Friday practice - selected team and driver quotes 23 Mar 2012
After leaving Melbourne last weekend feeling disappointed, McLarens Lewis Hamilton seemed determined to take make an impression on the timesheets during the first day of the Malaysian Grand Prix meeting, claiming the top spot in both sessions. Hamilton and his rivals reflect on their early progress in Sepang
Lewis Hamilton, P1 - 1:38.021, 1st; P2 - 1:38.172, 1st
Its been a good day for me. Weve made a few changes to the balance of the car since the last race and Im much happier - but well still be making changes to improve our long-run pace, which can always be better. Im working as hard as I can to have as good a qualifying set-up as my race set-up and I think weve got a bit more of an understanding of how the car works on heavy fuel. I went wide a couple of times on my long run in P2, and looking after the tyres will be a tough call in the race - so its all about finding the right balance. Around here, overtaking will be a little more possible than in Melbourne. Nevertheless, starting from the front will still be the best position for the race, and thats what Ill be going for tomorrow. Weve got to keep pushing, stay hydrated and remain focused - theres a lot of hard work ahead.
Jenson Button, P1 - 1:39.323, 9th; P2 - 1:38.535, 3rd
The morning was a little frustrating: we had an oil leak which cut my session short, but it didnt really matter as the track was still dirty. In the afternoon, I did some positive running on both tyre compounds - I think we have a good understanding of the tyre. But its going to be tough on both compounds around here with all the humidity and the heat. I think the race will be tough for all of us - unless the circuit improves a great deal, theres going to be quite a few stops on Sunday! We want a good race car, but the aim for tomorrow is pole - you make your life a lot easier if you start from pole position, so were putting a lot of work into single-lap performance.
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal
I think Mercedes AMG look very strong and I dont think weve seen the best of Red Bull Racing just yet - as usual, we expect them to be competitive. However, we werent too displeased with todays running - relative performance doesnt look too different from what we saw in Melbourne. We feel reasonably competitive - our car seems to respond well to changes and its predictable, too. Both Jenson and Lewis found the car to be generally consistent despite the gusty conditions, but Sepang is a much more challenging circuit than Albert Park so well carry on working to improve the balance for qualifying tomorrow. I think were in for an exciting championship - a number of teams look extremely competitive and were going to have another close race this weekend.
Michael Schumacher, P1 - 1:38.826, 4th; P2 - 1:38.533, 2nd
"We had a good day on track today, and I am very happy about the work that has been done since Australia. This has enabled us to achieve reasonably consistent long runs, which is obviously important in these conditions. Saying that, we also know that everyone works on different programmes on Fridays, so I would guess we have not seen everything yet. We are very much aware that we should not be too optimistic about today's outcome."
Nico Rosberg, P1 - 1:38.813, 3rd; P2 - 1:38.696, 4th
"We've had a decent start today at one of our home races here in Malaysia so I'm quite happy. We learned a lot about how to use our tyres, and I feel things are going in the right direction but I don't know where we are compared to the others. It will be very interesting how we can manage the situation on Sunday."
Ross Brawn, Mercedes team principal
"We've had two good practice sessions today and achieved a lot of positive work. We know that we need to focus on tyre consistency and durability, and we learnt some valuable things today which we can hopefully carry into the race. We also need to make sure that we follow the track evolution over the next couple of days so that we end up with the right car for the race on Sunday. Overall, a very good start to one of our home races here in Malaysia."
Norbert Haug, vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"Our focus today was on long runs under race conditions to learn about the best usage of both compounds Pirelli are supplying here. Sepang is a very demanding track in this respect with both heat and humidity contributing to the challenge on this wonderful circuit in the home country of our title partner Petronas. We learned a lot today and hopefully created a basis to work from tomorrow and on Sunday."
Daniel Ricciardo, P1 - 1:40.469, 18th; P2 - 1:38.853, 5th
Ive driven here before in Formula BMW, but when you switch to a Formula 1 car, the notes go out the window! But all the same, it helps to have some previous track experience. The simulator work has probably been more useful to me. The track is quite technical and I think we made a good step forward this afternoon, compared to the morning which was quite difficult. Much of our work today centred on adapting the car to the very different track characteristics here compared to Melbourne and the biggest difference of course is the temperature. The tyres have to work harder in these conditions and therefore getting the car balance right is crucial.
