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Friday practice - selected team and driver quotes

28 Mar 2014

Mercedes' Nico Rosberg on the 'crazy' conditions; Sebastian Vettel on Red Bull's teething issues; Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen on McLaren's tyre degradation worries. The drivers and senior team personnel report back on a busy first day of action in Kuala Lumpur...


Nico Rosberg, P1 - 1:41.028, 3rd; P2 - 1:39.909, 1st

"It was crazy conditions out there. In the very, very warm temperatures, it's a huge challenge to get everything right. The cars are on the edge and the tyre degradation was higher than expected today - we are sliding a bit more this year, perhaps because of the reduced downforce levels. We are still having some small issues and therefore we were not able to maximise everything today. The quickest teams seem to be closer together than in Australia, so we still have work to do overnight to improve our level of performance."

Lewis Hamilton, P1 - 1:40.691, 1st; P2 - 1:40.051, 4th

"I'm happy with our progress over the two sessions today and we were able to complete our programme. The car feels good and our focus was on trying to understand the tyres and make sure the balance is right for the weekend. There are areas where we can improve so we're keeping focused on our own work, rather than being distracted by what the others are doing. It was pretty tough with the temperature and humidity and it's so important to keep hydrated here. We would love a good result this weekend, particularly as it is the home race for Petronas, but it's impossible to predict what will happen at this stage. It's one of the trickiest races of the year so we just have to make sure we tick all the boxes and that it all comes together for us."

Toto Wolff, Mercedes team executive director

"We had an incident-free day but not an easy one, as we worked hard to adapt to the challenging conditions here in Sepang. The high temperatures mean we have to adapt both the cooling package and the set-up of the car to cope and we worked through that programme diligently today. It's not easy to draw any firm conclusions yet about performance; we will keep working hard overnight and see how we compare tomorrow when it counts."

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel, P1 - 1:41.523, 7th; P2 - 1:39.970, 3rd

"I think we had a good day, obviously Friday timings are not the most important thing in the world but it's good to be up there and in range of the top guys. I think we had a decent day, not a completely smooth day for both of us, there are still some things to solve on the software side and the programming, but that's the way it is. I think we have to learn a lot but all in all, I'm quite happy."

Daniel Ricciardo, P1 - 1:42.117, 12th; P2 - 1:40.276, 7th

"I think we learned quite a lot about the short run pace this morning. We were pretty pleased with the progress we made, but it could have been better with the long runs. I think we've got some room for improvement, but that's what tonight's for. Reliability was good today, so I think we're pretty pleased with that. It's always warm here, the humidity is probably the biggest challenge about this place, but it's all good, you know, it toughens us up a little bit!"


Jenson Button, P1 - 1:41.111, 4th; P2 - 1:40.628, 8th

"We're finding it tough out there today - especially in the heat. We're not as strong as we'd like to be in high-speed corners - and, when you have downforce issues, they're further amplified by the hot weather. So our long runs were tricky, in terms of both tyre degradation and outright pace.

"We're now going through the data, but the upgrades we brought here seem to be giving us something - so that's encouraging - but there's a lot of work still to be done. I'm sure people are getting excited about individual lap-times, but they don't count for too much around here because you can usually overtake. It's the long runs that you need to analyse, and that's where we're finding it a bit more difficult."

Kevin Magnussen, P1 - 1:41.274, 5th; P2 - 1:41.014, 12th

"I've never driven a car in these sorts of temperatures, so I learned a lot today. As I say, the track temperatures are so hot here that the tyres are really suffering, but it's the same for everyone, so we need to try and get on top of things before tomorrow's sessions. I'm going to try and set the car up in order to protect the rears.

"There's always something you can improve, and we've currently got a lot to think about and a lot of data to sift through tonight. For me, overheating the rears is my biggest problem - the tyres are behaving very differently from how they did in Australia - so that'll be my focus. Still, I'm convinced we can make some useful changes to the car overnight."

Eric Boullier, McLaren racing director

"This morning's session was an important one for us, because it gave us the first opportunity to carry out on-track correlation of our new nose-box. Initial impressions were positive. Both Jenson and Kevin were immediately able to put in competitive lap-times this morning, and both guys also reported that our car felt good in high-speed and low-speed corners alike.

"This afternoon was a little trickier. The changes we'd introduced between the two sessions didn't make the improvements we'd been hoping for, and we're aware that we've still got a lot of work ahead of us tonight to get our cars into a stronger position for tomorrow. Still, today is only the first of three days of running. Moreover, I know how hard our engineers will be pushing tonight, and consequently I think we can make up some ground in terms of competitiveness relative to our nearest rivals before qualifying."


