What the teams said – Friday in Australia
Despite saying they didn’t expect their car to suit the track, Ferrari topped the opening session with Sainz comfortably ahead of his team mate. It wasn’t all plain sailing though, with the Spaniard coming close to the wall at one point after a snap of oversteer, while Leclerc took a detour over the grass for good measure. In FP2, it was Leclerc that shone brightest, with Sainz struggling with traffic on his flying lap. But all in all, a very good day for the Scuderia.
Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:20.377, P2; FP2: 1:18.978, P1
"For me, today was a bit of a harder Friday. FP1 was a bit tricky, I improved in terms of driving in FP2, but there is still quite a bit of work to do.
"I don’t think that anyone really put their lap together. Qualifying is tomorrow, when hopefully we’ll have a good run. Let’s push!"
Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:19.806, P1; FP2: 1:19.376, P3
"It has been an interesting Friday as we had to deal with a lot of new things compared to the last time that we raced here. The track is completely different from what it used to be: it’s definitely faster and the new tarmac feels totally different in terms of grip as far as I can remember.
"We need to keep working on understanding how the tyres behave but, in general, I think we have a good baseline to start preparing for tomorrow’s qualifying."
With some new endplates – amongst other things – to trial, Perez ran aero rakes for the start of FP1, but once he ditched those the Mexican looked quick from the off. He was the happier of the two Red Bull drivers in FP1, with Verstappen complaining about the handling of his RB18 for much of the afternoon. The Dutchman did manage to grab second in FP2 as he found a set-up more to his liking, but was still a couple of tenths back from the lead Ferrari, with work to do to make that deficit up overnight.
Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:20.626, P4; FP2: 1:19.223, P2
“Today has been quite positive, the grip on track was good and the bumps have definitely improved, it’s a bit smoother and it makes the track nicer as well because you can actually attack the corners a bit more, I enjoyed my laps today. I think in FP1 and at the beginning of FP2 we were lacking a bit of balance, then for the final run we changed the car around a little bit and I felt a lot happier. We are still a tiny bit off Ferrari, but I think this weekend we can maybe make it a little bit closer. In the long run I think everything worked well, so I am happy about that, and we’ve made some good improvements today. We are heading in a good direction and we’ll try to build from there tomorrow.”
Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:20.399, P3; FP2: 1:19.658, P5
“It was a fairly challenging Friday for us. We made some changes going into FP2 that we must analyse because a few things aren’t working as expected. The car felt better in some ways from FP1 into the second session and in other ways not, there is plenty to work on to try to understand the direction we have taken. It has been a very difficult day in terms of mileage, starting in FP1 and we lost some track time in FP2 but I think we have some good data to go over tonight. If we can find a few tenths then that would turn things in our favour this weekend, we just have to understand where we are at the moment with the car.”
As one of just three teams not to bring any upgrades to Melbourne, it was interesting to see where the Silver Arrows would wind up in the pecking order. The answer was not very high, as the team explored all three tyre compounds with limited success. Hamilton at least made the top 10 in FP1, but couldn’t find a set-up to his liking in the second session, while Russell struggled with traffic as he grew frustrated as the day wore on.
Lewis Hamilton – FP1: 1:21.027, P7; FP2: 1:20.521, P13
"FP2 was a difficult session, we tried a few changes but the car didn’t seem to want to improve. FP1 was better but it’s just a tricky car to get working. It’s frustrating because you’re pushing and pushing, and even when you pull off a good lap, you look at the times and we’re over a second down. We’ve got lots of work to do to close the gap."
George Russell - FP1: 1:21.457, P12; FP2: 1:20.212, P11
"We’re not in a position where we want to be, there are quite a few midfield cars ahead of us and we’re obviously a long way off the pace from the front. We need to work hard tonight and understand the limitations. The car actually felt alright, we’re porpoising pretty bad into turn nine but I think that’s something we just have to deal with for the time being. We believe how we set the car up was the fastest way around the track but maybe it’s not, so we’ll be working hard tonight to understand more. Driving is always cool, especially driving round a circuit like this - it’s just more fun when you jump out of the car and see your name near the top of the timesheets!"
