Austria Day 1: Team and driver reports

Drivers and teams report from day one of the the Austrian Grand Prix weekend, Round 9 of the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship, at Red Bull Ring.


Lewis Hamilton: “It’s been a really good Friday with no major headaches to complain about so far. We had to swap out a spark plug during FP2, but the guys did a great job to turn the car around and we still managed to complete our programme. Most importantly, the car feels fantastically fast here. There’s already a nice balance and it feels good out on track. This car is so quick in comparison to what we raced here last year. It’s tricky, but a proper thrill to hook up a lap. The team is in good spirits and we’re all up for another exciting fight with the Ferraris this weekend.”

Valtteri Bottas: “A solid start to the weekend. There’s a good feeling inside the team and the car is clearly quick here. It was great to see that the upgrades the team worked so hard to deliver for this weekend worked straight out of the box. Aerodynamically we’ve made another step forward from Baku, which is encouraging. This track punishes you if you make a mistake, and I tested those limits, but that’s something I can learn from and build upon for the rest of the weekend. The balance of the car feels good and we’ll fine tune the setup some more tonight to be ready for qualifying. Ferrari are looking strong here too, so we’re expecting another interesting weekend ahead.”

James Allison, Technical Director: “We still have a few unanswered questions after today’s practice sessions but it was nevertheless a pretty promising Friday. We ran all three tyre compounds and they were unusually close in performance at this circuit. But it was clear that our car was decently balanced on all of them. We showed good pace on both low and high fuel, although we have the feeling there is still a little more to be found at the lower fuel level. But it was a good start overall.”


Sebastian Vettel: “Today we did a lot of laps and learnt a lot about the car. We had a good feel with it and that is what we need. So, we’ll see what we can do tomorrow. We understood the problems we had in Baku, but here it’s completely different. The weather and the asphalt temperature are not the same as they were there. Today it is still difficult to judge, but the car is very good and we made some improvements. We proceed step by step; tomorrow we’ll have another free practice session and then we’ll see.”

Kimi Raikkonen: “It was a very normal day, trying different solutions and seeing how they went. We struggled a bit with some things, but we know what is going on and we should be able to fix it. It was one of those Fridays, not great and not bad either. Obviously it could have been a bit better and straightforward, but it’s only the first day of practice. I don’t think it will be very difficult with tyres as long as we do the normal things; it’s a very similar story as any other race. Now we have to go through everything and improve for tomorrow.”

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo: “It was another good Friday today and we seemed to be relatively competitive. I didn’t really get to do a proper long run at the end because we had a couple of issues but otherwise it was a smooth day. The surface of the circuit has a lot of grip this year and with the new cars you really feel it. Especially the high speed corners of the second sector are pretty fast and fun. As soon as you lose that grip though you lose everything so a lot of guys were going off track. I guess everyone is trying to find their limit and then you feel the grip so you want to push more and more but then sometimes it breaks away from you. The top five cars were within four-tenths so hopefully that remains for tomorrow and then it’ll be quite an exciting show for the weekend. I’m sure Mercedes will probably turn it up for qualifying but I hope we can stay in that fight.”

Max Verstappen: “All in all, I think it was a positive day. We had a small issue with a brake connection at the start of FP2 meaning we had to take the floor off the car which lost us some time but we pretty much completed our programme so we can be happy with that. This is not the highest grip track and with the higher speeds this year, if you have a moment, it is difficult to correct without hitting a kerb or going through the gravel which a lot of people have experienced today. The yellow kerbs were definitely a challenge and I think maybe they are not the type of kerbs for Formula 1, the cars just aren’t designed for it. We still have some work to do tonight as I’m not fully happy with the balance we had today but we are also not too far off. We always know that in qualifying Mercedes will turn up their engines and of course the weather here can change very quickly, so it will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow.”


Jolyon Palmer: “I had a positive morning as I was happy with the car straight away and it felt like the best FP1 out of the box for a while. We did a bit of fine tuning and I was feeling quite confident and comfortable on the track. It’s a shame we had an electrical problem in the afternoon and couldn’t get more laps in. The team is looking into it and the car should be good to go tomorrow morning.”

Nico Hulkenberg: “The afternoon went okay for me. As I was only out in FP2, I had a little bit of catch-up to do, but I got in to the groove quite rapidly. I had a decent run on the Ultrasoft tyres whereas the long runs looked a bit more challenging on the harder compound. I struggled a little with car balance in this afternoon so there is a bit more ground work to be done to improve the overall package.”

