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In quotes - Friday in Melbourne

13 Mar 2015

Mercedes dominated the opening day in Australia in terms of outright lap time, but there were encouraging signs for some of their rivals - and frustration for others as technical issues disrupted run plans. The teams and drivers reflect on what could prove a crucial first day at Albert Park...

Red Bull

Daniil Kvyat
FP1 - 11th; FP2 - 6th

"Everything went quite well and according to plan today - everything felt good. We will do what we can tonight to prepare for tomorrow. It's too early to see where we are compared to the others as yet - but we'll see where we can improve overnight. Tomorrow we will know more."

Daniel Ricciardo 
FP1 - 10th; FP2 - No time

"In FP1 it took us a while to get going and we didn't get out straight away. A problem with the ICE meant we couldn't run in FP2, but it's a problem that we can fix for tomorrow. There's a lot of time to do what we need, so there's no concerns - it wasn't worth rushing it to get five laps this afternoon. We don't believe it will affect one of the four engines, so it's not a massive shot in the foot. I will look at what Daniil learnt in FP2 to get a direction for tomorrow - the circuit felt pretty rubbered in already in the morning so I should be able to get up to speed tomorrow. I've got to get these ants out of my pants now - I'm hanging out to drive! It's been a bit of a tease all week, talking about driving, and now I just want to get out there."

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg
FP1 - 13th; FP2 - 10th

"It was a fairly normal Friday with everything running smoothly. The long run performance was pretty good, especially the feeling and confidence I had with the car. So the balance is okay; it's just that we need to find some more performance, especially over a single lap. With almost 50 laps today I think we are quite well prepared going into the weekend."

Sergio Perez
FP1 - 12th; FP2 - 12th

"It was a day when we were able to achieve the objectives and hit our targets in terms of mileage - so that's positive. We did a lot of work with both the soft and medium tyre compounds, and I think we've already got a good understanding of how they perform. In terms of my feeling with the car, there is still a lot to improve, but it's the first day of the season and the first chance I've had to do proper performance work. There is a lot we need to learn from the data and a lot of decisions to be taken tonight."

Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer

"Both cars ran reliably today and we were able to make good progress through our job list. We did some aero testing this morning, making comparisons between the two cars, which proved useful as we continue to learn about the VJM08. The drivers were happy with the general balance and we made some improvements during the day. The main focus was on our long run performance and we've got a pretty good read on where we stand relative to our competitors. For tonight we need to concentrate on further data analysis to make sure we extract the most from the cars on Saturday and especially Sunday."

Lotus

Romain Grosjean
FP1 - 16th; FP2 - 9th

"It feels great to get out on track and get some laps at Albert Park, especially with such a lovely day here. I was happy not just for the weather as the car feels pretty good and the whole team is very positive at the potential we have. Certainly missing much of the first session was not to plan, but we know the issue and I've every confidence we'll have it sorted for tomorrow. It's the kind of thing you encounter in the early season. The big plus is the car feels good and I think we should be able to go well this weekend."

Pastor Maldonado
FP1 - 9th; FP2 - 8th

"I was happy with my time in the car today and the E23 feels pretty strong. For sure, we missed some of the second session, but the issue was easy to diagnose so the team is working on a solution. As always for the first day of running here, the track was improving all the time, but we were able to run good evaluations between us so we have plenty of info for building on today's work. Our post-session debriefs have been very promising so it's great to start the season with a real positive vibe."

Nick Chester, Technical Director

"It's been an interesting first day here at Albert Park and we've seen a lot of good potential from the E23. The car looks to be a big step forward from last year's in every area and the drivers are pleased with balance and consistency of the car. We lost some running with both cars today due to the same problem which was time consuming to rectify but completed some useful setup work. We're looking forward to building on this in FP3 and qualifying tomorrow."

