Australian Grand Prix Friday practice

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Melbourne, FP1, 2008, 450150

Here are my notes on the first two Australian Grand Prix free practices. Kimi Raikkonen was fastest in the first and Lewis Hamilton quickest in the second, ahead of home hero Mark Webber..

Friday free practice 1

1. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:26.461 (25 laps)

Kimi Raikkonen was quickest in the early part of the session with a string of successively faster laps until he put his left wheels on the grass on the entry to turn three and skidded wide. He re-took the top spot with two very fast laps at the end of the session, both of which were quicker than anyone elses – a 1’26.823 and a 1’26.461, the latter setting new bests in all three sectors.

2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:26.948 + 0.487 (21)
3. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:26.958 + 0.497 (25)
4. Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:27.114 + 0.653 (19)

Lewis Hamilton was fastest for much of the session but probably would have been third overall had Felipe Massa not got stuck behind Jarno Trulli’s Toyota. Heikki Kovalainen improved by 0.6s on his last run.

5. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:28.263 + 1.802 (18)
6. Fernando Alonso Renault 1:28.360 + 1.899 (22)

The only two non-McLaren or Ferrari drivers to get within two seconds of Raikkonen – but both their team mates had problems.

7. Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 1:28.579 + 2.118 (12)
8. Timo Glock Toyota 1:28.913 + 2.452 (16)
9. Sebastian Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:28.957 + 2.496 (22)
10. Jarno Trulli Toyota 1:29.014 + 2.553 (23)
11. Jenson Button Honda 1:29.124 + 2.663 (25)
12. Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Ferrari 1:29.230 + 2.769 (24)
13. David Coulthard Red Bull-Renault 1:29.301 + 2.840 (5)
14. Sebastien Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:29.363 + 2.902 (32)
15. Rubens Barrichello Honda 1:29.533 + 3.072 (17)
16. Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:29.561 + 3.100 (7)

This is the bulk of the mid-field. Nick Heidfeld and David Coulthard suffered technical problems early in the session and Coulthard may well need an engine change. Jenson Button managed to drag the Honda into the top half of the field and Giancarlo Fisichella was significantly quicker than Adrian Sutil.

Several drivers ran off the track which is usually very slippery early in the weekend as it is not a permanent race track (although it was used for races on Thursday). Raikkonen, Hamilton, Massa, Alonso and Fisichella all had minor trips through the gravel or spins.

17. Adrian Sutil Force India-Ferrari 1:30.155 + 3.694 (13)
18. Nelson Piquet Renault 1:30.357 + 3.896 (21)

Nelson Piquet Jnr caused the only red flag of the session, spinning and stopping in a dangerous position on the exit of turn three.

19. Takuma Sato Super Aguri-Honda 1:31.048 + 4.587 (7)
20. Anthony Davidson Super Aguri-Honda 1:31.771 + 5.310 (7)

The Super Aguris only did minimal running to preserve their limited stock of parts.

21. Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:35.053 + 8.592 (3)
22. Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota No time (3)

The Williams drivers hardly ventured out on track at all.

Friday free practice 2

Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India F1 Team, Melbourne, FP1, 2008

1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:26.559 (33)

In contrast to the first session, where he spent much of the time first before falling to second, Hamilton set the fastest time of the second session with only a minute left on the clock.

He was one of few drivers to get a good time out of the soft compound tyres on a very hot track. His 1’26.559 was almost a second quicker than the next car, but it was clear from his second lap how quickly the soft tyres degrade – he could only manage a 1’27.565. But he looks a good bet for pole position.

2. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:27.473 + 0.914 (27)
3. Massa Ferrari 1:27.640 + 1.081 (29)
4. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:27.683 + 1.124 (28)
5. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault 1:28.037 + 1.478 (26)
6. Raikkonen Ferrari 1:28.208 + 1.649 (28)

Mark Webber gave the home crowd some cheer, topping the times for much of the session before being pipped by Hamilton. The Red Bulls seem to have genuine pace, Coulthard backing him up in fifth, but there are still question marks over reliability: Coulthard’s car stopped on his way back to the pits.

Felipe Massa’s session was cut short when he had a high-speed gyration at turn 12 and was fortunate not to hit anything.

Raikkonen seemed to be concentrating on long runs but couldn’t get much pace out of the soft tyres. That may well change as more rubber goes down on the track.

7. Trulli Toyota 1:28.292 + 1.733 (22)
8. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:28.352 + 1.793 (31)
9. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari 1:28.469 + 1.910 (32)

Jarno Trulli brought the yellow flags out with a spin into the gravel at turn three. Just as Raikkonen did earlier on, he put his wheels on the grass on the way into the corner. Rosberg showed the pace the Williams had but on the radio the team were discussing problems with the car’s differential.

Giancarlo Fisichella was a highly impressive ninth for Force India, raising the prospects of an impressive qualifying performance from the new team who have hopes of reaching Q2.