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"We’re finding it hard to generate tyre temperature here so that’s the big thing we need to work on overnight. We were clearly more competitive in the first session than in the cooler conditions of the afternoon session, and the data we’re seeing from the car is supporting the fact we’re just not hot enough. If we can improve that then it’s quite possible to find a good amount of grip but at the moment, we’re in a vicious circle where the drivers don’t have the confidence to carry the speed through the faster corners, and it’s that speed that will generate the temperature we desperately need. So, not an easy day overall but we’re getting used to those this year. We already have some ideas of which direction we can go with the setup and will do more work overnight in Brackley to understand those changes better, so fingers crossed we can move forward overnight."
Alonso managed to spin in FP1 after carrying an overly optimistic amount of speed into Turn 11. But roll on the second session and he looked stunningly quick, briefly topping the timing sheets and winding up an impressive fourth. Ocon likewise impressed in both sessions, with Alpine – having reverted to their traditional blue livery now – looking the pick of the midfield as it stands.
Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:21.004, P6; FP2: 1:19.842, P6
“First of all it was great to be back driving here in Albert Park and also getting a real-life look at the changes that have been made. Overall, a very positive day for the team where both cars finished in the top ten in both free practices. But we know it’s all about tomorrow and Sunday and we can already see that it’s going to be very tight like it was in Bahrain and Jeddah. The competition is close, especially in the midfield, so we will be working hard to put it all together for qualifying. It should be pretty exciting and hopefully the team can have another solid day tomorrow to be in a good position for the race.”
Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:21.229, P9; FP2: 1:19.537, P4
“We had some minor things that delayed us a little in Free Practice 1, but we still managed a pretty normal day for us. We completed a good amount of running and got a lot of information from both sessions. There are some balance issues that we need to solve, especially on the higher fuel runs. I obviously saw the track yesterday, but I think the changes are positive and the lap is obviously much quicker now. I’m not sure if there will be more overtaking on Sunday, but let’s see. It’s definitely great to be back here in Melbourne.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“It’s great to be back in Melbourne as it’s certainly one of the highlights of the Formula 1 calendar. The recent resurfacing and track modifications have transformed Albert Park from one of the bumpiest to a smooth and flowing circuit. In terms of our performance today, we can be reasonably pleased with the cars in both practice sessions, there’s still work to do, especially in extracting the most from the Soft tyre on the first timed lap for qualifying. We ran the Medium and Hard tyres with high fuel to assess race performance and this looked in line with our simulations. Overtaking will be difficult on Sunday so it’s essential to extract the maximum from all elements in qualifying.”
It was a better opening display from McLaren, with both drivers in the top 10 in FP1. They backed that up in FP2 as well, with Norris pipping his team mate in both sessions. All of which is boding much better for tomorrow, with the Aussie stressing that making Q3 is the aim for him, something the team have yet to manage in either of the opening two races this season.
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:21.155, P8; FP2: 1:20.203, P10
“It was a good day, just getting back into the groove here in Melbourne, and I enjoyed it. The layout has always been fun, but it now has some additional changes to it and for the most part, I like them. Both cars ended in the top ten in both sessions today, so hopefully it’s a sign of things to come for the weekend. We’re in a decent place with the car and we’ll just keep at it. We will try to adapt with the track in terms of changes for the rest of the weekend to stay on top of it. I have good confidence and hopefully it turns into better days to come.”
Lando Norris - FP1: 1:20.878, P5; FP2: 1:20.100, P8
“Today was one of our better days so far this season. I think we started off the day well with a good balance and just made further improvements, moving in a decent direction. So far it looks similar to Jeddah, which is a good thing for us, because that was a decent weekend. Things are looking reasonably good, there’s still a bit more to improve, so that’s our job going into qualifying tomorrow.”
Andrea Stella, Executive Director, Racing
“We’ve had a very productive Friday in Melbourne. Despite several interruptions for red flags, we could work through our programme without problems. Understanding the tyres was a significant part of that: they look interesting this weekend!
“In terms of competitiveness, we seem to have taken a small step forward. We’ll have to work hard tonight to try and consolidate our position with the aim of being in contention for a position in Q3 tomorrow, and hopefully fighting for some points on Sunday.”
Bottas continued his run of impressive form for Alfa Romeo, finishing in the top 10 in both sessions and certainly giving the impression that Q3 is on the cards tomorrow. The Finn did have one moment though, missing his braking into Turn 1 and heading across the grass. Zhou is one of four drivers who haven’t raced this track, and the rookie was in the thick of the action from word go as he found himself tangling with Sainz, the Spaniard getting a reprimand for that one.