Jean-Eric Vergne, P1 - 1:40.099, 16th; P2 - 1:39.297, 8th
Since last year, Ive driven the track at the simulator a lot, but they dont have the heating turned to maximum in Milton Keynes! Overall, I think today went well for us, I had a strong long run this afternoon, when my pace was good and Daniels lap time shows we have a good car. I feel quite confident and happy with how things are going. Obviously, I am experiencing the heat and humidity for the first time, but I expect to get more used to it as the weekend goes on, so I have no concerns for the race from the physical point of view.
Laurent Mekies, Toro Rosso chief engineer
Another positive Friday, after the one we had in Melbourne. Today was more straightforward than last week, because the weather conditions were stable with a dry track. We had a few aero elements to evaluate in the morning and then in the afternoon, we worked on set-up. We spent quite a lot time evaluating the two compounds with both drivers in different conditions. Jean-Eric and Daniel did well, completing more than a race distance in both cars, in these hot conditions. Tonights task is to make the best use of all the data we have gathered, converting it into more performance for Saturday and Sunday.
Fernando Alonso, P1 - 1:39.980, 15th; P2 - 1:38.891, 6th
As usual here in Malaysia, one of the main tasks on Friday is to get used to the extreme conditions as quickly as possible. Especially in the garage, you suffer from the heat when you are inside the cockpit, while at least out on track, you get a bit of air, although you can hardly call it cool! This morning we did a lot of work on comparing different aerodynamic configurations, which was a bit like putting together a puzzle, trying to find the best combination. In the afternoon, we then moved on to the usual Friday job with the tyres, running with various different fuel levels on board. I would say that on this front, both the Mediums and the Hards seem to behave reasonably well, both in terms of performance on the first lap and when it comes to degradation on a long run. We gathered a lot of useful information which will allow us to be ready for the rest of the weekend. It did not rain today, but we know that here a storm can arrive without a moments notice and so we need to be ready for every eventuality.
Felipe Massa, P1 - 1:39.896, 13th; P2 - 1:40.271, 16th
Fernando and I were on rather different programmes from each other and that is the main reason for the difference on the time sheet. In the afternoon in particular, we went in completely different directions which in my case did not work, but at least it allowed me to understand a few important things about the handling of the car. Now my engineers and I know what is the right direction to go in, which makes me feel more optimistic for qualifying compared to how I felt about it last week in Melbourne. Clearly, at the moment, our car is not yet competitive at the highest level. Do I feel any special pressure? No, no more than usual: at Ferrari we are always under pressure. The important thing is to understand what did not work in Melbourne and I think we have everything in hand to do that.
Pat Fry, Ferrari chassis director
Both drivers had a very packed programme today, with slight differences between them, but focussed on the same three main points: a comparison between various aerodynamic configurations, an evaluation of the performance of the two types of tyre (Medium and Hard) that Pirelli have brought here and trying to find the best set-up. We had no major problems and so we were able to complete the entire programme and now we are analysing the data to fine tune the two cars for qualifying and the race. I would say that, at first glance, the situation is not that different to last week, nor could it be any other way, given that the cars are more or less identical to the way they were in Melbourne. We did not see any particular balance problems and the pace over a long run does not seem that bad. Fernando in particular seems to be a bit more comfortable with the car, while we still have work to do to put Felipe in the best conditions possible. The aim for tomorrow is to get both cars into Q3: we are aware that, with our current potential, it will not be easy, but we will give it our all.
Mark Webber, P1 - 1:39.092, 6th; P2 - 1:39.133, 7th
We got through our whole program today, which was good and P1 and P2 went smoothly. Obviously it's a different venue altogether to Melbourne, so understanding the tyres is important here. The rain held off, which is always fortunate and we have plenty of work to go through regarding our car set up and the tyres. In terms of the heat here, its fine, obviously it's warm in the car but we come prepared for that.
