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Australian Grand Prix: Team & Driver Reports

Teams and drivers report from FP1 and FP2 on the first day of the Australian Grand Prix weekend, Round 1 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Albert Park in Melbourne from 15 to 17 March.

Mercedes

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Lewis Hamilton: “It’s really nice to get back out on track. The weather is fantastic, we’ve already got quite a big crowd. I have a positive buzz from driving the car today – this is what I love doing. The car feels like it’s in a similar place to where it was in Barcelona, which is positive coming to a different track. We got through our programme really well, there were no issues on track. There’s plenty of stuff that we can improve on, but this was not a bad start. What we have to do now is really study and analyse everything, as we always do on a Friday night. But the fact is we’ve got two cars that continue to go around, none of us made a mistake and we kept the cars in one piece – that counts for a lot.”

Valtteri Bottas: “It’s nice to be back in a race car, doing the thing we love to do – I had fun today. The car felt better than it did in testing. We didn’t bring a lot of new parts to the car, but we were able to optimise the package that we have. It was a solid day for the first day back in the office, but the times are not important on a Friday. We haven’t seen the full performance from any of the other teams. We have an idea of how much we can improve for qualifying, but we have no idea how much performance the other teams can still bring. It will be interesting to see what the first competitive session holds tomorrow.”

James Allison: “It was a pretty productive day today, we achieved a decent balance with both drivers on both tyres. We also ran some new bits and they seem to work okay. It’s way too early in the weekend to have any sort of real idea of where we stand on pace, but what we do know is that the car seems to be handling reasonably well and it seems to have good tyre degradation on both compounds that we ran which is a good sign for tomorrow, but we will only get a clear picture of where we stand later in the weekend.”

Red Bull

Team Report: “The new Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda partnership got off to an encouraging start, with the opening session seeing Max within 0.1s of the fastest time, and Pierre pipping his new teammate to third place in FP2. The team ended the session investigating an anomaly on Pierre’s car which turned out to be nothing serious. Toro Rosso also started Friday strongly, with Daniil seventh fastest in FP1. Unfortunately for Alexander, a crash late in the session limited his running, but he was less than 0.4s adrift of his teammate at the start of his first race weekend. FP2 saw Daniil finish in 11th place but only half a second off the top three, while Alexander suffered a spin but completed the highest mileage as he ended up 17th. With just 1.3s covering third to 18th, small gains could make a big difference on Saturday and Sunday, so we will now analyse the data from both teams to ensure the best approach to qualifying and the race.”

Toyoharu Tanabe, Technical Director, Honda F1: “Finally we took to the track for the first race weekend of the season. Winter testing went quite smoothly for us and that continued in today’s two free practice sessions. At the end of FP2, we spotted something on Pierre’s PU which we investigated. It was a minor issue and has no effect on the rest of the weekend.”

Pierre Gasly: “It was great to be back on track for the first Free Practice of the season, and my first Friday at the track with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing was a special moment for me. It was a positive day, we tested a lot of things and my feeling in the car is getting better lap after lap. There’s still work to be done but we’re pretty happy with the package. We didn’t have any expectations today, as after testing it’s difficult to have a real idea of the pace of others. We managed to find some good direction for FP2 and I felt better in the car than I did in FP1. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow. On the engine side, we had a small loss of power on the last lap and after some checks, it turned out to be a minor sensor issue.”

Max Verstappen: “I’m quite happy about today and the feeling so far is pretty good. Of course, there are always areas to improve and we are not fast enough yet but it’s only the first day of the season and there is a long way to go. It looks like Mercedes are very quick and they seem to be a little happier with the overall balance. In general, the car felt alright with medium and soft tires but we still need to fully understand the compounds. My running was also a little different to the others in terms of preparation and there is definitely some lap time in that. We will look at the data tonight and see what we can improve but from the engine side there were no problems and it all ran very smoothly. We had no expectations going into today and it’s just good to get started.”

Ferrari

Team Report: “It was a busy Friday for Scuderia Ferrari at the Albert Park circuit, which is hosting the first race of the 2019 Formula 1 season. During the three hours of free practice, Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc carried out a full evaluation programme on their SF90s. The drivers worked on set-up and tyres to check the handling of the car in much warmer conditions than those experienced at the Barcelona tests. Sebastian and Charles then ran with different fuel loads to simulate different phases of the race. In the first session, both drivers did 18 laps: Vettel was second fastest in 1’23”637, fractionally quicker than Leclerc’s 1’23”673. In the second session, both men competed 35 laps; the German was fifth quickest in 1’23”473 and the Monegasque was ninth in 1’23”754. The third and final free practice session takes place tomorrow afternoon at 14:00 local time (04:00 CET) with the first qualifying session of the year getting underway at 17:00 (07:00 CET.) The Australian Grand Prix starts on Sunday at 16h10 (06:10 CET.).