Adrian Sutil, P1 - 1:42.365, 13th; P2 - 1:41.257, 13th

"In comparison to Melbourne, we made a few steps forward. The things we had on our plan partly worked out. However, the car is difficult to control and it is not easy to drive. We have a lot work ahead of us. We made steps in the right direction and it is working better than in Melbourne."

Esteban Gutierrez, P1 - 1:42.904, 15th; P2 - 1:41.407, 15th

"I think it was a positive day. We managed to have no problems during the entire day. From that point of view, it is positive. Besides that, we managed to do our planned programme with both cars, so we collected interesting information which we can use to make the right decisions for tomorrow. In comparison to Melbourne, we made a step forward as the braking stability is better. We still have further things to develop and to improve. We have to evaluate the high fuel and find the best compromise for the race."

Giampaolo Dall'Ara , Sauber head of track engineering

"Today went well. We were able to work through the planned programme without any issues. The measures we took to move forward appear to work well and brought the expected improvements. However, we are not where we want to be and we still have some work to do. A positive thing is that this track seems to suit our car better than Melbourne did, which is useful. For tomorrow I think Q2 is a sensible target, but here in Malaysia you never know as it might rain and things can get exciting."

Toro Rosso

Jean-Eric Vergne, P1 - 1:41.402, 6th; P2 - 1:40.777, 11th

"A really good day in general. I think we have done a nearly perfect Friday and I'm really happy with the performance of the car. We still have to find the best solution for a few little issues that can definitely make us quicker. We look quite strong so far and working hard tonight I'm sure we will have a good car for tomorrow and maybe fight again for Q3. It's a happy day."

Daniil Kvyat, P1 - 1:42.869, 14th; P2 - 1:41.325, 14th

"Even though I have raced at Sepang before in a junior formula, I have to say this was definitely one of the hottest days I have experienced, but I can't say I found it a problem to deal with. Today, we had a busy programme, looking at improving performance, doing some long runs and also trying the medium and hard tyres for the first time at a race weekend. I'm not completely satisfied yet with the set-up of the car. So tonight we'll look at all the data with the engineers with the aim of getting as much performance as possible out of our package for the rest of the weekend."

Phil Charles, Toro Rosso chief race engineer

"A pretty good day. We worked through the programme on both cars. Jev has done a good job right from the start, also thanks to his experience here. Daniil had a lot to learn with the tricky track and he is taking that really well. We have done some testing on his car so for tomorrow we can put together all the bits and I'm sure we can make him faster. We are quite positive and look forward to tomorrow. I think there's a little bit more to come."

Force India

Sergio Perez, P1 - no time, 20th; P2 - 1:41.671, 16th

"Not an easy day because I missed most of the morning session and that has limited my running on the hard compound. In the afternoon we tried to improve the car, as well as learning about the tyres, but I still feel we need to make a big step tonight to be ready for qualifying. The tyre performance gap between the hard and the medium compound is not that big, but we suffered with high degradation on both tyres."

Nico Hulkenberg, P1 - 1:41.642, 8th; P2 - 1:40.691, 10th

"I think we can be satisfied with what we learned today. We worked through the programme and there were no big issues on my side. Of course, the hot weather here means conditions are tough and we found that tyre management during the long run was quite challenging. It's even more difficult this year because there is more wheelspin with these engines and the rear degradation is quite high. We collected the usual data for the tyres and the set-up, and I think there is still room for improvement. I need some more grip and we need to tweak the balance before final practice."

Otmar Szafnauer, chief operating officer

"Apart from some lost track time for Sergio this morning, which resulted from a fuel system issue, our preparation for the Malaysian Grand Prix has gone largely to plan. We met our mileage target for the tyres and signed off the cooling solutions we have in place for this weekend. The long run performance looks competitive, although coping with the high tyre degradation will be critical come Sunday afternoon."


Kimi Raikkonen, P1 - 1:40.843, 2nd; P2 - 1:39.944, 2nd

"This was definitely a positive day and I had a better feeling compared to Friday in Melbourne. I was more comfortable with the F14 T today and even if we had no problems whatsoever, we know there's still a long way to go and a lot to do. Our programme concentrated on car set-up and on testing the compounds that Pirelli has brought here. The handling seemed to be good even if, as we found on the race simulation, we will have to pay very close attention to degradation, which is particularly high here. Now we will spend the evening carefully analysing all the data we gathered over the day, to try and work out how to improve."

