso's Renault, so there is a lot more to come from me and the car here. Generally I'm pleased so far."
Giorgio Pantano, Jordan (13th, 1m 32.708s):
Im quite happy about free practice today. We have started working in the right direction with the car and also in myself I am getting more comfortable with car, it feels really good. We are beginning to see a little bit of difference - we are a lot closer to the front in our lap times compared to the last two races which is encouraging. For sure we still need to improve a lot because this is not the maximum we can do. But we have come to a track which is new for everybody and the engineers have worked hard to find a good set-up, a really good balance. I think its starting to come together and Im happier.
Cristiano da Matta, Toyota (14th, 1m 32.761s):
"We are in similar shape to the last race in Malaysia, which looks promising for the rest of the weekend. The track is difficult in the sense that there is little margin for error. Off the racing line, it is still very dusty and you go from quite a bit of decent grip to absolutely zero. We were able to improve the car a lot during today's sessions. I think there will be more improvements from everyone tomorrow, which will come mainly from the track conditions, but we also hope to make further steps forward on the car."
Felipe Massa, Sauber (15th, 1m 33.031s):
"I did a long run this afternoon but there was so much traffic that I couldn't use all my laps. But at least we have an idea of the direction to take for tomorrow. The balance of the car needs improvement as I had a lot of oversteer on turn-in, but otherwise it wasn't too bad.
"My last lap should have been two or three tenths faster but I made a mistake in Turn 13 and spun. The grip level is okay here on the line, but once you get even slightly off it, it's like ice."
Olivier Panis, Toyota (16th, 1m 33.049s):
"Being a new circuit, it was very dusty today. It is a nice track to drive, but it is easy to make a mistake if you run wide. The balance of the car was quite good and we will continue to improve the car in practice tomorrow. Ricardo (Zonta) did a very important job on the tyres today and I think this has helped us to make the correct decision. Having more new tyres available on the third car is a big advantage at this track because the conditions improve all the time. Everyone in the team worked well and I am looking forward to a good day tomorrow."
Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber (17th, 1m 33.061s):
"This morning was fine, but this afternoon wasn't so good. I had too much oversteer, so we have more work to do on set-up this evening. It is also still quite difficult for us to do a good lap first time out on new tyres.
"I haven't been feeling too well since I got to Bahrain. I've had a high temperature and fever, but it doesn't actually affect me when I'm driving and I'm sure I'll be okay for the race."
Jarno Trulli, Renault (18th, 1m 33.437s):
"It wasn't the best day ever, but I'm not too disappointed. We could certainly have done more mileage, but we nevertheless managed to improve the car during the day. Sure, it was a bit of bad luck to have an engine problem but fortunately, we don't think it is too serious - and it is better for that to happen today than on Sunday. The circuit itself is interesting: the track cleaned up well, and we hope it will continue improving over the weekend. It is not a particularly technical layout, but I think it will be pretty enjoyable for the drivers."
Timo Glock, Jordan (19th, 1m 33.695s):
Today was not bad, in fact the first session was really good apart from a small problem with the brakes. By the second session we found and fixed it and overall everything went quite well despite me making one or two mistakes. I had a spin when evaluating a particular set of tyres but the car was quite good and my last few runs were very positive.
Zsolt Baumgartner, Minardi (20th, 1m 34.054s):
"The track was very slippery initially and that was why we were struggling for traction - but then, it was the same for everybody. We were able to find a good balance as the day went on, though, and we ended up with a reasonable time. To be in front of one or two other cars is definitely satisfying. We spent quite a bit of time altering the car during the two sessions, as the track was changing all the time. We improved steadily, though, and hopefully, that will continue tomorrow. All told, we have had a positive day."
Bjorn Wirdheim, Jaguar (21st, 1m 34.317s):
The track was quite slippery out there this morning but I managed to stay on track and get some good information for the team. Unfortunately the car had a minor hydraulic leak which stopped me earlier than planned but the team turned the car round and I was out again this afternoon. I have spent most of today on tyre work which is vital for the team going into tomorrow's session. I enjoyed the track and as usual, I wish I was back out there with them for tomorrow.
Gianmaria Bruni, Minardi (22nd, 1m 34.791s):
"We found a good chassis balance today, and although I wasn't able to set my best possible time on soft tyres as the result of traffic problems in the second session, I think we should be fine for tomorrow. The track itself is very good, and despite the surface being dirty earlier, it got better as the day wore on. I like the layout very much and look forward to a good performance tomorrow."
Bas Leinders, Minardi (23rd, 1m 36.248s):
"I'm very happy with my second weekend as Minardi's Test and Reserve Driver. We completed our technical programme today, and speaking personally, I feel we have improved quite a bit between the last race weekend, in Malaysia, and this event. Certainly, I feel I know the car a lot better. It was also good, in similar conditions, to set a fastest lap today that was not too far away from the two race drivers. I'm happy with the effort from the team, and I have a very good feeling for the rest of the season."
Nick Heidfeld, Jordan (24th, 1m 40.573s):
It was the first time on this circuit for everybody and the morning session went well for us. I like the circuit so far although there are a lot of slow corners. I would prefer more quick corners but there are some nice parts in the middle. Today, at least, we have improved compared to our rivals and that is in part thanks to Bridgestone. Unfortunately I lost three quarters of the second session due to a technical problem which caused me to stop on the track. It is a worse hindrance than usual both as a driver and in terms of setting up the car, because it is valuable time at a new circuit. Hopefully we will be able to use data from Timo and Giorgio to set up the car for tomorrow.
Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren (25th, no time in practice two):
"I'm obviously disappointed to lose almost all of the second practice session due to an engine failure. All of a sudden I just lost all power. It's a shame as I was going to go for it, as I had used the first session to familiarise myself with the track. I quite like the circuit, and it's not too dusty or slippery. However there are a lot of small stones flying up sometimes particularly if you are behind somebody."