Sebastian Vettel: “It was fun today. Maybe we were not as fast as possibly we wanted to be and could have been, but it’s Friday, after all, so it doesn’t really matter. I am sure that by December 1st no one will remember how fast we were on March 15! I am still lacking a bit of confidence, it was a tricky day for us, as it probably was for everyone. We are not yet where we would like to be, not so much in terms of lap time but more in terms of car feel and handling. We didn’t really get into the groove and into the rhythm, which is quite important round here on such a bumpy but I think that tomorrow will be a better day and if we can get that confidence back, then there’s a lot of lap time in that. There were bits of the session that were really, really good and we can build on, so now it’s all about stringing it together and having a better day tomorrow. The night is long and our engineers are very smart. I am relaxed”.

Charles Leclerc: “It was definitely a busy day. We tried different tyres and types of set-up and I am very satisfied with some aspects. The first session was better than the second, maybe because the wind got up in the afternoon and we struggled a bit more to find the right reference points. Having spoken with the engineers, I believe that, nevertheless, we have understood where we have to improve and we will go in that direction. We have one more session in which we can put into practice the solutions that an analysis of the data suggests, in order to be ready for qualifying”.

Mattia Binotto, Team Principal: “For the first day of free practice of the season, the most important part of the programme was getting an understanding of the car and its behaviour so as to prepare it for Saturday and Sunday. The track is very bumpy and today, the wind was very strong, which was inconvenient. The drivers are still looking for the right feeling with the car here. Now we just have to work on the set-up and get ready for qualifying”.

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat: “Both free practice sessions today went well, we managed to run through our programmes and complete quite a few laps, which is important around this circuit. The car felt good, I think we maximised our time on track and we just need to look into what we want to change overnight. I think there are still steps we can make to improve the car for tomorrow, so we’ll try to work on that tonight.”

Alex Albon: “I’m still getting used to the timetable of an F1 weekend as well as to the car and the track. This circuit isn’t easy, but I think our pace looks good so far and I’m slowly building up confidence. I took it a bit easier after the spin in FP1 and once I got back up to speed we went on with the programme, trying a few more things on the car. Timesheet apart, we’re looking pretty strong in a very tight midfield and now it’s up to us to do our homework tonight to improve tomorrow.”

Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer: “After a long winter away from the track, it’s fantastic to be back for a race weekend again. Melbourne is always a busy one because you want to do as many laps as possible. With a new car and one new driver, we wanted to spend as much time as possible on the track in FP1. The track evolution is massive here, so it’s often quite hard to learn from test items so, being mindful of this, we hadn’t planned to do too much testing in the session. Alex spent the session acclimatising himself with the car and track. Having underestimated the loss of grip with the tyres coming up in temperature, he had a spin towards the end of the session – on such a track it’s easy to hit the wall, so we elected to give the car a thorough check, which meant his session was only a little bit cut short. FP2 was a busy session, focussing on the two types of tyres over the short runs and then the long runs. Dany’s session was quite smooth, but I think it’s fair to say we didn’t fully get the most out of the option tyre, so there’s more time to come from him. As for Alex, on his first timed lap in Turn 11, due to a little glitch, he had to abort his flying lap. The tyres don’t perform as well after the first timed lap, so Alex’s time isn’t representative. It’s massively tight in the midfield and only a couple of tenths of a second can make a big difference on the timesheets, so our focus tonight will be to analyse the data and to fine tune the car balance. Our long runs look fairly reasonable, and even though it’s still early days, we’re quite happy with our pace. All of us and the drivers need to get everything together tomorrow to extract every bit of performance for a good result in Qualifying.”

Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director: “Finally we took to the track for the first race weekend of the season. Winter testing went quite smoothly for us and that continued in today’s two free practice sessions.”

Alfa Romeo

Team Report: “Alfa Romeo Racing had a constructive start to the first Grand Prix weekend of 2019. Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi set out to focus on mechanical set-up work in the first free practice at the renowned Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit. The team continued with further set-up work in FP2, completing a qualifying performance run and long-runs on various tyre compounds during the session. Both drivers reported feeling comfortable with the car and confident of the team’s potential. Eager to fight for ambitious results in round one of this year’s championship, the team will review the drivers’ feedback and the data collected throughout the day to set their targets for tomorrow’s FP3 and qualifying.”