10. Glock Toyota 1:28.582 + 2.023 (28)
11. Button Honda 1:28.632 + 2.073 (30)
12. Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:28.731 + 2.172 (32)
13. Alonso Renault 1:28.779 + 2.220 (37)
14. Barrichello Honda 1:28.849 + 2.290 (28)

Jenson Button made it to 11th again and impressively was ahead of both BMWs and both Renaults – a result the team would surely be delighted with in qualifying. There were a lot of mistakes throughout the field – Hamilton held a beautiful opposite-lock slide on the way out of turn 12, and many drivers out-braked themselves or lost control under acceleration on the way out of corners.

15. Kubica BMW Sauber 1:28.860 + 2.301 (35)
16. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:29.077 + 2.518 33)
17. Sutil Force India-Ferrari 1:29.161 + 2.602 (32)
18. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:29.193 + 2.634 (40)
19. Piquet Renault 1:29.518 + 2.959 (14)
20. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:29.605 + 3.046 (11)

Toro Rosso didn’t show the pace many expected from them. Nelson Piquet Jnr in the Renault was 0.8s off team mate Fernando Alonso, who himself was a long way behind the leaders. Sutil also lagged 0.7s behind Fisichella.

21. Sato Super Aguri-Honda 1:30.663 + 4.104 (16)
22. Davidson Super Aguri-Honda 1:31.527 + 4.968 (8)

The Super Aguris only did 38 laps between them in both sessions, but that’s still more than they did in pre-season testing this year…

Practice session 3 will be at 00:00am British time and Qualifying will be at 03:00am British time on Saturday. Visit F1Fanatic for live discussion during both sessions.

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14 comments on Australian Grand Prix Friday practice

  1. Robert Mckay said on 14th March 2008, 8:22

    I wonder how much sandbagging is going on. The times seem all over the place, even just within teams. And a lot of teams seems much lower than predicted – BMW/Williams and Renault are either playing it very cool or have some problems. Either way it’s looking good for Red Bull, but I bet neither car lasts the race distance, and I think the gap between the midfield and the front two teams has widened, not decreased.

    Even at the back there’s no clear picture to me. STR don’t look like springing the surprise. Fisi’s 9th in the Force India is pretty impressive, and the Honda’s don’t quite seem as dog slow as I’d expected.

    All in all, very interesting.

  2. dave said on 14th March 2008, 9:04

    are we able ot watch sturday practice on itv website…or any other web pages?

  3. Varun Murthy said on 14th March 2008, 10:02

    Looking good for force india!!! :)

  4. aled said on 14th March 2008, 11:02

    Fisichella looks impressive so far, not sure how many teams are showing they’r true speed either because of the mixed up orders. still think kimi for pole and the win.

  5. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 14th March 2008, 11:44

    Hi Dave, yes, Saturday practice should be on ITV-F1.com.

  6. Warren said on 14th March 2008, 12:09

    An interseting evening , just gets the juices flowing for the weekend. Looks as though there will be plenty action, especialy under pressure. Bring it on !!!!!

  7. Robert Mckay said on 14th March 2008, 12:20

    "Hi Dave, yes, Saturday practice should be on ITV-F1.com."

    Are you sure? The website does not herald anything about Saturday practice, only Friday’s session, and it does not have a time up for you to tune in on the web. I think it’s a case of live timing only for that one.

  8. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 14th March 2008, 12:50

    Hmm I think you might be right – that’s a shame. I wonder if it’s going to be on Speed instead?

  9. teams did lots of tyre testing and ran on different fuel loads in the second session, so I would say the times from P2 should not be taken too seriously.

    I watched today at the track at Turn 13 and the sliding of the cars was very obvious. Also the number of cars that went off the track, including Alonso, Massa, Kovalainen, Hamilton suggests that the TC and other aids ban has probably bigger impact than the drivers admit.

    The reports from the pits during the second session also said, that the softer tyres degraded very quickly. It will be interesting to see what the teams actually will do. The weather was very hot today (37 during morning practice), but cooled down a lot around 3 – 3:30, towards the end of second practice. The race will start at 3:30 on Sunday …

  10. Webber : 1:27.473 good for him. Hope this season will not start as the battle of two (McLaren vs. Ferrari). Maybe Rosberg and Kubica step in…

  11. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 14th March 2008, 13:21

    Thanks Milos – a couple of the teams have said it was very windy as well and that caused a lot of the spins. Would you agree?

  12. yes, there were some pretty strong  gusts, very refreshing for the spectators :-) but I can imagine the drivers were not exactly happy with that … I was hiding in the shadow behind a fence during the break between the sessions, and that fence almost did bend quite a bit in the wind

  13. TommyB said on 14th March 2008, 15:57

    Watched the highlights today and its really nice to see drivers running wide and sliding off track.

    Thing that stood out most for me was how awful the ferrari colour scheme looks. Whats up with that!!?!

  14. Robert McKay said on 14th March 2008, 20:25

    "Watched the highlights today and its really nice to see drivers running wide and sliding off track. "

    Agreed, just watched the ITV highlights video myself (who does the voicover for it, anyone?). I said in the predictions thread I thought the TC was going to make a big difference and we’d see Grands Prix being lost by a driver spinning out of the lead, so I feel a bit more hopeful that maybe at least one of my predictions will come right!

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