The mantra heard from teams over the winter was that the midfield battle was set to be tight in 2019. But after the first day of running in Melbourne, it wasn’t tight enough for Racing Point driver Sergio Perez’s liking, with the Mexican struggling to find a decent balance in his RP19 across Free Practices 1 and 2.
The mood had appeared to be high in the Racing Point camp going into 2019, with the team now on a secure financial footing following significant investment, and having turned up to Australia with an upgraded car from the one seen in pre-season testing, including redesigned engine cover, mirrors and bargeboards.
But those good vibes weren’t translated onto the track by Perez on Friday, as he found himself in P16 across both of the day’s sessions, and a full 0.827s off Kimi Raikkonen’s midfield-leading pace in FP2.
“[Things today] haven’t been great, not good at all,” said an exasperated Perez at the end of Friday. “There’s a lot of understanding we need to go through in detail and try to come up with the best possible compromise for tomorrow.
“I’m struggling a bit with balance, so I need to go through it. Tyres as well, tyres are a big thing. We had a very cold track in the morning and quite a hot one in the afternoon, it’s always hard to pick up the wind and so on. A lot of work to be done.
“It’s very tight in that midfield pack – anything we can find will be quite beneficial for us.”
Perez went on to express his belief that team mate Lance Stroll had displayed the team’s actual pace around Albert Park – although Stroll’s FP2 performance to go P13 still saw him finish 0.437s off Raikkonen. But a more optimistic Stroll didn’t believe that his team should be discounted from the midfield battle just yet.
“The car overall feels good,” said the Canadian. “The ingredients are there, we just need to make a few adjustments. I think we can be right there in the fight.”