Sebastian Vettel, P1 - 1:38.535, 2nd; P2 - 1:39.402, 10th
I would love to be a bit higher up this afternoon, but all in all we had decent running today - although there is still a lot to do. The tyres drop off quite quickly here, which is the same for all the drivers, but I think we are sliding quite a bit and I would like the car to be a bit more stable. We made a good step today, the potential is there, but we need to get to it. We will see what we can do tomorrow.
Romain Grosjean, P1 - 1:38.919, 5th; P2 - 1:39.311, 9th
Today went pretty well with a couple of small interruptions to my sessions. In the morning there was something not quite right with the rear of the car which was soon sorted, then in the afternoon I picked up a cut on one of my tyres. Neither was a major issue. We looked at dealing with the heat and finding a good set-up for the high track temperatures here. This track feels fantastic in a Formula One car. Were not quite there with the set-up, but we have plenty of data to work through. I think weve got a good idea of where to go for qualifying tomorrow.
Kimi Raikkonen, P1 - 1:39.128, 7th; P2 - 1:39.696, 15th
It was an okay day but we still have work to do on the set-up. The steering was a small improvement but we are still working in this area. I feel fine in the car in the hot conditions, and the race will take place later in the day so I dont expect that to be a problem. I hope we will make some progress tomorrow as the car is quicker than weve shown. Having an issue with the KERS in the afternoon was frustrating but Im sure well have it fixed for tomorrow. The track is exactly as I remember it and I hope for a better qualifying than we had in Australia. Im looking forward to racing here.
Alan Permane, Lotus trackside operations director
In FP1 we completed general set-up work followed by race set-up work in FP2. We ran solely with Pirellis hard compound in the first session. Kimi concentrated on the medium tyre in the afternoon session; Romain concentrated on the hard. This was a standard Friday programme, distinct from the rain-interrupted first day in Melbourne. We evaluated a new steering rack set-up for Kimi in both sessions. Romain had an issue with an incorrectly seated rear wheel nut in the morning and a cut rear tyre in the afternoon. Kimis KERS was not operating perfectly in the afternoon session.
The E20 worked well on the Sepang circuit with a good baseline set-up. Our initial impressions are that we are in good shape for Sundays race. Kimi reported a small improvement from the latest steering specification, which we will use for the rest of this weekend.
James Allison, Lotus technical director
In some ways it was a somewhat scrappy day after losing a tyre set on Romains car in the afternoon due to a cut which meant he lost some laps in the second session. He also had an incorrectly seated wheel nut in the morning. Kimis KERS was not playing ball for most of the second session which meant his pace was not fully representative. Those were todays nuisances, but the positives are that the E20 is working reasonably well. We have good base set-ups for both drivers. Tyre management looks OK despite the hot conditions. The pace of the car on high fuel loads looks promising.
Pastor Maldonado, P1 - 1:39.783, 12th; P2 - 1:39.444, 11th
Weve had a good day of running in Malaysia. The team have done a great job and we completed our test programme without any problems. The car looks consistent and Im really looking forward to tomorrow. It will be a challenge to get into Q3, but I will be pushing hard to achieve that.
Bruno Senna, P2 - 1:40.678, 17th
We had more work to do this afternoon having not run in P1, but our pace on longer runs looked good. We still need to improve throughout P3 tomorrow morning, but we have a good direction to go in. The track is very different to Australia and it will be a long, tough race but I am looking forward to it.
Valtteri Bottas, P1 - 1:39.724, 11th
I am only the ninth Finnish person ever to drive during a Grand Prix weekend, which is a nice fact that Ive just found out. After testing in Barcelona, my focus was on coming here and Ive prepared myself as I would for a race weekend, both physically and mentally. I had a good rhythm from the beginning of P1 and we completed our programme ahead of P2. It was so hot out there, the hardest conditions Ive driven in. While you are driving you dont feel it as much but as soon as you stop the heat really hits you.
Mark Gillan, Williams chief operations engineer
We have had a very constructive day's running, with all three drivers performing well in hot and humid conditions. We had no issues and completed the whole test programme. We are pleased with our preparation for the race, and we will look to build on this performance throughout the weekend.