Kimi Räikkönen: 1st practice: 6th / 1:24.816 min (18 laps) / 2nd practice: 6th / 1:23.572 (40 laps)
“We have a solid day of work behind us, there were no big issues. We still have some set-up work to do to improve the car, but overall it felt quite good. I look forward to qualifying tomorrow, behind the top teams anything is possible.”

Antonio Giovinazzi: Alfa Romeo Racing C38 (Chassis 03/Ferrari)
1st practice: 11th / 1:25.166 min (23 laps) / 2nd practice: 15th / 1:24.293 (37 laps)
“Overall, the day was positive. The car felt good and I am happy with our performance, especially regarding the long-runs. I am excited to have started my first full race weekend and look forward to being back on track tomorrow.”

Renault

Team Report: “Renault F1 Team completed a positive first day of practice for the season-opening race of the 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, the Rolex Australian Grand Prix. Nico Hülkenberg posted the seventh fastest time of the day in Free Practice 2, a narrow 0.070secs quicker than new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. Wearing the black and yellow Renault colours for the first time at a Grand Prix weekend, home favourite Daniel ended the day eighth fastest in front of a strong crowd at Albert Park, Melbourne. Daniel focused on a combination of short and long-based runs throughout the day, with a fastest time of 1:23.644.”

Nico Hülkenberg: “We recovered well today after a far from ideal first session. FP2 was good and consistent. I felt comfortable straight away in the car, which is one of the most important things for a driver. We’re coming in to a different circuit to that of testing and it’s such a contrasting track to get a feel for. I felt at home – happy as we can be at this stage – and we ran to our programme as planned in FP2. Our long runs were good, but there is still a lot of data to analyse overnight before Qualifying tomorrow.”

Daniel Ricciardo: “It was good to get the first day done. It’s been a busy week with a big build-up so to get Friday practice completed is nice. We had some consistent running in FP2 and I was certainly growing more comfortable on each run. We still have lots to learn and improve on, but we’re getting there. For me, it’s about developing the understanding of the car and we’ve made a good start on that today. Qualifying will be interesting tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it.”

Nick Chester, Chassis Technical Director: “Overall, we have had a pretty good day to start the season. The earlier session was a little interrupted as we detected a software issue on Nico’s car, which needed re-programming. Daniel was really just getting into it in his first practice with the team. We, however, improved the car between sessions and the second was very good. We looked to have reasonable pace on both the short and long runs; we still need to look through all the information, but we are reasonably happy with the opening day.”

Racing Point

Sergio Perez: “It’s always a good feeling to be back in the car for the start of the season, but we are not yet where we want to be in terms of competitiveness. These first two sessions were quite difficult for me and I am not really happy with the balance of the car and the tyres yet. We had many new parts on the car today and we still need to fully understand them, so we tried to come up with the best possible compromise for tomorrow. It’s hard to know where we stand compared to the other teams after just one day of practice, but we know the midfield pack is very close so anything we can find overnight will be beneficial.”

Lance Stroll: “It’s not easy to take too many conclusions from today’s sessions. We ran through a big test programme trying to understand the new aero parts, but it was quite windy and that always makes things a bit trickier. It is early days, but the midfield pack is very close together so every tenth is going to count in qualifying. We will go through the data tonight, work on a couple of weaknesses and come back stronger tomorrow. The car overall feels good, the ingredients are there, we just have to make a few adjustments and I think we can be right there in the fight.”

Otmar Szafnauer, CEO & Team Principal: “We’ve had a solid first day in Melbourne. We clocked up 119 laps, tried the three tyre compounds available to us, and have enough data to help our decision making tonight. Track conditions were pretty reasonable from the start but the wind was strong throughout the day. One of the priorities was evaluating our new aero package and we split a number of test items across the cars. Early indications are encouraging but we still need to work through and understand all the information collected today. The middle of the grid looks very tight so maximising qualifying is going to be especially important because overtaking is never easy around Albert Park.”

McLaren

Carlos Sainz: “It’s been a bit of a complicated day for us with a couple of chassis and engine issues which compromised our run plan. However, we were still able to do some valuable laps. We’re still in the mix with the other teams in what we knew was always going to be a tight midfield. Hopefully we can work on the issues and we’ll see what we can do tomorrow. We’re not far from the top 10 and there’s more to come from us – we certainly have a margin, but so does everyone else. Tomorrow will be interesting and is the day that counts, first quali of the season, and I really look forward to putting the car in a good position for Sunday.”

Lando Norris: “We improved the car between sessions, and now have a direction in terms of where we go tomorrow on set-up and, importantly, have made progress. It’s all about making small steps forward. Getting used to this track for the first time was my main focus in FP1. It’s not an easy circuit, very bumpy and easy to lock-up. I was a lot more confident in FP2 and so looking ahead to FP3 I feel pretty comfortable.”

Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director: “It was good to be out on the first Friday of the season and get it under our belts. As suspected from the Barcelona tests, it’s a competitive field this year with very small differences in lap time but resulting in large changes in the rankings. From our side in general, we’re relatively pleased with both sessions. We have work to do in order to improve the balance of the car. I’m sure tomorrow will provide the great Australian fans with an exciting and unpredictable qualifying session.”

Haas

Team Report: “Both Grosjean and Magnussen began FP1 on the Pirelli P Zero Yellow medium tire before transitioning to the Red soft tire. Magnussen’s quick time of 1:24.934 came on his 15th lap shod on softs. He ran 24 laps and was the ninth-fastest driver. Grosjean’s best time was a 1:25.224 on his 13th lap, also set on softs. He ran 18 laps and posted the 12th-quickest time. Speeds picked up and lap times dropped in FP2. Grosjean wrapped FP2 as the 10th-quickest driver with a time of 1:23.814, which was 1.41 seconds better than his best lap in FP1. His quick time came on the 11th of his 37 laps on a set of soft tires. Magnussen shaved .946 of a second off his FP1 time with a lap of 1:23.988 to secure the 12th-fastest mark. His fast lap came on his ninth tour, also while utilizing the soft tire. He completed 27 laps.

Romain Grosjean: “It’s good to be back out there. This is a track I’ve always enjoyed driving, matched by the great atmosphere in the paddock. It looks like it’s quite tight in the midfield, which is super exciting. Everything we learned in testing has been working quite well here. We’ll find out a bit more tomorrow, but I think for the first day, we’re pretty happy with what we’ve got.”

Kevin Magnussen: “It wasn’t too bad today. It was nice to be back driving on a racing track on a race weekend. I’m excited about that. It felt good, but, as always, we’ve now got lots of things to look at. We’ll be working hard tonight, but there’s no big issues, we’re pretty happy with the performance in the car. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Guenther Steiner: “It was a solid day today. We did a lot of testing, and we achieved what we wanted to achieve. We still need to find a little bit more speed though. Hopefully tonight our guys can do a good job looking over all the information from today, so we can be ready for tomorrow.”

Williams

Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer: “It was the first official on-track running of the new race season and we were able to complete our normal Friday programme. We started to look at the tyre behaviour of the three different compounds in warm conditions and around what is essentially a street circuit; so quite different to the cold conditions we had in Barcelona. We continued to learn about the basics of the car, picking up from the work we did in Barcelona, as well as getting the two drivers used to driving around Albert Park. For George it was his first time driving in Melbourne, and for Robert his first time in a while. We are doing our basic homework so that we can get the most out of the car tomorrow and Sunday. It has been the first time that we have had both Robert and George driving at the same time, which has given us a chance to compare their feedback and gain an understanding of how they are interpreting the conditions. Their comments are in good agreement and as a result we have a clear list of things to work on tonight.”

George Russell: “It was great to get out on the track in Melbourne for the first time. It really is an amazing circuit. On my first lap when I went down into turn three it felt like I was flying as everything was so close together. However, we didn’t have the best of days in terms of laptime, as we are a long way off the rest at the moment. We know what we are in for across the first few races so we need to focus on building on that and making sure come mid-season we have something better. Overall, it was an amazing experience, especially with all the fans around the circuit, it is something that I will remember for a long time.”

Robert Kubica: “This morning was quite difficult for us with much less grip from the track. We know Australia is bumpier and the surface is completely different to Barcelona. We struggled quite a lot with general grip; this afternoon the feeling was slightly better as conditions improved and also the temperatures helped us a bit. We have to try to get the maximum from what we have and it depends what that maximum will be. I think we cannot target much more so the realistic aim is to extract the maximum from what we have.”

Pirelli

Mario Isola, Head of F1 & Car Racing: “First and foremost, the events of this weekend are insignificant compared to the loss of Charlie Whiting yesterday, who leaves a massive void in the sport that is impossible to fill. Having worked so closely with him since we arrived in Formula 1, he will be greatly missed by all of us at Pirelli.

Tyre-wise, there were no big surprises from the first day of free practice this year, apart from a gap of nearly a second between soft and medium: a bit more than we expected. Judging by initial feedback from the teams, they seem happy with the overall performance of the tyres in these conditions, while for fans having only the hard, medium and soft names on track makes everything easier to understand. There’s still plenty to come from this weekend, with past experience showing us that the circuit continues to evolve.”