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:21.247, P10; FP2: 1:20.055, P7
“I am pretty happy about where we are and I think I have a realistic chance to keep my Q3 streak going – I don’t want to give up on that! That’s our goal, if we set the car up right tonight we should be fighting for a place in the top ten. We were able to run with different compounds today and the way they work reflect pretty much what we expected, so we are confident we can use them well, and I didn’t suffer from too much degradation, which is a positive. Overall, I am pleased – I also really like the new track layout. It’s fast, overtaking should be easier but not too easy: I think they did a good job.”
Zhou Guanyu - FP1: 1:21.821, P15; FP2: 1:21.063, P15
“The first impact with this track was quite interesting, probably not quite what I imagined it would be. I did a lot of running in the simulator, but it’s only when you’re actually here that you notice how close you are to the grass and how tiny and narrow the track is. It’s a tricky layout but I am enjoying it: it’s nice to drive and I’m getting into a rhythm. I am still learning about the car, about the engineering, and how to get the most out of everything throughout the weekend: to also have to learn a new track is an added challenge, but I like it – it’s not a big issue. Our pace looks competitive, I am optimistic for tomorrow. We still have a lot of work to do with the engineers, so hopefully we can find something more overnight. If we put our lap together, we should be in a good place.”
A quiet day for AlphaTauri, with Tsunoda spending much of Friday with his head down, learning a new track. Gasly likewise had to get acquainted with the new corner layouts, and seemed to concentrate on getting lots of clean laps in. AlphaTauri don’t have any updates here, so it will be interesting to see where they land in the midfield pecking order come qualifying.
Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:21.701, P14; FP2: 1:20.142, P9
“I must say this new track layout is pretty cool, it’s definitely a lot faster which is always personally something I like, as you can definitely feel the potential of an F1 car when you’re going through a corner at 200-250 kph, that is a really unique experience. It’s obviously quite challenging getting to grips with a new layout and definitely bumpier than we expected, but it’s been a good day. There’s a couple of things to improve for tomorrow, to unlock some more potential, but generally speaking I’ve enjoyed today. I think we struggled a bit this morning and didn’t start the session off in the best way, but we made a lot of improvements for FP2 which was really positive. Alpine are looking strong this weekend, especially with Fernando, but we’ll focus on ourselves ahead of Qualifying and try to extract the most from the car. Personally, I don’t know if there will be more grip coming tomorrow but I hope so, from past experience that’s what we’ve seen on new tarmac, but let’s wait and see.”
Yuki Tsunoda - FP1: 1:21.289, P11; FP2: 1:20.424, P12
“I really enjoyed driving around this track. I don’t know the difference from previous years, as it’s my first time, but I felt confident around here straight away. We had good pace early on and I’m pretty happy with how the day went. We know our limitations and we’re heading in the right direction in finding the right setup for the car. There are still a few areas where I can improve myself as well, so we will see how we can put everything together to maximise the performance of the car ahead of tomorrow.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer
“It’s great to be back in Melbourne after a three-year break. The changes made to the circuit appear to be positive, with the realignment of several corners and complete resurfacing making a notable difference. The focus of the day was to understand how the tyres work on the new tarmac, and what setup changes we needed to make to extract the maximum performance. The compound allocation skips the C4 here this weekend and instead we have the C5 soft tyre, which is a true Qualifying tyre, and one which we haven’t used at races so far this season. So, there was an amount of learning to complete on the short runs on this compound. We also had a matrix of aero component test items to complete in FP1, the results of which steered the FP2 setup. Performance overall was in line with expectations, and we are in the midfield mix. Given all of the tests completed today, it made it more difficult than normal for the drivers to get into a rhythm, which is very important around here, so we will aim to work on this during our Qualifying preparation in FP3 tomorrow.”
Vettel’s heralded return to the team after missing two races with Covid-19 didn’t exactly go to plan, the German stopping out on track in FP1 with smoke billowing from his AMR22. After playing firefighter, Vettel then apprehended a scooter from a marshal to make his way back to the pits, the crowd loving his antics but the stewards asking for an explanation, before handing him a €5,000 fine. More bad news followed, a new PU needed with the team unable to complete the change in time for Vettel to take part in FP2. As for Stroll, he had to see the stewards twice himself for a case of impeding in each session, although he escaped punishment in both instances.
