Feature

What the teams said – Friday practice in Australia

Special Contributor

Becky Hart
Share
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Kick Sauber C44

Ferrari

The recovering Sainz had a very good opening session all things considered, completing 23 laps and coming in only one tenth shy of his team mate’s time. He also acquitted himself well in FP2, albeit slightly further off his team mate’s pace. As for Leclerc, he finished top despite a couple of moments running wide and looks to have a very decent qualifying car for tomorrow.

READ MORE: Leclerc says he has ‘best shot’ of taking pole so far this year as Sainz reflects on first day back since surgery in Melbourne

Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:18.599, P4; FP2: 1:17.277, P1

"It was a solid first day, everything felt good from the start and I was comfortable in the car.

"The most important thing for us to do tomorrow will be to go with the track and anticipate what the evolution will be like. We will focus on optimising our balance and try to make a step forward before qualifying.

"It looks good for now but we have to wait and see how it will look tomorrow, I expect the field to be much tighter."

Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:18.686, P8; FP2: 1:17.707, P3

"It’s been a couple of tough weeks leading to today and to be honest I’m very happy I could complete both sessions feeling reasonably comfortable. I will continue to take it step by step to make sure I come to qualifying and to the race in the best form possible.

"I’m confident tomorrow will be better and overall, the car seems to be in a good place this weekend. We’ll try to maximise everything from body and machine!"

1 / 2

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari SF-24 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit on March 22, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Red Bull

Both Verstappen and Perez had moments in FP1, skating wide onto the grass. For the Dutchman, he managed to damage his floor and chassis, which kept him in the pits for the first twenty minutes of FP2. He was therefore slightly out of sync with the rest in terms of second practice programmes, but still managed to get some quick laps in. He split the Ferraris, with Perez slightly further back.

READ MORE: Verstappen reflects on ‘messy’ first day in Australia as Perez predicts ‘quite a challenge’ from Ferrari

Max Verstappen – FP1: 1:18.582, P2; FP2: 1:17.658, P2

“Today was a little bit messy because of what happened in FP1: we had some damage to the floor and chassis, which took a bit longer to fix meaning I had a bit of catch up to do. The turnaround was very quick and Team did a great job but we ended up losing a bit of running time in FP2. Normally I would have liked to have had a few more laps and I didn’t manage to do many long runs but I think that the laps we did were good. I think we know what we have to focus on and we have a few things to fine tune but we are looking forward to tomorrow."

Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:18.642, P6; FP2: 1:18.090, P8

“It was a tricky Friday in general and overall, I think we have some work to do overnight. Melbourne is also quite difficult when you move to the afternoon because the visibility is super poor with the low sun in your face. I think we are in a good place this season with the car though and we should be looking strong for tomorrow. We need to put it all together because it will be important to qualify high up. Degradation wise it looks quite high on the long runs; we need to look at that and it will be interesting to see what the best strategy will be this weekend. I think Ferrari look strong, this circuit seems to be better for them, they have been competitive in the long runs. They will be a challenge to beat this weekend, generally they are quite fast around here so it could be interesting to see how we match up."

1 / 2

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing prepares to drive in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit on March 22, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

McLaren

Norris finished on top of the timing sheets in FP1, with Piastri also in the top 10. Although Norris couldn’t repeat that feat in the afternoon session, it was still a decent opening day for the papaya team who rarely show their full hand on Fridays. But with so many other teams looking quick, McLaren will have to find something overnight to stay in the fight for the first few rows on the grid.

F1 EXPLAINS: Oscar Piastri and commentator Alex Jacques reveal why F2 and F3 are the perfect proving grounds for Formula 1

Lando Norris – FP1: 1:18.564, P1; FP2: 1:18.155, P9

“A reasonable day. We struggled to find a bit of confidence given the gusts of wind, so we didn’t get the best feeling, but I think the pace is reasonable. We’re in the mix, which is a good sign. It should make our lives exciting tomorrow – but we’ve still got a lot of work to do to make the most of it.”

Oscar Piastri - FP1: 1:18.918, P10; FP2: 1:18.077, P7

“First day in Melbourne. All-in-all, not a bad day. We were a bit up-and-down but there were definitely some positive signs. We’ll have a look and see what we can find for tomorrow – but it’s been nice to be driving back at home. We’ve got a few things to look at and try to work on but I'm feeling optimistic.”

Andrea Stella, Team Principal

“A productive day of practice here in Melbourne. We could test all the set-up items that we had in the programme, including understanding the tyres, which will make the race interesting from a strategy point of view. From a performance point of view, it’s been an encouraging day. The car behaves well in general but there are some aspects to improve. We have a lot of data to look into this evening to prepare for Qualifying and the race.”

