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What the teams said - practice in Melbourne

24 Mar 2017

A round-up of the opening day's action from the 2017 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park...
Red Bull

Red Bull were stronger in FP1, even though Verstappen had some gear synchronising issues at one stage. Ricciardo thought they went the wrong way on set-up in FP2, but is optimistic that they can get closer to Ferrari tomorrow. Verstappen’s chances of doing that on his ultrasoft run ended when he ran very wide exiting Turn 12…

Daniel Riccardo - FP1: 1:24.886, P3; FP2: 1:24.650, P5

“We looked pretty strong this morning and then we tried a few things this afternoon but I don’t think they worked in our favour. I’d like to learn a bit more from this afternoon’s session and then if we could pull all of that together with the strength of this morning I’ll be happy. Mercedes sure is quick but it’s more Lewis at the moment than Valtteri, who looks like he’s more in the group of Ferrari. I think we can be there as well. Pole might be a stretch but I think we can be in that next little group with the right set-up and the right lap in quali. If Lewis does the perfect lap then that’ll be a challenge to take the pole away from him but we’re not too far off. You certainly feel more traction with the new tyres. I thought the times would have been quicker though; this morning I felt a big chunk of grip but I was expecting low twenties. There is still time to improve tomorrow. I think the wind changes so that’ll make a quicker lap time but the traction is nice. It felt awesome to be out on the track this morning, I just felt I was back in my happy place and it was cool to already see so many fans on a Friday. It’s also a circuit I enjoy because it’s a fun layout. I think we can have a very good weekend from here.”

Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:25.246, P4; FP2: 1:25.013, P6

“Today was about trying to find and improve the balance of the car after getting out on track for the first Friday practice of the year. We are about where I expected us to be, we have some work to do overnight to make sure we are in a good position for tomorrow and can get the best out of the car. It was nice to try the RB13 for the first time here at Albert Park, it definitely felt faster and a bit more enjoyable through the corners, being a street circuit it will improve by qualifying quite a lot which means more fun for us. I ran wide and ended up on the grass which unfortunately damaged the floor and cut short the second session for me. Mercedes seem quick once again so they are the target to beat but we must also do some work overnight to be ahead of Ferrari who also look strong. Hopefully we will have a good start on Sunday, then we are at the front and can make it hard to overtake.”

Ferrari

Both drivers were disappointed not to have got the best out of their SF70Hs. Each said that they didn’t get the right balance, so the car never felt as good as it had in testing...

Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:25.464, P6; FP2: 1:24.167, P2

“On Friday, it is always difficult to say much. Anyway, it was nice to be back in the cockpit again. In the first session, we had a few small problems which slowed us down a bit, but things went better in the second one. As for the balance, today wasn’t bad, but there is still room for improvement. The lap times don’t mean anything. Only tomorrow will we find out what the score is.”

Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:25.372, P5; FP2: 1:24.525, P4

“We can be pleased, because overall the day didn’t go badly. We learned a lot of things and now we know in which areas we have to improve. As for performance, you cannot compare it to winter testing, partly because this is a bit of an unusual track and doesn’t produce a clear picture of the situation.”

McLaren

McLaren had a better day than expected. Alonso was strong in both sessions and said the MCL32 handed really well, while Vandoorne did some aero rake work in the morning, before settling down too regular lappery in the afternoon...

Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:27.116, P14; FP2: 1:26.000, P12

“Relative to winter testing, we had fewer issues today than we had in Barcelona.

“We could run a little bit more, so we were able to extract more potential from the car - that’s positive. Still, there’s definitely more to come, and we still need to keep working because we’re quite far away from the front-runners in terms of lap time.

“Every time we were on track today, though, we learned something. We were also able to test some new components, and they seem to be working fine, which is positive. There’s still a lot more to come from us, and we need to maximise our potential.”

Stoffel Vandoorne - FP1: 1:28.695, P20; FP2: 1:26.608, P17

“The feeling with the car was okay today.

"Obviously, I missed a little bit of running in FP1, but I think we had a very good FP2, catching up on mileage. Getting laps was my main focus today - I wanted to get some times on the board, do some longer runs, and get a better understanding about the package we have.

“It’s very difficult to predict where we’ll qualify tomorrow: I’m not really looking at the lap times at the moment; it’s more about the feeling, for me. I’m still finding time in the car on every lap, feeling more comfortable, and I’m happy that the set-up changes are going in the right direction. “I made a big improvement from FP1 to FP2, so hopefully tomorrow will be another step forward.”