Sergey Sirotkin: “It felt nice to have a clear session this morning and get some good laps in with the R.S.17. Having not driven the car in the last few weeks, I could feel the impact of the development as the car has definitely improved from before, so it is nice to see that the team is moving in the right direction. We worked through a decent programme and I can’t wait for my next FP1 opportunity.”

Nick Chester, Technical Director: “Sergey did everything required of him in FP1; completing the planned programme of balance and aero assessments. Jolyon had a clean FP1 without any problems where we evaluated different aero set-ups. He was forced to end his FP2 early due to an electrical issue, which was obviously unfortunate. Nico’s FP2 went well after sitting out FP1. He put in a good lap on Ultrasofts to end up in P9, which puts him in a good place. All three drivers delivered well today and gave positive feedback on the car. We have a bit of work to do with balance tomorrow but we are where we expected to be and we look forward to seeing what we can get out of the car for qualifying.”


Fernando Alonso: “Everyone was looking for the limit today, so we saw many offs – but tomorrow everyone will calm down. Our day was not too bad. We eventually completed our programme, despite missing a little bit of track time in both sessions – this afternoon, I hit a kerb and slightly damaged the floor, so we had to change it. However, we were able to collect some valuable information, which we’ll now go through in detail, looking at everything we tested and what we can do with it for tomorrow. There are seven or eight drivers all within a few tenths of each other – tomorrow, we’ll find out if we’re in the upper or lower part of this group. Finally, the weather looks unstable for both Saturday and Sunday. Unless you’re fighting for the championship, some unexpected rain is always welcome. That can go either way for you, but when you have little to lose it usually works fine…”

Stoffel Vandoorne: “I think it’s been a reasonably good Friday for us as a team. We’re competing in a very, very close midfield – I think one second covered around 10 cars in FP2 this afternoon – so it will all come down to details tomorrow if we’re to have a good result in qualifying. It’s such a short lap that a couple of hundredths’ difference can make a big difference in terms of grid position. We’ll focus on putting everything together and fine-tune the set-up so we can hopefully carry every ounce of performance through to tomorrow.”

Eric Boullier, Racing Director: “It’s been a pretty productive first day here in Austria. Honda has introduced its Spec Three power unit upgrade for both cars, and it seems like a fairly useful step in performance. Taking the lap-times at face value today, we looked reasonably competitive, despite neither Fernando nor Stoffel really feeling that their MCL32s were dialed in properly. There’s still a fair amount of work for us to do this evening if we’re to maximise the set-up ahead of qualifying tomorrow, but I feel encouraged that we’re on the front foot and carrying good momentum after the first day of running.”

Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer: “After the successful running of our Spec Three PU for the first time in Baku two weeks ago, we came to Austria with one apiece for both Fernando and Stoffel. I’m pleased to say that we were able to work through our FP1 and FP2 programmes with no issues. During the sessions, both drivers showed decent performance with constant pace, and once again we were able to see the effectiveness of the update in the data. It’s difficult to judge our overall competitiveness from today’s practice sessions only. However, we feel confident that we’ll have an opportunity to score some points. Of course, this doesn’t take into account the uncertain factors such as high temperatures and unstable weather, but we’ll concentrate on our preparation to give our drivers competitive cars, and hopefully they will both proceed into Q3 in tomorrow’s qualifying.”


Romain Grosjean: “It’s been a good day. We had a puncture this morning but a good afternoon. We’ve inherited a few things on the car, so there’s some work to be done on it tonight. Overall, though, it’s a pretty good feeling.”

Kevin Magnussen: “I’m happy with our Friday. It’s a fun track to drive and the car’s handling well. I’m looking forward to tomorrow to see if our pace is representative for qualifying as well. Fingers crossed.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal: “Not a bad day. We got a lot of laps in and learned a lot. There are still things to do because we had some damage on the floor of Romain’s car in FP2, so we’ll see how that works out. All in all, it’s been a very positive day. I hope we can continue like this tomorrow.”

Force India

Sergio Perez: “It’s been a difficult day trying to get up to speed this afternoon. I’ve struggled with the balance of the car – mainly the corner entry stability and with the rear – so we’ve been trying to solve those issues. We need to understand where we can improve tonight and pick up some speed tomorrow to make sure was can be in the fight for Q3.”

Esteban Ocon: “A solid day for me with no real issues or problems. We found some more speed with every run, but there is still room for improvement and I know there is more to come tomorrow – from me, from the car; in all areas really. It’s going to be a really tight grid tomorrow with small margins so the work we do tonight will be very important.”

Alfonso Celis: “It was a shame to have the electrical problem with the car because it really limited what we could achieve – just 15 laps, mainly of aero work. The issue ended the session early and we didn’t get to start the performance work. It’s a track that I love so I’m disappointed we couldn’t do more laps.”