Nico Hulkenberg, P1 - 1:39.440, 10th; P2 - 1:39.464, 12th
Theres not a massive amount to say about today because it was a normal Friday where we focussed on getting on top of the tyres and trying to get the car in good shape for tomorrow. I think we learned quite a lot and the car feels totally different compared to Melbourne because of the track characteristics and the hotter conditions. The set-up work we did is promising for tomorrow and the long runs have given us lots of useful data, which was something we missed out on doing in Melbourne.
Paul di Resta, P1 - 1:39.298, 8th; P2 - 1:39.625, 13th
A very hot day in the car, but we got through most of the programme and have enough information going into tomorrow. There was an issue with one of the brake discs in the afternoon session, which probably looked more dramatic from outside the car, so the team made some changes before I started my long runs on the medium tyre. Its always difficult to read too much performance-wise from a Friday, but I would expect the midfield to be very competitive once again this weekend.
Jakob Andreasen, Force India chief engineer
As always on a Friday, the main priority was to try and get a good understanding of the tyres, which we managed to do with both the medium and hard compound. The driver feedback is encouraging and we demonstrated some good pace over the long runs this afternoon. Other items on the job list included the usual checks to our cooling solutions, especially the engine, as well as some aero comparisons this morning. The only small issue was the braking problem for Paul in the second session, which cost us some track time as we made changes to the brake material; but we understand what happened and will revert to a known solution for the rest of the weekend.
Kamui Kobayashi, P1 - 1:39.910, 14th; P2 - 1:39.687, 14th
It was the first time we have used the 2012 tyres in such high temperatures and the degradation is quite significant. Probably this had an impact as well, but in any case we struggled with the balance of the car quite a lot today. We will have to improve for qualifying and the race, but Im sure we can do that. It was a shame that I lost so much track time in the second session because of the gear box problem, but these things happen.
Sergio Perez, P1 - 1:41.085, 20th; P2 - 1:40.947, 18th
It was a difficult day in terms of setting up the car and getting the balance right. It was better on long runs than on single laps. We managed to achieve some improvements for the second free practice and now we will be looking carefully at the data tonight.
Giampaolo DallAra, Sauber head of track engineering
This was obviously not an ideal start to the weekend. We have some work ahead of us to get the cars balance right here. The reliability issue on Kamuis car didnt help, but we will keep working hard and do better tomorrow.
Vitaly Petrov, P1 - 1:40.857, 19th; P2 - 1:41.464, 19th
We worked through the normal Friday run plans and for me it was a pretty good day. The grip levels this morning were not good, but I think that was the same for most of the teams, but this afternoon we had found some improvements, even though the track itself had lost some of the grip from this morning. We have a couple of areas to focus on tonight, particularly looking at maximising traction, but I'm reasonably pleased with where we have ended up.
Heikki Kovalainen, P1 - 1:40.247, 17th; P2 - 1:42.594, 21st
I think today proved what we suspected, that managing tyre degradation is going to be critical to performance on Sunday. This morning we tried a couple of setup options that didn't really work too well but we made some changes over lunch and straight away this afternoon the car felt better. I had more grip and was able to manage the tyres well over the second run we did so I think we've found some improvements where we wanted to today and have a base to work on tonight.
Riad Asmat, Caterham group CEO
First of all it is just great to be back on track in Sepang, in our home country. We have had a tremendous welcome here and, for me, it is good to feel the heat of home. That is not quite the same for the guys in the garage but they have prepared well and are all working extremely hard to make sure we can reproduce the pace we saw in Sunday's race in Melbourne. Whatever happens, we will do our best to give the home fans reason to cheer and we have the right people in control of our race plans to do just that.
Mark Smith, Caterham technical director
An interesting day for us and probably every team in the paddock. We knew that tyre management would play a key role over the weekend and it was immediately clear this morning that degradation levels on both tyre compounds are going to be high. The forecasts this morning suggested it might rain this afternoon so we switched the plans and went through some of the afternoon's workload this morning, looking at how the tyres behaved on different fuel loads on each car. This afternoon we saw improvements on both cars and now have a lot of data to look at to prepare for tomorrow and Sunday.