Eric Boullier, Racing Director

“After the difficulties of winter testing, it was satisfying to conclude today’s free practice sessions with minimal disruption. In fact, we got plenty of laps under our belts and were able to complete the run programme on both cars today. So that was a steady step forward.

“Today was really about evaluating and measuring the effectiveness of a number of new parts, which we achieved in the first session. For FP2, we started to make more meaningful adjustments to the cars’ set-up, and concluded the day with some long runs.

“It’s still too early to get an accurate read on where we stand, but, all things considered, this was a pleasing first day.”

Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer

“It’s good to finally be back out on track at a race weekend, and kick off the season. It’s been a tough week of preparations to put in place counter measures for the issues we had during winter testing.

“Today we were able to show certain advances from Barcelona regarding reliability, completing FP1 and FP2 without any major issues.

“For tomorrow’s qualifying, we still have some more room for improvement with mapping for better driveability, and of course, we are not satisfied with our current position. We will work hard during FP3 together with McLaren to find the best set-up.”

Renault

Hulkenberg was able to show the R.S.17’s pace, but Palmer had a cv joint rubber boot problem which cost him a lot of miles in the morning, and then got taken by surprise when the rear end lost grip in the afternoon and he damaged his car after spinning into the wall in the final corner...

Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:26.183, P9; FP2: 1:25.478, P9

“I would say it’s been a pretty reasonable first Friday of the season and we’ve got a decent base to work from. We made some solid progress on balance and set-up and got some understanding of the tyres too. The R.S.17 feels good around Albert Park and we know we can make some progress for tomorrow with everything we’ve learnt today.”

Jolyon Palmer - FP1: 1:28.585, P19; FP2: 1:27.549, P20

“Sadly it was a pretty short day for me in terms of time in the car. We had a minor technical issue in the first session then I had an off in FP2, which unlike FP1 required more than one part replacing. I’m not sure exactly what happened and we’ll be having a close look at the data. I feel for my crew as they have a decent amount of work to do. Albert Park is a pretty cool circuit and even more so in these latest cars. I’m hopeful of more track time tomorrow, but we’ll be on the back foot heading into qualifying after only ten laps today.”

Nick Chester, technical director

“It was great to see the R.S.17 on track for its first Grand Prix sessions and we’ve had a productive day. Over Nico’s side of the garage, pace was pretty much in line with expectations and we were able to get some decent understanding of where we need to go here in terms of set-up. Jo’s FP1 was shortened a little due to a split in a CV boot, and it’s unfortunate that he had a shunt in FP2. There’s a reasonable amount of work to do to his car but nothing too drastic so we’re looking forward to seeing what’s possible in our first qualifying session of the season tomorrow.”

Force India

Perez had the troublefree day he was looking for, while Ocon recovered in the afternoon after losing time with a brake problem in the morning...

Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:26.276, P10; FP2: 1:25.591, P11

“It’s always important to start the year with a trouble-free day and cover lots of miles. As usual in Melbourne, the track was very green during the first session and evolved quite a lot for the second session. We tried pretty much all the tyre compounds and we have the data we need to make improvements tonight. I think there are a few areas where we can find performance and we know where we need to focus our energy.”

Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:27.656, P16; FP2: 1:26.145, P13

“I didn’t have the best start to the day with a brake issue causing a delayed start to my running, but the afternoon was easier and I managed to find a better rhythm. The priority tonight is the usual job of exploring where we need to make changes; where we can find some gains, and where I can improve too. Hopefully we can make a step forward during final practice to be ready for qualifying.”

Robert Fernley, deputy team principal

“As Fridays go, it was a fairly routine start to the 2017 season with a brake system problem on Esteban’s car the only significant issue at the start of FP1. Fortunately we resolved that quite quickly allowing Esteban to get on with learning the track.

“The VJM10 has been behaving as we expected from a set-up perspective, which allowed us to push on with understanding the various tyre compounds and seeing how they perform in these conditions compared to what we saw during pre-season testing. All the information we collected today will determine our approach for the rest of the weekend.

“Sergio’s programme was straightforward and Esteban took a mature approach to learning quite a difficult track. We split some test items - aero and mechanical - between the two cars to make comparisons and that will help our decision-making tonight.”

Mercedes

Hamilton was fastest in both sessions and said he had a “99 per cent” great day with few problems and a car that felt a lot better than it had last time out in Barcelona. Bottas was less happy, having made errors on his best laps in both FP1 and FP2...

Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:24.220, P1; FP2: 1:23.620, P1

“It's great to be back in Australia and I'm super happy to be back in the car - particularly after a first day like that. It was 99 per cent perfect. After struggling with some issues in Barcelona, we didn't know if we'd have the same thing here. What's really encouraging is that we've arrived at the track just a week later and the car is exactly where it should be. It's feeling great out there and the guys have done a fantastic job. We've shown good form so far on both the long and short runs and we got every lap done that we wanted to. The tyres performed really well today too. Coming into today, we really didn't know where we'd be. We knew from FP1 that the Ferrari's weren't at their maximum. Of course, in FP2 all of a sudden they were quick. We'll see tomorrow how it really stands. I feel very much at home in Melbourne. There's always a great buzz here and a lot of support. I'm just really happy to see everyone and receive their positive energy. I'll be pushing as hard as I can to win this race.”

Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:24.803, P2; FP2: 1:24.176, P3

“It was great to be back on track after Barcelona and overall it was a good day today. We still have work to do with the car balance but we got all of our running completed without any issues. From my side I definitely feel like I can make a step forward tomorrow. It'll be a busy evening for us tonight looking through all the data to see where we can improve but it's a reasonable start. In terms of our pace, it is only practice, so tomorrow we'll find out exactly where we are. These tyre compounds are the right choice for this race. The softer compounds all felt good. Everyone is pushing to the limit, as we saw a few times out there today. This track is always quite dirty at the start of the weekend, but we'll get used to it.”

James Allison, Technical Director

“It always seems like a bit of a cliché to say that we were pleased to get through our programme smoothly. But in the first practice sessions of a new season - particularly under new regulations like these - it's especially important to achieve that and also to leave the car intact for Saturday. On both counts, I think we can say that today was a smooth day. Our programme focused on trying out the various tyre compounds that we have available this weekend to see what kind of pace and degradation we can expect from them. We also worked to ensure the car has a reasonable balance with race fuel and lower fuel. Our long run pace looked decent but it's harder to tell where we stand at this stage in terms of single lap pace. We'll find out tomorrow. Overall the car seems strong, so we're looking forward to seeing what we can do with it.”

Williams

Williams had a strong morning, but while Stroll continued in the same vein in the afternoon on his F1 debut, Massa ground to a halt in Turn 10 with an electrical problem shorting out the gearshift...

Felipe Massa - FP1: 1:26.142, P7; FP2: 1:26.331, P14

“It’s not really the great day we were expecting and unfortunately I couldn’t finish the second session; I only did six laps. The track was still a little bit dirty and then suddenly we had this issue in the car. I went into neutral and couldn’t select any gears, which meant that I lost the opportunity to try the ultrasoft tyres and do any long runs. It’s a shame that we did thousands of kilometres in Barcelona and then had this issue here, but I don’t think it’s a serious thing, which is positive. We need to concentrate 100% tomorrow and I really hope things can go the right way.”

Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:26.734, P13; FP2: 1:26.525, P16

“For me it was a good day. I did some laps and was just learning the track. It feels good to just finally break the ice and do some driving, especially as it has been quite a long build-up as I got here early to acclimatise. It is not a track I have been to before, so I can’t just go out and push to the limit. I have to build up to it, which is what I was doing today, and still leaving a bit of a margin. There is not a lot of room for error on this track, but it is fun and so far I have really enjoyed driving it. FP2 was quite a scruffy session for me. The first run was alright, but then on the second one it was a shame as there was a yellow flag so I had to abort the lap, which meant we missed out on that one lap on the ultrasofts we wanted. However, today were just the first practice sessions. I think I can still improve as I am learning a lot, and there is still a lot to understand.”

Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer

“It was a day of two halves! We had a great session this morning, the first practice session of Lance’s Formula One career. He did a great job of taking it step-by-step, doing some good laps whilst getting familiar with a circuit he has never driven on before. He made steady progress throughout the session. On Felipe’s side of the garage, there was also some good running on both high and low fuel, and different tyres with encouraging pace. In FP2, unfortunately it wasn’t so good on Felipe’s side. We had an electrical problem which stopped the car on the circuit and brought his session to an end very early. We know the issue so it will be resolved easily overnight. He did get one run on the supersoft tyres before stopping, but unfortunately we missed out on the long runs. Meanwhile, Lance had another good session and we got good data from him on high fuel and we’ll be working with all of that information overnight.”

Toro Rosso

Toro Rosso had a very strong and productive day, with both divers completing a lot of laps and setting competitive upper midfield times...

Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:26.450, P11; FP2: 1:25.084, P7

“A positive way to start the first race weekend of the season here in Australia. We were able to follow our programme, without suffering any issues, which was the main target for today. We were able to keep learning and pick up from where we left in testing, so it was definitely a positive Friday. This doesn’t mean that we can now relax, as things usually get a bit more complicated on Saturdays, but it’s a good start. We now need to keep focused and finding lap time in the car. You can really feel that this new generation of car is much faster than last year. I’ve done the fastest lap of my life around Melbourne this afternoon, and it’s only the second practice session! We still have more margin for improvement, but it’s already been very exciting to drive our new STR12.”

Daniil Kvyat - FP1: 1:26.514, P12; FP2: 1:25.493, P10

“It’s been a productive Friday. We were able to complete many laps and we easily got through our programme. It’s all still very new, as it’s the first time for us here with these cars, so everyone will be looking to progress overnight and we will do the same. There is always room for improvement and I’m confident we will make a step forward for tomorrow. It’s great to finally be back on track and get the first race weekend of the year underway – it feels like we’ve finally gone back to school!”

Jody Egginton, Head of Vehicle Performance

“It was good to be back to the routine of a Friday at a GP and it has given the car crews the opportunity to get back into the groove. As is the case every year, the circuit has shown its normal level of evolution through the sessions today. It has been a productive day and we have gathered good data on all three compounds which, given the level of safety car risk here, will allow us to make informed decisions regarding risk versus reward if the opportunity arises during the race.  As normal, we will work through the data from today during tonight and make the required changes in order to meet tomorrow’s objective of getting more short-run performance from the STR12. Overall, a satisfying start to the first race weekend of 2017.”

Haas

After a reasonable morning, Haas ran into problems with locking front brakes on Grosjean’s VF-17 in the afternoon, and a water leak on Magnussen’s...

Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:26.168, P8; FP2: 1:25.436, P8

“It was a pretty good day on my side of the garage. The car felt much nicer than in winter testing, which is great. It’s good to be here and put the right setup on the car and go out there and have some fun. We more or less did the program we expected to do today, which is surprising for a first day in Australia, though there was a bit of trouble on the other side of the garage. Hopefully we can share our data and get even faster for tomorrow. I’m sure there are plenty of areas where we can improve. Hopefully, tomorrow’s going to be a good day.”

Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:27.667, P17; FP2: 1:27.279, P19

“It was a frustrating day. I didn’t really get much out of it. We’ll investigate and, hopefully, find the issue. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. We don’t know what the weather’s going to do. It might rain and everything will change anyway. Let’s see what happens. It’s good to see, though, that the car is competitive. That’s very exciting for the season. That’s the positive to take from today.”

Guenther Steiner, Team principal

“I think we had two scenarios. One driver, Romain, had a good session. He learned a lot, did a lot of running and seemed to be competitive. With Kevin, we had a few issues. In the morning we couldn’t find the balance on the car, and in the afternoon we were working on it. It seemed to go in the right direction until a water leak. We didn’t do very much running. All in all, I think for the first day out in the new season it’s not too bad. As we expected, there’ll be a very tight battle in the midfield. We still don’t know where we’re at really until tomorrow’s qualifying. We’ll work hard to sort out Kevin’s car for tomorrow’s FP3 session and try to do our best.”

Sauber

Both drivers gathered plenty of data, and the only real problem came when Ericsson slid off the road in Turn 6 late in the day and was beached in the gravel...

Marcus Ericsson - FP1: 1:27.348, P15; FP2: 1:26.498, P15

“Overall it’s been a positive day for us. During testing in Barcelona we were not completely happy with the balance of the car. After analysing all the data, we have made a step forward as I feel more comfortable in the car here in Melbourne. Today we managed to run a good number of laps on different tyre compounds, so overall it’s been a nice start into the weekend.”

Pascal Wehrlein - FP1: 1:28.539, P18; FP2: 1:26.919, P18

“I am not fully satisfied with my first practice sessions today. We are still working on finding a suitable set-up for the car, but it was positive that we have gathered some good data in both practice sessions. Now we need to focus on tomorrow in order to reach further improvements.”

Pirelli

Mario Isola, Head of car racing

“We saw times today that were around five seconds faster than the equivalent sessions last year, using the ultrasoft for the first time here. So far, there is a performance difference of around 0.7 seconds per lap between the soft and supersoft, as well as the supersoft and ultrasoft. During the Barcelona test, that gap was in the region of 0.3 -0.5 seconds. Now we need to look at degradation: it’s obviously much lower than last year, but along with the teams we have to see to what extent the difference between the compounds here will influence race strategy.”