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Friday Practise Session Times and Analysis

Free practice session one

1.  ROSBERG       Williams      1m26.687s

2.  NAKAJIMA      Williams      1m26.736s

3.  RAIKKONEN     Ferrari       1m26.750s

4.  BARRICHELLO   Brawn         1m27.226s

5.  KOVALAINEN    McLaren       1m27.453s

6.  BUTTON        Brawn         1m27.467s

7.  MASSA         Ferrari       1m27.642s

8.  GLOCK         Toyota        1m27.710s

9.  SUTIL         Force India   1m27.993s

10. ALONSO        Renault       1m28.123s

11. HEIDFELD      BMW           1m28.137s

12. TRULLI        Toyota        1m28.142s

13. KUBICA        BMW           1m28.511s

14. FISICHELLA    Force India   1m28.603s

15. BUEMI         Toro Rosso    1m28.785s

16. HAMILTON      McLaren       1m29.042s

17. WEBBER        Red Bull      1m29.081s

18. PIQUET        Renault       1m29.461s

19. BOURDAIS      Toro Rosso    1m29.499s

20. VETTEL        Red Bull      1m32.784s


Free practice session two

 1.  ROSBERG       Williams      1m26.053s

2.  BARRICHELLO   Brawn         1m26.157s

3.  TRULLI        Toyota        1m26.350s

4.  WEBBER        Red Bull      1m26.370s

5.  BUTTON        Brawn         1m26.374s

6.  GLOCK         Toyota        1m26.443s

7.  NAKAJIMA      Williams      1m26.560s

8.  VETTEL        Red Bull      1m26.740s

9.  SUTIL         Force India   1m27.040s

10. MASSA         Ferrari       1m27.064s

11. RAIKKONEN     Ferrari       1m27.204s

12. ALONSO        Renault       1m27.232s

13. FISICHELLA    Force India   1m27.282s

14. HEIDFELD      BMW           1m27.317s

15. KUBICA        BMW           1m27.398s

16. BOURDAIS      Toro Rosso    1m27.479s

17. KOVALAINEN    McLaren       1m27.802s

18. HAMILTON      McLaren       1m27.813s

19. PIQUET        Renault       1m27.828s

20. BUEMI         Toro Rosso    1m28.076s

It’s been a very interesting day in Melbourne. It was great to see all the cars in anger on the track for the first time. First impressions are that the new cars look great. You get used to them very quickly. I even started to get used to the sight of the Renault after a while.

Who’s hot and who’s not?

In terms of who impressed today, there is no doubt that the 3 teams with question marks over their diffuser (Williams, Brawn GP and Toyota) all look in extremely good shape. All 3 of these teams have performed consistently well throughout the day. Williams are probably the most pleasant surprise of Friday practise, as Nico Rosberg topped both sessions.

Throughout testing it looked as if they were going to be stuck in the midfield. However on their final day in Jerez they set a very fast time, the fastest time set in Jerez all winter. It looks as if they may have brought that form with them to Melbourne. Let’s hope they can keep this pace up throughout the weekend.

Brawn GP I don’t think have shown their true colours yet. I think they can go faster, and they are definitely still the team to beat this weekend.

It’s very hard to assess where Ferrari are at the moment. When I was watching final practice the car looked difficult to keep under control, and towards the end of the long runs both Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen had a few wild moments. I don’t think they will be too far off the pace, but they are not the pacesetters here. That is for sure.

Force India looked pretty good, with Sutil managing 9th fastest in the afternoon session. I think they have a great chance of both cars making it to Q2, and maybe even sneaking one car into Q3. The Mclaren collaboration is clearly working well for them, and have arrived in Melbourne better prepared than ever before.

The 3 teams who appear to be struggling at present are BMW Sauber, Mclaren and Toro Rosso. Toro Rosso haven’t had that much time yet with their new car, and they have had a few teething problems so far. They are also waiting for new parts for their car. I think they will struggle for the first 2 or 3 races of the season. They may be the team bringing up the rear to begin with.

