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McLaren and Pirelli in better shape than expected
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McLaren and Pirelli in better shape than expected
Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Mar 2011   |  10:58 am GMT  |  140 comments

The first day of Free Practice in Melbourne was interesting, if not spectacular and two organisations who appeared to be struggling in testing look in better shape than anticipated.

As well as showing good reliability all day, McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton set the top two times in the second practice session, prompting team principal Martin Whitmarsh to assert that the one second a lap gain the simulators indicated the team had found on the car was indeed real.


He said that in his opinion this puts them in the group behind Red Bull, which was very fast today on long runs and looks a formidable package. Sebastian Vettel was fourth fastest and Mark Webber fifth.

Fernando Alonso was third for Ferrari, while Michael Schumacher was sixth for Mercedes. The conditions were tricky with intermittent showers and gusty winds. The wind changed direction several times during the afternoon session.

Meanwhile the Pirelli tyres held up longer than had been feared from the tests in Spain. Button did 29 laps on a set of hard tyres in the morning session and a 12 lap long run towards the end of the session saw degradation of just one second over the stint, 2.3 seconds allowing for fuel effect.

This improved performance of the Pirellis is not altogether surprising as the Melbourne track surface has lower macro roughness than tracks like Barcelona in particular, which also has more of a
bias towards fast corners, meaning higher tyre energy.

Melbourne is a little more gentle on wear, especially at the front. The energy here is more on the rears and the drivers will have to manage that first and foremost on Sunday. Malaysia will be more of a challenge for the tyres because of the fast corners, but against that it is also quite a smooth tarmac.

It’s only Friday and we don’t know what fuel load drivers were using to set their times, but looking at how the times were arrived at, Button set his time on the fourth lap of a five lap run while Vettel set his time on the 6th lap of a seven lap run on soft tyres. But what caught the eye was an earlier 20 lap long run on hard tyres, which saw degradation from start to finish of 2.7 seconds over the stint, allowing for the effect of fuel weight lowering.

Webber set his fastest time on the fifth lap of a six lap run, Hamilton the second lap of a three lap run.

Vettel suffered what looked like a bad blister on his left front tyre and there was something going on with the left front of the Red Bull car, because the underside of the wings seemed to be getting damaged. Although the load tests on the front wings are tougher than last year and wings are deflecting less than before, the feeling is that the Red Bull is still the one with the most wing flex.

As expected the tyres are dropping a lot of marbles around the track, which will be a handicap to the racing on Sunday as it will be dirty and slippery off line.

In the final half hour of practice today the FIA carried out a test on the activation of the DRS rear wings, simulating race conditions. I spoke to Race Director Charlie Whiting afterwards and he said everything had worked as it was supposed to.

Hispania managed to do a single out lap after the mechanics had worked day and night for several days to get the cars ready. Tonio Liuzzi managed to get out of the pits right at the end of the second session. The front wing has had problems with crash tests and so the 2010 front wing is here, which the car has not been designed around, so it’s a real uphill struggle for them.

AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX, Albert Park, Friday Practice

1. Button McLaren 1m25.854s 32 laps
2. Hamilton McLaren 1m25.986s + 0.132 31
3. Alonso Ferrari 1m26.001s + 0.147 28
4. Vettel Red Bull 1m26.014s + 0.160 35
5. Webber Red Bull 1m26.283s + 0.429 33
6. Schumacher Mercedes 1m26.590s + 0.736 31
7. Massa Ferrari 1m26.789s + 0.935 34
8. Perez Sauber 1m27.101s + 1.247 39
9. Barrichello Williams 1m27.280s + 1.426 34
10. Rosberg Mercedes 1m27.448s + 1.594 23
11. Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m27.525s + 1.671 31
12. Petrov Renault 1m27.528s + 1.674 29
13. Heidfeld Renault 1m27.536s + 1.682 22
14. Buemi Toro Rosso 1m27.697s + 1.843 30
15. Kobayashi Sauber 1m28.095s + 2.241 35
16. di Resta Force India 1m28.376s + 2.522 33
17. Sutil Force India 1m28.583s + 2.729 31
18. Maldonado Williams 1m29.386s + 3.532 29
19. Kovalainen Lotus 1m30.829s + 4.975 22
20. Trulli Lotus 1m30.912s + 5.058 23
21. D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m32.106s + 6.252 36
22. Glock Virgin 1m32.135s + 6.281 30
23. Liuzzi HRT No time 1

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140 Comments
  1. **Paul** says:

    I think we’ve yet to see true pace from many cars, so I think perhaps Martin needs to hold his horses until post qualifying.

    Interesting, and rather disappointing, that the tyres seem to be holding up so well. I was looking forward to drivers having to manage tyres and try and drive quickly on worn rubber. The last thing I want to see is a car with 30 laps on it’s tyres still able to lap as quick as a car that’s only got ten laps. Tyre degridation although making the cars slower should also make the cars look quicker as they move around, and that plays into the hands of those with good car control.