Fernando Alonso, P1 - 1:41.923, 11th; P2 - 1:40.103, 5th

"We are on a learning curve, which is not unusual for the start of a championship and, to find out how competitive we are, as usual we will have to wait until Saturday and Sunday. Usually, Friday is a very confusing day, because everyone is working on their own programmes, but this year it's even more the case because of all the new elements. Everything went well, with no reliability problems and we managed to do a fair number of laps, enough to get a good understanding of the tyres, which will be a very important factor here because of the high temperatures. The hard compound seems to stand up better over a long run, but it's still too early to talk about qualifying and race strategy. For now, the only thing one can be sure of is the need to do everything to perfection."

Pat Fry, Ferrari chassis director

"Although the Friday work hasn’t changed, the number of variables on which we need to concentrate has increased compared to previous years. Among the many parameters that require particular attention are the management systems of the new power unit, especially in terms of its reliability. That's what we focused on this morning, while in the session just finished we went through the usual set-up work, trying to adapt the balance of the car to the characteristics of the Sepang track. The tyres are harder than last year, but they still come under a lot of strain from lateral loads in the fast corners and so managing their degradation will be a key factor. Even if we are just a few thousandths off the top of the time sheet, as usual on Friday, it's impossible to give any real assessment. The actual pecking order will only be seen tomorrow in qualifying."


Felipe Massa, P1 - 1:41.686, 9th; P2 - 1:40.112, 6th

"We completed our run plan and we had no technical issues, so today was a good opportunity to learn more about the performance of the car. It was pretty hot so we could also understand more about how the tyres are working in high temperatures. We managed to do long runs on different types of tyre which has been very useful and the car was performing solidly. There is still more performance to unlock from the car, so we need to work hard tonight analysing the data we have to make some improvements for qualifying and the race."

Valtteri Bottas, P1 - 1:41.830, 10th; P2 - 1:40.638, 9th

"We tried many things with the car today and collected a lot of data on the long runs so on the whole it has been a good day. One challenge has been the difference in pace between the prime and the option tyre. The prime was sliding quite a lot and wearing out, so that will be something to watch out for over the weekend. I didn't have the best lap on my final run on the option tyres, so like most people we still have some more speed to come tomorrow. The car still needs more downforce, particularly in the high speed corners, but we have our own strengths and our top speed is looking strong which is always good in the race."

Rod Nelson, Williams chief test and support engineer

"Like most teams we were concentrating on tyre degradation and tyre temperatures today, and we managed to collect a lot of good information on these elements and know what we need to do for qualifying and the race. We also made a few chassis changes between FP1 and FP2 which have looked successful. It's looking very tight at the top, with only three and a half tenths separating the top six, so it won't take much for our drivers to move up. Valtteri had a yellow flag on his first timed lap on his medium tyres and didn't have a clean run on his second attempt, so there is more pace to come. We have had some good feedback from the drivers who have given us a clear direction on where we need to make improvements so I'm pleased with how today has gone."


Jules Bianchi, P1 - 1:43.825, 16th; P2 - 1:43.752, 19th

"It has been a pretty straightforward day for me. We did some good work looking at the aero options for the rest of the weekend here and also some more general work with the ERS system to help us improve for qualifying and the race. We have made some improvements during the two sessions and I think if we can maintain this good direction we can have a positive time here in the race on Sunday. We have had no major issues, which is good from a reliability point of view."

Max Chilton, P1 - 1:46.911, 18th; P2 - 1:43.638, 18th

"It was good to be back in the car. We learned so much from the masses of data we gathered in Melbourne and there really is so much potential for development with the car that it’s nice to start making in-roads into that. This morning we were compromised quite a lot by an electrical problem and this afternoon ended better than it started. I spun on my opening lap but we got the car back quickly and I was still able to achieve quite a lot of track time, so it was a good recovery. There’s still plenty of work to be done to improve the balance but we ticked a lot of boxes."

John Booth, Marussia team principal

"Today has been a good day, with much more track time with both cars. Jules completed all of his planned programme and was able to generate a lot of data, which will enable us to make better decisions overnight with regard to improving the performance of the cars. With Max, we did have an issue this morning with the electronics on the car, however the engineers and mechanics worked well together to change parts on the car and get the car running again before the end of the session. This afternoon both cars ran to programme and we have completed the normal sequence of short and long run tyre evaluations. We are once again happy with our reliability and the car is coping well with the heat, so we can be confident for the race in this respect. Tonight will be about gaining more performance, which I'm confident we can find."