Sebastian Vettel – FP1: 1:21.661, P13; FP2: No time set, P20
“It was a shame to have to finish FP1 earlier than we would have liked – and then not be able to take part in FP2 – because today was an important day for me in terms of getting back up to speed with the car and learning a new layout. The positives are that I felt I was able to get comfortable quite quickly and that we had a good balance in the car, too. It is a shame, however, not to have completed more laps, but it was a power unit issue and that meant we had to replace it. The car will be fine for tomorrow and we will continue to work hard and make progress.”
Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:21.869, P16; FP2: 1:20.611, P14
“I think we have a made a good start to our weekend and the car is in a decent starting place, although we always want to find and extract more pace from it. We will work hard tonight to see if we can find more gains. It has been really fun to take on the challenge of a revised Albert Park Circuit. It is much faster and more exciting, and the four DRS zones should help cars get closer and improve overtaking, so let us see what the rest of the weekend has in store for us.”
Magnussen arrived at the track late after feeling unwell overnight, but was able to take part in FP1, although Haas very much kept their powder dry. Indeed, they didn’t show their full hand in FP2 either, with Schumacher entering the action rather late after the team decided to change the ride height of his car between sessions. Add in one overshoot down an escape road, and it was another eventful session for the German.
Mick Schumacher – FP1: 1:24.349, P20; FP2: 1:21.974, P18
“It’s a great track, a flowy track and it’s quite quick so it was interesting to drive. We had a few issues here and there and we’re still trying to figure it out and be 100 percent sure with what we have as an issue but we’re getting there and tomorrow will be better.”
Kevin Magnussen – FP1: 1:23.186, P18; FP2: 1:21.191, P16
“I didn’t feel great when I woke up this morning but we still managed to get some laps in and get a feel for the car. Hopefully I’ll be a bit better tomorrow, build from there and have a good qualifying again. It looks like we have a bit of work to do on the low-fuel balance whereas high-fuel balance seems more in the window, so that’s the focus.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“Not a perfect day for us today with various issues but FP2 was already better than FP1, so we just need to work a little bit more. The team is trying hard for FP3 to get to the next step and then we’ll be where we want to be. There were a few things, starting with Kevin not feeling very well this morning, and then maybe some suspension problem which we couldn’t fix for Mick which we’ll now try to investigate. There was a little bit of everything – not a perfect day but we’ll come back tomorrow.”
A quiet day for Williams, who seem to be lacking slightly for pace at the moment and are on the coattails of the midfield. Albon got the better of his team mate in both sessions but wasn’t able to make too much of an impression on the rest of the pack.
Nicholas Latifi – FP1: 1:23.924, P19; FP2: 1:22.307, P19
“It was a pretty fun first day getting to experience the Albert Park track as it’s my first time driving here. It’s very fast, especially where they’ve made changes to the track. It’s got a street track vibe in some corners, and a little more technical than I was expecting, but I think lap by lap we were gaining confidence. Still a lot of gains to be made with the driving and the car. Hopefully we’ll make some good changes overnight to put us in a better position for tomorrow.”
Alex Albon - FP1: 1:22.754, P17; FP2: 1:21.912, P17
“It’s a cool circuit here in Melbourne; the track is a lot of fun to drive and the fans have been incredible. Today could have gone a little better, but we made a good step up between FP1 and FP2 so we’re going in the right direction and we know what we need to focus on. We’ll continue the work tonight, and hopefully we’re in a stronger place for Qualifying tomorrow.”
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
“We have spent today concentrating on the new circuit layout and the behaviour of the tyre on the new surface. The track remains challenging and exciting, with plenty of fast corners and changes of direction. The tyre behaviour was quite good in FP1 but changed a little in FP2 as the track grip improved and the temperature dropped. We haven’t made the most of the Qualifying compound yet and so we certainly have some work to do with that. Otherwise, the balance wasn’t too bad by FP2 and each driver only has some fine tuning to do overnight.”
Mario Isola, Motorsport Director
"Today was an interesting day as we saw the new track layout in action for the first time and also the teams trying out the bigger step in the compounds between medium and soft. This has turned out to be the right nomination this weekend so far, given the performance gaps we measured between the tyres today, so that’s something we might do again at other races in future. We observed some graining on the medium and soft in particular during both sessions. As this obviously has a direct effect on degradation, managing it will be a key element to the race strategy; although we’d probably expect the teams to focus on the two harder compounds, using the soft for qualifying. With the track evolution here, we’ve not quite seen the full picture yet so the final data we get from FP3 tomorrow will also be important in terms of strategy."