Marussia

Will Stevens

"It's great to finally be here in Melbourne. With the challenges we've faced over the past few weeks, that in itself is a fantastic achievement. It was never going to be an easy task to get the cars out on track for the first time. We've had no pre-season testing, so we're having to experience those challenges here in the field in a race weekend context. The guys are doing a great job so all we can do as drivers is be patient and support the team."

Roberto Merhi

"Of course I was looking forward to my first experience of our car today, but we knew that getting out on track would not be an easy process. These things take time and everyone in the team is working incredibly hard, so we hope for a better day tomorrow. I'm really enjoying being with the team and the support from the fans has been incredible. It's a special feeling being here for my first Grand Prix weekend, so I'm not too downhearted. We will get to where we need to be." 

John Booth, Team Principal

"We have had to overcome numerous hurdles to get to the Australian Grand Prix, but the challenge did not end with our arrival here in Melbourne. This is effectively our first day of testing, and as we all know that is a less than straightforward experience for any team. The systems required to operate these cars are incredibly complex and this is the first time we have been able to begin the process of getting all the various elements of our operation and car package talking to each other. Only when that happens can you start to troubleshoot the various issues that every team encounters when you look to field a car for the first time. We are steadily working through that checklist and while it is disappointing that we haven't been able to get the cars out in today's free practice sessions, we are racers and will do our utmost to compete for all our fans and the people supporting us."

Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen
FP1 - 8th; FP2 - 4th

"It was a typical Friday of free practice. In the first session I could not drive very well and it was difficult to put a good lap together. So, for the second session, we made some changes to the car before the long-runs and, in the end, the feeling was better. Now if we can put everything together and find a good lap, we should be OK. It was a positive day overall, and the feeling hasn't changed since winter testing: I think the whole package has improved. On the other hand, it's only Friday, and we know we still have a lot of work to do."

Sebastian Vettel
FP1 - 5th; FP2 - 3rd

"It was a good day with no problems on the car. It looks like the hard work done during the winter, both on track and at the factory at Maranello, is paying off. Our positive trend goes on, notably as far as reliability is concerned. I can't think of such a trouble-free Friday session in a long time. As for performance, the higher you are in the timesheets, the better: but then it's only Friday and I've been in Formula 1 long enough to know that today's lap times are not so important. Mercedes are out of reach, we must be realistic: but every team and driver strives for being eventually on top, and we can be pleased with the work we've done today."

Mercedes

Nico Rosberg
FP1 - 1st; FP2 - 1st

"It was great to be back in the car at this awesome track. Today we have the evidence that our Silver Arrow is quick again and it was a great start for the Team. I was very happy with my long run but on one lap I still need to work on the pace as I had a lot of oversteer in the car. It seems again that it's very close between Lewis and me and he is a great driver, so I need to nail the setup every time to come out on top. This year will be a big battle again against him, I'm sure. I'm looking forward to the first weekend of the new season with all the great fans out there."

Lewis Hamilton
FP1 - 2nd; FP2 - 2nd

"It feels great to be back on track and back into a race weekend. In general it's been a good first day. The teams back at the two factories have done an incredible job over the winter. To arrive here and have such good pace in the car for the second year in a row is an amazing feeling. But, naturally, as drivers we want to push the car to the edge and when you get to that limit it gets tricky. That's where it's our job to keep our heads down and really try to figure out how to maximise the setup and get the most out of the car. There's a little bit of work to do on my side as I'm not 100% comfortable with the car - but that's to be expected on the first day. Today seemed to confirm that we have pretty good pace. But there are still other quick cars out there and we can't go into tomorrow's sessions not thinking that they will be close."

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

"It was a good day. We need to keep our feet on the ground but it makes no sense to talk ourselves down: the performance is good and we look competitive. But it wasn't a seamless day, the drivers weren't too happy with the car on the final run, so we have some work to do overnight to find the sweet spot. Looking at the field, it will be close with Ferrari and Williams, too. Of course, we don't know fuel loads and don't know what engine modes were run, whether it was really spicy or if there is still more to come. Like always: when the flag drops, the bull**** stops. Let's see how it looks tomorrow." 