1 / 2

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren MCL38 Mercedes runs wide during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit on March 22, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Aston Martin

Alonso had the first moment of the weekend, skating wide through the gravel and needing a floor change. That combined with running aero rakes at the beginning of FP1 and the red flag stoppage meant he didn’t set a representative lap time. Roll on FP2 though, and that Aston looked quick. Stroll wound up the faster of the two team mates, in what looks like a car very suited to qualifying here.

Fernando Alonso – FP1: 1:19.716, P18; FP2: 1:17.912, P5

"It's always tricky here at Albert Park – the track rubbers in quite a lot and the grip changes. That led to me running through the gravel at Turn 10 during FP1, so we had to change the floor during the session.

"Our programme was a little compromised due to that, but FP2 ran smoothly and we completed everything we set out to do.

"It's always satisfying to be towards the top of the timesheet, but we won’t draw any conclusions from today as it's only Free Practice and there are still plenty of variables to consider.

"We have a lot of data to now analyse in order to give us the best chance of getting a positive result in Qualifying."

Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:18.667, P7; FP2: 1:17.822, P4

"The car felt good today. I was happy with the balance, and we had a straightforward day gathering plenty of data.

"We've been pretty strong on one-lap pace this season, so it's positive to see we've kept that up here. But let's keep our feet on the ground because it's Free Practice and we don't know what the others have been doing.

"Nevertheless, a positive start to the weekend and I'm looking forward to getting back into the car for Qualifying tomorrow."

1 / 2

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) Aston Martin AMR24 Mercedes on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit on March 22, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Mercedes

Russell had a big snap of oversteer in Turn 10 in FP1, but managed to keep his car on track. Hamilton wasn’t so fortunate, running wide out onto the grass on two occasions. That Mercedes looked a handful, and the theme of both drivers battling to stay on track continued in FP2. It looked like they had split set-ups again to try and further understand the car, with Russell very much the happier of the duo at the end of the day.

Lewis Hamilton – FP1: 1:18.771, P9; FP2: 1:18.834, P18

"It didn’t feel great out there today. We began the day on the front foot and in FP1, the car generally felt good. The first run was actually the best the car has felt so far this year. To continue our learning, we made some big changes into FP2 and unfortunately, that made the car worse. It was tough but there are positives we can take from the first session. We will be working hard overnight to make improvements ahead of tomorrow."

George Russell - FP1: 1:18.597, P3; FP2: 1:17.951, P6

"We were pushing the limits today and I had a few moments out there. It was all under control in the end though. It was very tight out there in the first session with FP2 slightly more spread out. I was on for a really good lap on my last push on the Soft tyre, but just ran wide in the last two corners and picked up some minor damage to my front-wing. Without that, I think we would have finished the session P3.

"We are trying to understand this car further and made some changes after Saudi Arabia. Every single lap is so valuable as you learn more about the car and try to get it into the sweet spot. We will have the team back at the factory working hard in the simulator to get more performance out of it. Let’s see what tomorrow brings. When you arrive the next day, it can often be very different."

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director

"We had a good FP1 session. The changes we made to improve our high-speed cornering performance and reduce the bouncing after Saudi Arabia seemed to be a good step in the right direction. Overall, the car was feeling quite good.

"Unfortunately, FP2 wasn't as strong. Lewis felt that we had gone in the wrong direction with our changes. Frustratingly, they weren't quick to unwind so he had to live with that throughout the session. George found the car a bit trickier in the windier conditions of FP2 compared to earlier in the day. We could have ended a bit higher up the time sheets had he not had a bit of damage. Overall though, it’s clear that we've got work to do overnight to improve the car."

1 / 2

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team W15 runs wide during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit on March 22, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Williams

Albon was the last to take to the track in FP1, and the first to bring out the red flags. He lost control and clipped the inside barriers before bouncing across the track to damage the rear of his car on the outside barriers to boot. That ended his involvement not just in the session but in the day, the damage too severe to be fixed in time for FP2. It was later revealed that he had damaged his chassis, and the team had no spare in Australia.

READ MORE: Albon to take over Sargeant’s car for remainder of Australia GP weekend after FP1 shunt

Alex Albon - FP1: 1:19.443, P12; FP2: DNS

"It was a tricky session in FP1 and I paid the price for it. I ran a little wide and went up onto the exit curb and bottomed out when I landed, so it’s frustrating. I think we have a car that’s quite quick this weekend, so it’s disappointing to not have been able to participate in FP2. We don’t have a spare chassis and I know the team are working hard on what repairs can be made, so we’ll know more soon."

Logan Sargeant - FP1: 1:19.519, P14; FP2: 1:18.578, P13

"There was good grip out there compared to last year but the wind picked up this afternoon, making it a little more unpredictable. Generally, on low fuel, we have a decent car with the good news being that we’re at the fine-tuning stage, however, I obviously lost that Medium tyre on the spin and didn’t get a high fuel run. Despite this, we’re in a good place ahead of tomorrow and there’s still some more to get out of the car. As a team, we’re on the backfoot a bit this weekend but we’ll do what we can."

