Reaction round-up: Chinese Grand Prix practice
Practice one took place in cool conditions, with Fernando Alonso topping the timesheets for Ferrari. Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in the busier second session. Here is a round-up of the driver’s reactions following the first day of on-track action at the Shanghai International Circuit:
“We didn’t have any major issues today, so it was good in terms of testing. The track was very green; I think Formula One were the only cars running on the circuit today. There’s a lot for us to do, for me especially as I’m not yet where I want to be, but we made some progress. Tyre graining was average today, but I think it was the same for the others also; I’m sure it will get better as the weekend goes on. If it’s dry then the circuit ramps up and if it’s wet then it resets every time.”
“That wasn’t too bad today. I think tyres are always a bit of a challenge around this track, particularly with the softs, they seem to wear on the front left. Turn one is quite bad and turn 13, coming onto the back straight; you do see marbles around the lap, but I think that’s just the nature of the circuit. Our long run looked pretty good and we did more laps than we thought we would, so let’s see how we go tomorrow and Sunday.”
“It’s a unique weekend here in China; normally we struggle with rear tyre wear but here it seems to be the front tyres that I struggle with. You have so many long corners; you are just waiting and waiting and waiting to finish the corners. There is a lot of energy spent adapting to this situation. There is a need to be creative and look at the set-up, because graining can be very bad.
“We are still looking good performance wise, in terms of one-lap pace and on the long runs. But other teams were watching us and pushing a lot as we saw with Fernando today. I guess that my main rival for a win will again be my teammate, so I’m looking forward to the next in-house battle.”
“It was quite a difficult day today as we missed some of this morning’s session which put us on the back foot slightly, but we were glad to get some laps in the second session at least. We’re not too happy with the balance of the car at the moment, so we need to go and work on that. This circuit is particularly hard on tyres, as it has been every year, so we need to be prepared for that.
“A few of the other teams look to have improved in terms of pace, which is great as it means we will have a fight. There’s a lot of work to do and the guys are already here early and working late, but I’m confident that we can make some improvements going into tomorrow.”
“We have brought some small updates here, which we already tried at the Bahrain test. Everything worked well and that’s good news. Leaving aside the performance of the others, I am happy with what we have done today. At every race, all the teams bring something new and we must try and make an additional step forward if we want to be competitive.
“This track is particularly tough on tyres, with the Softs especially suffering from graining over a long run, so it will be important to work out the tyre plan for Sunday. If it rains tomorrow, we will definitely have less information for the race and we will have to rely on guesswork. Let’s hope we make the right choices.”
“It was a difficult day, that began with a technical problem in the morning session, which meant I only did an installation lap. Once that was sorted out, in the afternoon, we tried to make up for lost time, concentrating mainly on getting the set-up suited to this track, sacrificing some of our race simulation. It’s difficult to give an overall assessment and I definitely missed out a bit because of the lack of track time.
“This evening we will concentrate on analysing the data we have gathered and tomorrow, we will try and make the very most of the final free practice session to get the car as well prepared as possible for qualifying and the race.”
“The incident this afternoon was a mistake from my side; I was a little optimistic on the entry to the pits, and the run off is quite short, but that’s how it is. It’s a tricky part of the track and we’ve seen incidents there before. Now we need to look forward – we had a good FP1 and we managed to test a few things in FP2 which means we have good data.
“We tried different set-ups in the car and completely different philosophies so now we have more data to analyse and look at in preparation for tomorrow. The car is improving – the power unit seems to be better and more consistent – so we’re making good progress. Our quali mode is better, which is something we are working on, so hopefully this weekend will be much better for us. Points are realistic, so we’ll do our best to achieve that.”
“In terms of driveability, I think we’ve improved the car in a number of areas since Bahrain. There are a few more things we can do overnight, and there are some positive steps we can take to move a little closer to the front. After all, two weeks ago, in Bahrain, we also struggled during our long runs in FP2, so perhaps we’ll be better in the race here.
“Today, both my front tyres were graining – but then this place is very tough on front tyres, especially when you’re in traffic. There are a few things we can do with the set-up to ease the graining – and there are also a few things we want to do that will improve the car’s overall balance – so hopefully we’ll get a clearer picture tomorrow of where we stand – if it stays dry.”
“It was quite a smooth day in terms of completing our programme and working through the job list. There is still work to do on the set-up and some things we can try to optimise the car ahead of tomorrow, but on the whole I’m satisfied with what we learnt today. The tyre work went okay and we have all the data that we need on the soft and the medium tyres to prepare for the rest of the weekend.”
“I only ran in the second practice session. At the beginning it took a while to get going. The driveability of the car is still not easy. I am struggling with the tyres to get them to work. There is still a lot of work ahead of us. In comparison to Bahrain, I think we had more straight line top speed, which brings us closer to the teams in front of us. The mid-field is quite tight together. In terms of lap times, we are closer to our direct competitors, but we are obviously not there where we want to be.”
“It was a good Friday and it didn’t take me long to learn the track. I found it quite straight forward and we were able to start work on our basic set-up straight away. We managed to get through our programme and collect a lot of data for us to study tonight. So hopefully we will find a good compromise for tomorrow.”
“All of the upgrades we brought here have improved performance which is really positive. Having new parts that we will use is good news as we have made some good steps forward. The balance and feeling of the car is better, however we know that most other teams have also made improvements.
“The low track temperatures made it slippery, and if it rains tomorrow it will be the same in the race. We also suffered some graining on the front but we can make some changes to sort this problem. Today has been a good day and the long runs gave us some good data to work on.”
“I keep saying that my objective is to have some better luck, but this morning I had barely completed my installation lap when we experienced a fuel system problem on my side and I had to sit out much of the session. The team worked really well to get me some track time at the end of the morning and to ensure that we were on top of the problem for the afternoon.
“I completed 7 laps in FP1, which were still quite important and I was pleased with the balance of the car at this stage. The afternoon session was better for me and I’m pleased that I ended up ahead of my nearest competitors. We still need to work on the performance of the car here but with all the information we have I’m sure we can make good progress overnight.”
“FP1 started with the coldest track temperatures we’ve had this year so we had to work a lot on bringing the tyres up to the right operating temperatures. The car balance felt fine but we were having some issues with front locking and on the third run I had a flat spot on the front left that was right down to the carcass so, after speaking with Pirelli, we decided to end the session after 16 laps as it wouldn’t have been safe to run again on that set.
“We followed our usual Friday plan and went onto the option tyres before finishing with the long runs, but I didn’t have a clean performance run due to a couple of issues in the cockpit so we’ll fix those for tomorrow. The final long run was ok – the deg levels on both compounds look reasonable and we have a lot of data to work through tonight before making more progress tomorrow.”
Images courtesy of Red Bull/Getty Images and Ferrari
Jack Leslie is a freelance motorsport and Formula 1 journalist. He has been part of the Richland F1 team since the very start and made his F1 paddock debut for the website at the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix. Jack also writes for Car Throttle, RumbleStripNews, Formula1Blog, PureF1 and F1 Plus, as well as running a popular blog.