    I’m reserving judgement until Sunday though ;)

    1. wayne says:

      Granted. Yet McLaren were expected to be even further behind than they probably still are. It looked as though their car was destined to be a complete no hoper for 6 races or so. What they have shown so far is that the worst case scenario is likely not to be the case. Do I think they are ultimately faster or as fast as RBR – no. Do I now think they can be compettitive and challenge for the podium – yes. I have been fascinated to see Hamilton routinely one tenth behind button throughout each session so far… Hamilton is not usually a ‘sandbagger’ and like to be first every time so I wonder if Button is going ot be generally faster around here? I’d be surprised but still……

      1. wayne says:

        Additionally, I am afraid that it is time for HRT to pack up and quit F1. They continue to be an embarressment to the sport, have nothing to offer F1 and the world’s greatest motor racing formula. To be fair, they had their chance. F1 needs independant constructors but not at any cost.

      2. **Paul** says:

        I take your point about Hamilton not sandbagging. I’ve just seen some of the highlights and the McLaren guys were certainly making use of the rear wing in practice, but on Sebs quick lap it didn’t look like he was. I wonder how much use of it was made by other cars on track.

        There are so many variables here it really won’t be until qually and the race until that full picture emerges of how fast McLaren are compared to RBR, Ferrari and Mercedes.

        It was interesting to see Adrian Newey suggesting RBR have 3-5 tenths in hand as well today.

      3. Gil Dogon says:

        Well, If there is a track where Button seems to have an edge it is here. Last year he qualified about 6 places upper higher than Hamilton, not to mention winning the race eventually.

      4. The trend in both sessions is that each of the McLaren drivers would set a competitive time and then the other would beat it. In FP1 it appeared to be Hamilton’s go to set the last competitive time, but he was held up by (I think) a Williams. It was Jenson was the last one to set a competitive lap in P2.

      5. F12010 to kill time until March says:

        Button has won this race the last 2 years-very fast around Melbourne.

      6. wayne says:

        Oh absolutely, yet I would still put my money on Hamilton every time all things being equal between them.

      7. Phil C says:

        Just a comment on the mclaren laps, they were quali simulation. Hamilton and Button both used the rear wing at every situation. I believe both Alonso and Bulls times were set on long runs. I saw the ferrari may have used the wing on the straight, but im pretty sure the bulls didn’t.

        Mclaren is quicker then in testing but will be now where on sunday.

  2. Mao Xiaogang says:

    I can bet tomorrow’s qualification fight will be between Alonso and two bulls.

    1. Jo Torrent says:

      +1

      1. wayne says:

        Agreed.

      2. Jack Randall says:

        You are right on the two Bulls part.

    2. Panya says:

      +1

      Go go Nando go

    3. TheLegend says:

      Last year he always qualified 5 or worse in FP and when Q3 came then he fought for 1st line. I’m really confident that he will be fighting for pole position and victory this weekend.

  3. AlexD says:

    James,
    I wanted to thank you for helping us getting through a long winter and always bringing us closer to the action and F1 overall. Great job!

    What is your gut feeling with regards to Ferrari – considering everything you know, hear – can Ferrari take the title this year?

    1. Jo Torrent says:

      depends on RedBull.

      If they decide to throw away less than 3 races and if they take out each other only once and if Webber criticizes the team only half the season, it’s over for Ferrari.

      Vettel might grab the title this year without a single overtaking move (bar lapped cars) which will be a record and we know the guy loves the records.

      1. Miha says:

        Haha, I’m Vettel fan, but this is funny :)

      2. AlexD says:

        Do you believe in Dejavu?

      3. Jon says:

        Silverstone?

      4. aaron parsons says:

        Do you believe in Dejavu?

      5. wolf says:

        Do team orders count as overtaking?

    2. Lilla My says:

      Of course they can. The real question is – will they?
      And I hope also this answer is “yes” ;-)

    3. TheLegend says:

      It depends on Red Bull advantatge. More than 3 tenth and it will be like last year. Less than 3… and everything is possible for WDC. WCC is his or McLaren’s, depending on the advantatge also.

  4. Scott says:

    Interesting first day of practice, for me so far the order looks the same as it was last year with Red Bull out in front and looking very quick with Ferrari and then Mclaren. Lewis and Jenson looking quite equal for pace so far! Then Mercedes but quite worryingly Schumacher looks about 4/5 tenths a lap slower than Rosberg so far!

    1. galletto says:

      MS was not slower than Rosberg on second practice though.
      He was actually 8 tenths faster.

      1. Scott says:

        Rosberg had some technical problems though

      2. F12010 to kill time until March says:

        I am wondering if they tried a set of softs in different sessions? Rosberg was on a flyer in first practice that was equal to Vettel at the time(1 hour inte session) until he overcooked it in sector 3.

  5. RickeeBoy says:

    Rookie Perez gets 8th in the second practise in the Sauber.

    He also went quickest on day three of the final pre-season session.