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)

"Today was a good start to the season and we're happy to have successfully run through our programme with no problems to report. We've had a look at the car on both high and low fuel and we've assessed the two available tyre compounds - both of which seem to be performing well at this circuit. We've also got quite a few new configurations on the car so we've got quite a lot of homework to do tonight to make sure we've got the right setup for qualifying and the race. Tomorrow we have the first qualifying session of the new season - arguably the most important hour on the calendar, where we see the results of our hard work over the winter. It will be very interesting to see how the field lines up."

Williams

Valtteri Bottas
FP1 - 3rd; FP2 - 5th

"It was a very productive Friday; whilst Felipe was unlucky with a technical problem and lost some running, we managed to complete our run programme and get as prepared as we can for qualifying and the race. Straight out of the box the car felt good; it was particularly good in the long runs and the tyres felt consistent with not much drop off in performance. We can still find improvements in the short run pace and do more to unlock the tyre performance over one lap, so that will be a focus in tomorrow's third practice session." 

Felipe Massa
FP1 - 7th; FP2 - No time

"It's a bit disappointing to have only run in one session today; a water leak in the power unit required a repair. The more you run the more you understand the best direction to take with the set-up and what the track conditions are like, but at least I managed to get some valuable laps under my belt in the morning and the overall feeling from the car is positive. It's also good to identify any problems early on rather than experiencing them in qualifying or the race."

Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering

"We picked up a lot of data on Valtteri's car and completed all of the tests we had planned so it was a good day for him. Unfortunately our post FP1 inspection identified a water leak on the power unit of Felipe's car. This required the power unit to be removed from the chassis to repair, which resulted in Felipe missing FP2. We didn't have any other reliability issues with the car that are causing us concern. For us a Friday is not about making headlines or chasing laptime; we keep our heads down and diligently go about our business. That is exactly what we have done and I'm pleased to see that the team has picked up from where we left off in Abu Dhabi and worked well as a unit."

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz Junior
FP1 - 4th; FP2 - 7th

"I'm happy with today, I had been waiting for this day for a very long time and it was definitely a decent first day. We covered a lot of mileage, which was obviously our target for today as I am a rookie and new to this circuit. I enjoyed it a lot out there. Now we need to go through all the data we gathered today and keep improving. I feel very comfortable in the car. It's a challenging track, but I like it and all in all it's been a positive day."

Max Verstappen
FP1 - 6th; FP2 - 14th

"This morning we were able to complete many laps and it was good for me to get used to the track. It was a useful first practice and I was able to understand the car a bit more. I also didn't make any mistakes, so that was good. This afternoon unfortunately we were not able to spend much time out on track due to a battery issue. The team pushed very hard to send me out again but we ran out of time. It wasn't the best end to the day, but we will check the data tonight and hopefully we can make the best out of tomorrow's third and final practice session before my first ever qualifying session of the year."

Phil Charles (Chief Race Engineer)

"Today is the first time we've taken our car to a race weekend and our two new drivers did very well. Carlos and Max were excellent and had absolutely the right approach, settling in nicely and making no major mistakes. We are very impressed. We had a bit of bad luck on Max's car, as a sensor issue in the battery meant that we had to change it. Therefore, he only had one run in FP2 and it's a shame we were not able to give Max the runs we should have done. Carlos did a really solid job on the short runs, even though there's a few bits we know we have to help him with on the long runs to get him as happy as we can. It's been a pretty good day overall, we had a few niggles with the car which we will try and iron out, get on with a good job tomorrow and hopefully we end with a good Sunday as a result of this."

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson
FP1 - No time; FP2 - 15th

"It was a decent start today, but a pity we had a mechanical issue that forced us to stop running in the middle of the session. I still managed to do one complete run on the medium tyres during which I could improve my lap times and got a better feeling for the car, but I did not have the chance to test the soft tyres. Overall, it is nice to be back in Australia."