Romain Grosjean, P1 - no time, 22nd; P2 - 1:42.531, 17th

"We have to work and try to solve all our issues. We are focusing on every issue we encounter. This morning we couldn't do any laps, and this afternoon we burnt a cable which stopped the gearbox from working. Of course I don't get out of the car with a smile when my car is parked out on track and is not working, and you do swear a little bit in your head! But as I've said before, it's only the second race of the season and we always knew we would be starting on the back foot. We will get to where we want to be."

Pastor Maldonado, P1 - no time, 21st; P2 - no time, 22nd

"Our problems today were centred around the power unit. Hopefully we have fixed everything ahead of tomorrow and will be able to do enough for FP3 and qualifying. It's important for the team and it's important for me to be able to test the car and push a little bit, as it was not the case in the first race. It's tough as each time we're expecting to be better and better. We've been working so hard, the mechanics, the engineers, together with Renault Sport F1. We just need to try and be strong enough to accept when we have a problem and as soon as everything is fixed, be ready to be out and attack immediately."

Nick Chester, Lotus technical director

"Not a great day, quite far from it in fact. Both cars were delayed in the morning with mapping issues. Pastor then suffered from a turbo-related problem with his car. This meant we needed to remove the engine and subsequently he was unable to run in the afternoon. Romain was able to get some more laps in the afternoon, however a wiring issue caused difficulties with his gearbox. More lessons learnt, and we'll be focusing on getting as much mileage as possible tomorrow."


Marcus Ericsson, P1 - 1:45.775, 17th; P2 - 1:45.703, 20th

"Twenty four laps in FP1 means we started Friday much better than we did in Australia! It was a good first session for me, working through a normal FP1 program which was particularly important with the issues we had on Kamui's car. At the start of the session the track was okay and as it went on and the grip levels improved so did the car balance, but for most of the time I was having issues with traction although we did improve the driveability of the power unit throughout the session. Overall, understeer was the main balance issue and a flatspot on one of the tyres meant the car was understeering quite a bit in the final two runs, but in general it was an okay session.

"In FP2 we were again able to get through a lot of laps but I had an issue all afternoon with the engine cutting out at various points throughout each lap. That mean I wasn't able to put in a representative lap time in the whole session and that's something we need to look at tonight with Renault. The car was also still understeering, particularly in the mid and high speed turns, and we'll also have a look at that tonight when we have all the data from today.

"Overall it's just good to have a full Friday behind me for the first time, especially here at our home race in Malaysia. I know the team are working as hard as possible to fix the problems on Kamui's car, but at least we are a good step on from where we were this time in Australia with 55 laps completed on my side of the garage today - that will obviously help us tomorrow, both in FP3 and qualifying."

Kamui Kobayashi, P1 - 1:51.180, 19th; P2 - no time, 21st

"FP1 started okay. We did the normal installation lap and then another three laps of the baseline run but then the power started cutting in and out and we had to box to take a look at the problem. It was pretty quickly identified as an energy store issue which meant we had to change the battery and that was the end of FP1 for me. Unfortunately we also found an oil leak when we took the floor off the car and that meant I wasn't able to run at all in FP2 as it would have taken too long to fix both issues.

"This isn't good, obviously, and I'm not happy that we've lost another Friday, but it is important to say that I know how hard everyone is working, in our team and at Renault, to try and fix these problems so we can have a proper race weekend. The fact Marcus was able to run the most laps of anyone in FP1 shows that we can be reliable - we just need to make sure both cars run like that for the rest of the weekend or we'll have another difficult race ahead."


Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director

"As was the case in Australia we’ve seen fewer marbles out on track, but what was surprising was the amount of pick-up that we found on the circuit during FP1, with plenty of non-F1 rubber already laid down on the track. The surface cleaned considerably for FP2, which allowed us to have a more representative read of the track conditions. We've seen a performance gap of between 1.0 and 1.2 seconds between the hard and medium compounds, which should remain consistent if temperatures stay high. If temperatures drop slightly, we would expect the medium tyre to come more into its own. But we're still at an early point in the cycle of car development, so for everyone it's going to be a question of very carefully analysing the data that was obtained today when it comes to formulating a strategy. It can rain at any point in Malaysia, and that's another factor to consider in preparing for the race."