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance

"It has been a difficult day for us with issues in both sessions. Alex lost the car having hit the kerb in FP1, causing a lot of damage to the car, including the chassis. He was unable to run in FP2 as a result. Logan damaged his Medium tyres early in FP2 and so his high fuel work was done on the Soft tyre, which wasn’t our intended plan.

"We have a lot of work to do tonight to understand where the performance of the car is, particularly at high fuel. At low fuel, the car is working well, and we know where we can find more time, but we didn’t learn much at high fuel today and so it is less clear what we need to do in preparation for the race. We’ll work through the data that we have and complete some further testing during FP3 to finalise the setup for Qualifying."

1 / 2

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Logan Sargeant of United States driving the (2) Williams FW46 Mercedes on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit on March 22, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

RB

RB had a very good Friday in Melbourne, with both cars either in or flirting with the top 10 in both sessions. Tsunoda was the pick of the two drivers over one lap as he has been all season long, so he’ll be buoyed with confidence heading into qualifying. Ricciardo will be looking for a strong result on home soil, so watch out for him come qualifying too.

READ MORE: F1 Tokyo Festival set to kick off Japanese Grand Prix Weekend in style – with appearances from Tsunoda, Verstappen and more

Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:19.274, P11; FP2: 1:18.534, P12

“Firstly, it was just nice to be back on track – it’s a good one. For myself, Oscar and Valtteri it’s obviously emotional. The crowd is crazy like you’d get at a rock concert, there are so many people here for a Practice day. I think Albert Park has always done a good job at keeping it full all day. You come to watch on a Friday and you don’t just see F1, it’s V8, Porsche, F2, 3 – it’s a lot. It’s good that Aussie motorsport is strong, and it’s reaching areas like Valtteri in Finland.

“I drove here in 2022 when they just made the track changes. It’s a lot faster than it used to be, it’s good. I think as a team we started the morning on the front foot, and I think this afternoon, the others found a little more. I think we’re definitely still within a shot of Q3 tomorrow. There are a lot of corners where, because it’s still a street circuit obviously, you put it on the edge. I think the conditions and grip were pretty good and it was fun to get into it. There’s a little bit of work to do tonight but nothing too crazy. As always, I think there’s a bit of finetuning of the car, and it should give us a good chance for tomorrow. In terms of race pace, with the little long run that we did, it seems okay. Let’s qualify in the top 10 and then it’ll all get easier from there.”

Yuki Tsunoda - FP1: 1:18.621, P5; FP2: 1:18.188, P10

“As a first day, we’re in good shape compared to the last two races. The team did a fantastic job in terms of preparation, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Obviously, the field is very tight in qualifying as we know, so we’ll finetune the small details, and I know those things will come and we’ll be able to put it all together tomorrow. Now it’s maximum preparation tonight, I’ll push as much as I can and hopefully, we make it to Q3!”

Alan Permane, Racing Director

“Today was a fairly routine and trouble-free day. We, like most people, ran a medium and then a soft tyre in the first Practice session to get up to speed, start looking at the car balance and assess the car for qualifying on the soft tyre. The same again for the second session; the medium and then the soft compound, and then high fuel running on the medium tyre. Both drivers were pretty happy with the car straight away and had no issues at all. It’s been a nice day where we’ve just worked through our programmes, completed everything we wanted to do, and now we’re preparing the cars for tomorrow.”

1 / 2

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan driving the (22) Visa Cash App RB VCARB 01 in pit lane during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit on March 22, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Haas

Hulkenberg had an unusual moment in the opening hour, misjudging things in the pit lane and just touching Sainz’s rear wing when the duo were queuing to go back out. Other than that, he kept his head down and completed plenty of laps, his only complaint a bit of bottoming out thanks to the low ride height the team were trying. Magnussen likewise completed his programme with minimal fuss, but quite where they are in the pecking order is yet to be revealed.

Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:19.604, P16; FP2: 1:18.702, P16

“It’s been very windy today and I think that’s why we’ve seen so many people go off; it makes it pretty tricky out there. It’s such a high-speed circuit now and there’s no margin for error, so you can get caught out very easily. Our Friday was fine with no issues, so it was the usual program to clean some things up for tomorrow. I feel our one-lap pace wasn’t shining today so we have a bit of homework to do to find some performance over one lap. I think in the long run, I felt better than on my low-fuel run, so that’s nice for a change as that wasn’t always the case last year but we’re trying to optimise both as much as we can.”

Kevin Magnussen – FP1: 1:19.489, P13; FP2: 1:19.275, P19

“We had two good free practice sessions today so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do tomorrow. It’s a very tight field so we could be anywhere almost, certainly in the mix for P10 or P11. I got a run on the soft tyre but I didn’t set a time on it – I messed up my laps – but on the medium compound it looks promising so we’ll look at the sectors. There’s some pace in there.”

