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Melbourne Day 1: Driver quotes

Quotes from drivers after free practice on the opening day of the Australian Grand Prix weekend, Round 1 of the Formula 1 World Championship, at Albert Park in Melbourne.

Sebastian Vettel: “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.”

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Kimi Raikkonen: “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.”

Lewis Hamilton: “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: “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.”

Nico Hülkenberg: “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: “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.”

Daniel Ricciardo: “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: “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.”

Sergio Perez: “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: “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.”

Marcus Ericsson: “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: “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.”

Romain Grosjean: “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: “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.”

Felipe Massa: “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: “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.”

Carlos Sainz: “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: “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!”