McLaren ended the first day of practice in Australia in a positive mood, talking up their chances after a strong showing in both sessions.
But Ferrari and Red Bull still look like the teams to beat ahead of qualifying tomorrow.
We’ve had five practice sessions so far in 2010 and a different team has been fastest in each of them. That shows two things: the field is quite closely matched at the front, and judging form based on practice times isn’t easy.
The second practice session was disrupted by two bursts of rainfall: one at the beginning of the session, the other around half an hour in. You can see the effect it had on the drivers most clearly in the chart of the front runners’ lap times below.
McLaren, Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes
Ferrari ran a new front wing on Fernando Alonso’s car while Felipe Massa used the regular front wing so they could compare the two. The team said the new front wing gave positive results and Massa said he was happy with tyre degradation.
McLaren had some aerodynamic changes on their car including new wing mirrors mounted on the side pod wings. The general feeling at the team is that they’re closer to the pace than they were at Bahrain, particularly on one-lap qualifying pace.
Lewis Hamilton, who was quickest in the second session, was one of several drivers to complain about slower cars getting in the way:
Every time I’ve tried to put a good lap in on a new set of tyres, I’ve hit traffic.
Hamilton’s quickest lap (the lowest of the orange squares on the left-hand side of the chart) was on soft tyres. When Jenson Button came out to do his time on soft tyres the track was wet, making it hard to compare their efforts.
It was interesting to see Red Bull and Ferrari doing stints alongside each other towards the end of the first period of dry running in FP2. Red Bull were ahead on pace which was probably mostly down to fuel load. But when one considers that the Ferrari is believed to start the race heavier than the Red Bull because of its thirstier engine, that in itself could be significant.
At Mercedes, Michael Schumacher was one of few drivers to improve his time at the end of the session, having failed to set a lap during the first opportunity when the track was dry. He ended up ahead of Nico Rosberg for the first time in a session this year.
Renault, Force India, Sauber, Williams and Toro Rosso
Williams published a detailed breakdown of their cars’ activities in FP2 as follows:
Rubens Barrichello: Run 1: New Prime (12 laps, tyre evaluations), Run 2: New Option (13 laps, tyre evaluations)
Nico Hülkenberg: Run 1: New Option (11 laps, tyre evaluations), Run 2: New Intermediate (3 laps, wet tyre test), Run 3: New Prime (11 laps, tyre evaluations)
The pair were out at roughly the same time for their new tyre evaluations. Barrichello ended his run on the hard (Prime) tyre with two laps in the 1’26.9s, while Hülkenberg’s last two laps on the soft tyres were 1’27.8 and 1’27.5.
This suggests the hard tyre is quick and, assuming we can take its durability for granted, it will surely be a preferable choice for Sunday.
Hülkenberg was driving at Albert Park for the first time and gave the track the thumbs-up:
Albert Park is quite a cool track; I really enjoyed it out there. It’s very bumpy, but definitely good fun.
But at Force India Vitantonio Liuzzi was another driver frustrated by traffic:
Unfortunately there was always traffic as there was people slowing down and backing off to try and get some space, so I didn’t get a free lap. It was like people were on a Sunday drive in some places.
However Force India appeared to be closer to the pace of the Renaults in the second session. Not that the French team were off their pace from this morning – in fact Vitaly Petrov’s best time in the second session was quicker than Robert Kubica’s fastest lap from first practice.
Jaime Alguersuari was critical of the new section of track at Bahrain two weeks ago but was much more positive about Albert Park, calling it an “amazing track”.
He enjoyed it so much he did 43 laps – 14 more than anyone else – mostly in one long stint beginning in the middle of the session while the track was still damp. This was clearly a high-fuel run, as he ended up the best part of four seconds off team mate Sebastien Buemi’s pace.
Virgin, Lotus and HRT
The award for most optimistic post-practice press release goes to HRT:
Bruno’s car has now covered its first race distance if the team takes into account all of the running from the Bahrain weekend.
However Bruno Senna covered no ground in the second practice session following fuel pressure problems and team mate Karun Chandhok stopped just 100 metres out of the pits with a gearbox problem. The uphill struggle continues.
Top 50 lap times
|26||Pedro de la Rosa||87.108||11|
|46||Pedro de la Rosa||87.784||23|
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