Ayao Komatsu, Team Principal

“This event is the first time that we’re using the C5 compound as the soft tyre. We struggled a little bit to extract the performance out of it compared to the C4 medium, so we need to study that a little. On the long run, as we expected, graining is the biggest issue so we need to look at the data and see how we can improve for Sunday. I think with our qualifying pace we have a bit more to find, the same with race pace, but with the C5 we have a bit more focus on qualifying.”

1 / 2

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Haas F1 VF-24 Ferrari on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit on March 22, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Kick Sauber

Bottas wound up propping up the leaderboard in the opening session after a spin wrecked his soft tyres, leaving him unable to set a representative lap time. Zhou meanwhile was busy falling foul of traffic, scolding his engineer afterwards for not warning him in time. Both moved up the order in a much more encouraging display in the second practice session.

Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:20.014, P20; FP2: 1:18.585, P14

“Today was really productive for understanding the car, especially in light of the new upgrades we brought to Australia. We focused on fulfilling our program and on set-up work where we have taken a small step forward: but there is definitely more to unlock tonight. We are aiming for a minimum of Q2, but if we get everything right on Saturday, Q3 could be possible for us. Outside of the track, it's been absolutely brilliant to be in Melbourne and witness all the passion from the fans. The energy is always great, and I hope we can give the crowd some excitement this weekend: I’m looking forward to it.”

Zhou Guanyu - FP1: 1:19.989, P19; FP2: 1:18.421, P11

“It is always great to be back in Melbourne. The fans bring an incredible sense of passion which makes coming back to the track exciting. Today was about understanding our upgrades and the track evolution, and I found a good rhythm with the car. After both sessions, this feels like a car I could push with, and shows the efforts the team, both here and back in Hinwil, has been making. We had a few setting changes between FP1 and FP2, and each time we develop the car, it seems to be going in the right direction. Our front wing upgrade is designed to help with the overall car balance – and there is still more to extract and learn about the car over the weekend. As we continue to finetune our package, I am looking forward to the rest of the weekend and believe we might be fighting closer to the points.”

1 / 2

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Kick Sauber C44 Ferrari on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit on March 22, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Alpine

Alpine still look to be off the pace of the midfield. Both drivers had fairly steady days, bar the odd complaint about traffic, as they wound up occupying P15 and P17 in both sessions. Gasly was blunt in his assessment before the weekend began, saying that any fixes would take time – but perhaps in a race that often sees plenty of action and a fair few retirements, Alpine might be able to ride their luck and perhaps have a better weekend than expected.

Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:19.561, P15; FP2: 1:18.705, P17

“Today was productive and it was good to get out on track in front of full grandstands on a Friday, which is always the case with the fans here in Melbourne. The field is very tight, as it tends to be at Albert Park, so it will be important to extract the maximum from the package, as it could be the difference between one or two rows on the grid. There’s still some things we can improve ahead of tomorrow and we will keep working hard overnight to get prepared for Qualifying. It was interesting today to test the new softer compound tyre for this event compared to last year. In general, this is a low degradation circuit, so these changes could offer up some different strategy options and opportunities for the Grand Prix on Sunday.”

Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:19.622, P17; FP2: 1:18.691, P15

“It’s been a busy day for us here in Melbourne. We had a couple of small issues on the car in Free Practice 1, which limited our running a little bit. We managed to fix those ahead of the second session to have a much better feeling in the car. The overall balance was in a good place. We were probably stronger on the Medium tyre and that means we have some work to do on the Softs, which we seemed to have more difficulties with. There’s some work ahead of us understand how best to get the tyres in the right window ahead of Qualifying. We know the situation we are in and we know it will be challenging so we will keep working hard to improve what we have in our hands. Tyre degradation looked quite high on long runs, which could mean the race will be more eventful.”

1 / 2

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Esteban Ocon of France driving the (31) Alpine F1 A524 Renault on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit on March 22, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Pirelli

Simone Berra, Chief Engineer

“The day saw teams and drivers all go in the same direction in terms of what will be the preferred compound for the race, namely the Hard. It’s a completely predictable choice given that we decided to bring a trio of compounds one step softer than last season. We also expected the graining that was quite noticeable today on the Medium and Soft, as well as the significant track evolution from one session to the next, as demonstrated by Leclerc’s FP2 time being 1”3 quicker than the time set by Norris in FP1. Another particularity of this circuit, due to its characteristics, is that graining does not significantly improve as the track rubbers-in, something that we have seen in the past and more recently, since the track was resurfaced in 2022.”

Share

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Coming Up

Coming Up

News

Alonso keen to bounce back in Monaco after finishing P19 on ‘tough’ Imola weekend