Thierry Salvi, Renault track support to Caterham
"Preparations for this race started several months ago when we first ran the engines on the dyno and replicated the heat and the humidity we run in here in Malaysia. We work very closely with the aerodynamics department at the team to make sure we have the right cooling on the bodywork and from what we have seen today it looks like we have achieved the targets we set ourselves for this weekend."
Timo Glock, P1 - 1:43.170, 21st; P2 - 1:41.681, 20th
Today has been a pretty good day for us I have to say. This is one of the toughest Fridays of the season for the whole team and they did a great job. Our programme meant we had to do a lot of work on the car and the guys were constantly on the go. We still have some way to go; the car is not perfect yet by any means. We have however made a lot of progress so we need to keep this up for tomorrow. The tyres look quite difficult over a race distance, so that could be a gamble. As for the heat, my fitness work over the winter has paid off for sure. Its been a good start and good reliability again.
Charles Pic, P1 - 1:44.580, 22nd; ; P2 - 1:42.874, 22nd
It has been a very interesting day for me today. We had a big programme to work through to put the car through the track testing we are catching up with right now, but the results have been very positive and I am happy with the steps we have brought to the car. Its not easy for the team working in the heat here; it has been a long day for everybody. Now we have a lot of information to take into tomorrow and I will also have the new rear floor parts to try, so Im looking forward to that. A very good job by everyone and my thanks to them.
John Booth, Marussia team principal
Weve had another very positive day with the MR01 and this is exactly the start we were looking for from the weekend. Weve been able to maximise our programme, which means the engineers have plenty of positive homework to do this evening to ensure we keep moving in the right direction. We also evaluated some new rear floor parts this morning with Timo, which he carried through into the afternoon to good effect. Both drivers will now have the benefit of these parts tomorrow. Its good to see us maintaining the reliability as we can now be confident that the basis of the car is good and turn our minds more towards developing it. It has been a very tough day for the team. The positives of completing a challenging programme with good reliability mean the mechanics have been pushed to the max in very trying conditions, but as ever its a challenge they have coped with admirably.
Narain Karthikeyan, P1 - 1:45.360, 23rd; P2 - 1:43.658, 23rd
"In the morning session we suffered some reliability issues, the same as in Melbourne but not as bad and weve also got some cooling issues too. In the afternoon these issues persisted on turns 13 and 14 where I wasnt able to select the gears properly but the important thing is that were within the 107 percent time and can continue to improve and be in better conditions. I definitely felt the difference with regards to Australia but we need a lot more. This is one of the hardest races of the year so were going to need to work hard to be able to have a good performance.
Pedro de la Rosa, P1 - 1:45.528, 24th; P2 - 1:43.823, 24th
"Today has been a positive day for us because it panned out with the normality of a practice session day, and that in itself is good news. For the first time we were able to try out different solutions on this car: the DRS is working, the power steering has improved from Australia and, although were not where we would like to be, weve taken a considerable step forward. The sensations improved as the day wore on and the car behaved better from the morning to the afternoon. Theres still plenty to do, but the general evaluation for the day is positive.
Toni Cuquerella, HRT chief race engineer
"Weve worked very hard these past days to fix the issues we encountered in Australia. Today was a normal Friday and a good day to validate the cars systems. The priority is for the car to work and we checked that the DRS functioned without problems and resolved the majority of the hydraulic issues. We took another step forward on the track today and improved our lap times, but weve still got to improve a lot to make up for the time we lost with respect to our rivals. Tomorrow we will continue to work on optimizing cooling in race distance but, generally, we are satisfied with how the day went.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director
Due to the weather conditions and the abrasive track surface, degradation here is a lot higher than it was in Melbourne. The hard tyre stood up very well during the long runs, but we will have to analyse all the data properly in order to have a better idea of exactly how many laps each tyre will last for and how many pit stops we are likely to see. Our first impression is that a three-stop strategy seems likely and so far there is a difference of around 0.5 seconds between the two compounds, but the track will still evolve considerably before the race. Todays sessions were extremely important for the teams to carry out longer runs that will enable them to determine the crossover point between the different compounds, and which tyres they will race on.
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