Felipe Nasr
FP1 - No time; FP2 - 11th

"The second free practice session was important for us. As it was my first time driving the track in Melbourne, I had to catch up with learning the circuit, but in general I am quite satisfied with the session. We were able see how the car is reacting and got some good data. Even from my side as well as on the car side, there is much we can do."

Giampaolo Dall'Ara, Head of Track Engineering

"Today we had a shortened programme. Both drivers had a longer run on medium tyres, which was meant to check the balance of the car and possibly do set-up changes, but also give them the chance to drive the car. Unfortunately, Marcus' car had a failure which cost him half of the session, so he was not able to test the soft tyres. We are investigating what caused the issue. Felipe had a smooth session with runs on medium and soft tyres. Now we have to work on the data collected today in order to optimise the set-up."

McLaren

Jenson Button
FP1 - 14th; FP2 - 13th

"We didn't get as much mileage as we'd have liked in today's sessions, but the balance didn't feel too bad. The lack of running in FP1 made it more difficult for us to get a good base set-up for FP2; you can't set the car up around a single timed lap, so we didn't have the momentum that we'd normally have going into FP2. Nevertheless, we improved the balance quite a bit through the afternoon. We have a few niggly problems to solve, but the basic car doesn't feel too bad.

"We know it's not going to be easy, but we're all working as one team, we're solving the problems as we go, and, hopefully, we'll be competitive sooner rather than later. We'll put our heads down and get the best out of what we've got this weekend. A lot of hard work will be needed, but we knew that would be the case coming into the season."

Kevin Magnussen
FP1 - 15th; FP2 - 16th

"We didn't get too many laps in FP1. Then I went off and damaged the car in the afternoon, so I didn't get much running under my belt in FP2 either. I tried to push my braking point into Turn Six, then lost the rear on entry. The car still made the apex, but then it snapped at a difficult time. I couldn't avoid hitting the wall. It was a driver mistake. It's a shame, but these things happen – my bad – and life goes on.

"The positive is that the balance and feeling of the car feels good – we're not as fast as we'd like, but we're not too far off the optimum balance in the car. Clearly, there's a lot more to come, but it's definitely a good baseline. Hopefully we'll get a better idea of where we are in FP3 tomorrow. Hopefully we can go into qualifying feeling a bit more confident."

Eric Boullier, Racing director, McLaren-Honda

"There's a neat circularity to the fact that McLaren-Honda starts its second era in the same country at which it ended its first. Here in Australia, there's always a tingle of nervousness and anticipation on the first day of the new season, but I'm pleased and proud of the way in which both McLaren and Honda have dovetailed successfully to work as one team.

"Clearly, our practice times today indicate that we have work to do in order to close the gap to our rivals. It was a difficult day, but we expected that. Nevertheless, the feedback from both drivers, and the potential within the package, give us great optimism for the future. 

"We always knew that the first race of the year would be tricky, but we're working hard to narrow the gap, and I think there's more to come tomorrow."

Yashuhisa Arai, Honda R&D senior managing officer – chief officer of motorsport

"After many months and weeks of intense preparation, the first day of the new season makes all of us at Honda feel slightly nervous and excited at the same time. It's been a promising day: we encountered a slight system data control issue towards the end of FP1, but it was a minor problem, and we were able to get both cars out for the start of FP2.

"Kevin's accident was unfortunate, but we know it'll be a better day for him tomorrow. Our afternoon session was more productive: we gathered lots of useful data, and we'll further concentrate on refining that data ahead of tomorrow's FP3 and qualifying sessions."

Pirelli

Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director

"Today's running clearly demonstrated the increase in performance that we had anticipated for the 2015 cars, with the improvement in lap times of about two seconds likely to rise up to three seconds as we go into FP3 and qualifying tomorrow. Both the medium and soft P Zero compounds performed well on the low-abrasion track surface here in Melbourne, and we saw no graining or blistering of any description. So far we have a performance gap of around 1.4 seconds between the compounds but this is set to evolve: we look forward to seeing the true performance of the 2015 cars throughout the rest of the weekend."