Marcus Ericsson: “It has not been the smoothest day for us, as we had some issues in FP1, which started with a mechanical problem during the first run. We were not able to complete more than 12 laps, which was an unfortunate start to the day. FP2 went better, we managed to cover a lot of laps and worked on aerodynamic and mechanical tests, which helps us to understand the car better. Our next step is to sit down with the engineers and find a way to optimise our car set-up for the rest of the weekend.”

Pascal Wehrlein: “It was a difficult day for us. There is a clear gap to our direct competitors, which was to be expected due to the many straights. We had some difficulties on the car side, especially during the second free practice session. However, we were able to collect a lot of data, and are working on analysing it now in order to improve the performance of our car for tomorrow.”


Felipe Massa: “It definitely wasn’t an easy Friday for us. We were struggling with balance in the car, with some difference between high speed and low speed. I just wasn’t happy with the balance and there’s work to do to improve for tomorrow. I really hope our lap times are better and we can be more competitive in qualifying”

Lance Stroll: “The field is very tight. We are missing a bit so there are bits and pieces to work on overnight. We don’t look as competitive as we were in Baku, for example, but that can change. It is such a short lap round here and a couple of tenths can get you quite a few places. We are going to work to try and solve it for tomorrow, as we are lacking a bit of grip everywhere and are just not able to push the car as hard at some of the others. I haven’t debriefed with the engineers yet, but I do think we have a good race car.”

Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer: “We were carrying out tests across the garage on suspension and aerodynamics with some new parts that we brought this weekend. Both cars ran wide at Turn Nine in the morning session and suffered some damage unfortunately, but we were able to put that right for FP2. We’re doing more work with set-up in FP2 and we ended the day with a lot of good data, indicating the direction to take tomorrow. There is some analysis to do this evening but we hope to be in good shape tomorrow.”

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat: “We had a productive Friday. Even if we had some small issues here and there throughout the day, they were not big enough to say that it affected our day too much. We now just need to keep working as we are and avoid any more issues – we have some room for improvement and we will try to fulfill this overnight in order to come back stronger tomorrow.”

Carlos Sainz: “It’s been a tricky Friday here in Austria – I’d say not only for us, but also for many other drivers out there. We need to learn from today. We know we are lacking a bit of pace – but not as much as the timing sheets show – so I’m confident that for tomorrow we can get a bit closer to the top ten. We will make a few changes overnight and keep improving!”

James Key, Technical Director: “A bit of a mixed day for us. We had some new parts on the car – some mechanical development – which has seemed to work as expected, so we’re quite happy with that. This morning, the balance of the car was, in general, where we expected it to be. We didn’t have a particularly clean session with either driver, but we were quite happy with where we were. Daniil was very comfortable with his car, while Carlos had a bit of balance inconsistency that we needed to sort out for him. We worked on that for FP2. The start of the afternoon session seemed to be working reasonably well so, from a balance and set-up progress point of view, it’s been okay. Unfortunately, as we got into the long-runs, we suffered some problems on both cars: Daniil had a braking issue of some sort at the rear, which has caused the rear brakes to get hot – we are currently investigating exactly what this is, but it’s not something we’ve seen before, so we have to understand exactly what happened there and address it for tomorrow. For Carlos, he was unfortunately one of a number of drivers who went beyond the limits of the track today. Just as he was returning to the track, he caught the floor on quite an aggressive kerb and this unfortunately damaged the floor and the front area around the chassis. This meant it was sadly game over for him. We therefore didn’t get the race data that we wanted; in terms of tyres we got some information, but not everything. It’s a situation we’ve been in before, so I think we can make up for that. In terms of performance, there’s definitely some work to do. It’s all very close and we didn’t get a clean run with either driver with the ultrasoft tyre at the beginning of the session, so we know there’s a little bit more to come from that. Nevertheless, there’s still some work to do and we will work on that tonight, targeting a bit more of a consistent day tomorrow.”


Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing: “There were no real surprises during free practice in Austria, with the soft, supersoft and ultrasoft compounds – all of which were seen on track today – providing performance in line with our expectations. With such a short lap in terms of time and relatively few corners at the Red Bull Ring, the lap time gap between compounds seems smaller compared to what we expected from simulation data. This brings the soft into play as a viable race tyre, particularly for those thinking about a one-stop strategy. However, most drivers have only chosen a small number of soft sets, meaning that some have already been looking to save those soft tyres for possible use during the race. As ever, the weather has been a question mark and we expect that uncertainty to continue for the rest of the weekend, which will obviously have a profound additional effect on strategy.”