BMW Sauber were having alot of grip problems. Both drivers were struggling, and couldn’t get the car to work for them at all. They were complaining to their engineers on the radio, throughout the two sessions. They have got work to do before final practise and qualifying. I am sure we will see them do better when it gets down to business, but they will be extremely disappointed so far. They never set the track on fire in winter testing. Maybe this time they haven’t been sandbagging afterall. It’s too early to draw conclusions yet of course. It’s only been 2 practise sessions so far. Let’s see where they appear in qualifying tomorrow.

Mclaren do look quite poor, as winter testing has suggested. Hamilton couldn’t get into the top 15 in either session, and said the car was bottoming out very badly. Both Mclaren drivers face a tough battle just to make it into the second part of qualifying. I don’t think it will be before we head back to Europe, that Mclaren start to make strides forward.

Bigger challenge for the drivers

Another thing was made very clear in practise today is that these cars are much harder to drive for the drivers. These cars have less downforce than last season. Therefore the car has less grip. The cars are no longer nailed down to the track, like trains on rails, as they have been for the past few seasons. The cars are now far more jittery in the braking zones. Again that is a result of less downforce on the cars. The cars are moving, and bouncing around much more, even more so on the bumpy parts of the track. You could see the driver’s heads bobbling around the cockpit.

All this has resulted in making the cars more spectacular and exciting to watch. Remember also that the drivers have two extra buttons on their steering wheel with the KERs system and the movable flap. This adds even more to their workload. F1 2009 is a larger challenge for all the drivers. This is just as it should be.

Cool track temperature and tyre wear issues

Bridgestone have brought the super-soft and medium tyres compounds to the race. Thanks to the main events taking place in the evening (so that it is at a more sociable time for European viewers) the track temperatue is quite cool. Obviously in the evening the air temperature starts to plummet. In turn this causes the track temperature to become lower as well.

During the second practise session (which started at 4.30 and finished at 6.oopm) there was a big dip in the track temperature throughout. This had a major impact on the lack of grip, that there was on the circuit. Some teams struggled badly with this, BMW in particularly I feel.

It’s possible that Bridgestone brought tyres expecting warmer temperatures, and have been caught out.

Another important point is that the slick tyres are wearing quite badly. This is making the cars harder to drive, as you get towards the end of a long run. As I mentioned, in the 2nd session we saw the Ferrari drivers struggling a bit and going off the road. Massa went off two times in one lap, towards the end of his stint.

The teams and drivers who can manage their tyres the best will give themselves a great chance on Sunday. In terms of long runs, and looking after the tyres I think it is Brawn GP who are out in front, with Toyota best of the rest. We will see if it turns out that way on Sunday.

Is the amount of light going to be a problem in the race?

It seems that there is a chance that this may be an issue. The race will be finishing at dusk. Apparently a few drivers have commented that a few of the corners were quite dark, towards the end of the second practise session. The shadows from the trees were getting bigger, and the sun was also lower in the sky and very bright.

Providing there are no red flags, or extended Safety Car periods there shouldn’t be a problem. However it is cutting it very fine indeed.

Advantage for the KERs teams at the start?

That is certainly possible. There should be a noticeable speed differential between the KERs teams and non-KERs teams at the start. My main worry is that 20 cars heading to head down to the turn 1 at a variety of different speeds may be a catalyst for incidents. I am sure a few of those bigger front wings may come off at turn 1. As they cover the front wheels, any really close wheel to wheel contact will result in those front wings coming off.

We are yet to see how big an advantage the KERs teams will have at a start. The extra weight that KERs puts onto their car may reduce some of this advantage. However chances are, they will be considerably quicker off the line than the others. The start of Sunday’s race will answer the question once and for all. It could be quite spectacular!

So overall it has been a fantastic day of practise in Melbourne. The first glimpse at F1 2009 has been very interesting, and I think we are in for a very enjoyable race weekend, and season.

I think Brawn GP will end up coming out on top. I think it will be their pace at the end of a long stint that wins it for them. That is why it seems their advantage lies at the moment.



March 27, 2009 - Posted by | News articles | , , , , ,

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