    It’s a bit obvious the boy must be Soooooooperb.

  6. Mike says:

    James, was only following live commentary for these sessions, but there was no mention of which type of tyre Schumacher set his best lap on. Was it the hards (since Autosport was definitely indicating the drivers that shifted to the softs and didn’t mention this for him)?

    Also, what’s your opinion on the pecking order based on what you’ve seen? One got the impressions that the Bulls had something in reserve as did Ferrari and that McLaren seem to be just behind them with Mercedes further behind. Is that a true reflection?

    1. Scott says:

      schumacher set his best time on the softs

  7. Jo Torrent says:

    Don’t get carried away by McLaren pace James. They’re in PR mode right now. Wait till tomorrow and Sunday and we’ll see what they got.

    Vettel long stint was thrilling really. They look really strong. Ferrari continuing last year’s trend never impresses on Fridays. I don’t know whether the programs are sensibly different between drivers but if not I already fear for Massa.

    HRT is really really miserable. They shouldn’t be here and the FIA has to find a way to get rid of teams making a joke of themselves. They’ll send their drivers qualifying with barely a few laps of testing tomorrow if they can manage that. They have to enforce a rule where a team has to participate in FP1 & FP2 or be suspended from the event unless extraordinary circumstances which is not the case here.

    1. unoc vII says:

      You know we could save ourselves all the worrying about Tyres as well if we just waited.. but that’s beside the point. WE want answers and we want them even if they can’t be found.

      The process is simple

      1) Situation happens
      2) People come to conclusion (read: make random guess’ based on cherry picked facts and rose tintied glass’ among other things)
      3) One person i correct and can exclaim that they are smart, everyone else loses

      Really not that hard. We could have found out that the tyres don’t blow up after 1 lap, but didn’t all the drivers, media and forum goers love the idea of exclaiming that Pirelli had destroyed racing

      1. Jo Torrent says:

        100000% spot on

    2. Damian J says:

      And your favourite team Ferrari are never in PR mode are they?

      If you weren’t wearing Ferrari glasses you might see that no one is getting carried away……perhaps McLaren have showed potential to win points. A realistic assessment compared to three weeks ago and confirms Martin Whitmarsh’s positive assessment.

      1. mtb says:

        When it comes to disseminating twaddle to the masses, the gentleman from Woking really are in a league of their own. They went so far as to hire a magazine editor in order to help to get their message across. And let us not forget what the first dossier of “information” the said individual disseminated to the British press corps was.

    3. For Sure says:

      How come you happen to know more then James mate?

  8. Femi Akinz says:

    Better Macca!

    Much Better

    1. Mario says:

      very positive isn’t it? it made my day too.

    2. StallionGP F1 says:

      A big sign of relief for maclaren

  9. Luca says:

    i watched 2nd practice and feel that the top teams are still holding back – as expected – and that there is more to come… esp when you consider that button’s time didn’t feature a single top time in any of the three sectors.

    Was interesting to see the wings moving and visually its more apparent than i first thought. Also, a difference of 4 sec between running the flap all lap vs just the straight (race conditions). Makes me question the point of KERS even more?!

    Bring on quali and the race tho, time to know where everyone stands!

  10. Andy C says:

    Encouraging news for McLaren, even just on the reliability front.

    Virgin look woefully short of pace, as I thought they would be unfortunately.

    Apparently JB got into the cockpit and asked “how did this get in here”, removing a large block of concrete from the cockpit. ;-)

    If McLaren have got into that second group behind RB I’ll be happy.

    Can’t wait for quali. Thats when we see the real deal.

    Great work by Perez today by the way.

    1. Jo Torrent says:

      it’s always a pleasure to read McLaren fans grabbing the slightest ray of hope when it’s only doom and gloom.

      but still to talk about McLaren is acceptable when you mention the desperate case of Virgin. Useless team which misery is only hidden thanks to the void, no the black hole displayed by HRT.

      I feel that your longtime support of McLaren has shifted your sensibility towards lost causes.

      As you say the real deal is in qualies where there will be Vettel/Webber/Alonso and those who fill the grid.

      1. Andy C says:

        I am deeply surprised we disagree Jo. There is a first time for everything ;-)

        I’m not saying they’re fastest, I’m saying its encouraging that they managed to get some decent running in….

        Quali, I think Redbull are still significantly faster. We should see some quali tryouts in FP3.

        Interested to see where Merc are as well in the picture.

      2. Jack Randall says:

        Jo I think your continued battle against against positive McLaren related is quite tiring.

      3. james b says:

        only doom and gloom!! Reliability is improved and so is there pace. Mclaren don’t stike me as a team who would go for a glory run. I think there pace will pleasantly surprise and i look forward to reminding you of some of the things you have written ;-)

  11. Dave Hunt says:

    HRT are an embarrassment. No testing for their 2011 car at all and one single exploratory lap in the entire Friday practice. Why did they bother turning up ?

    Maybe Bernie is right: F1 should only have ten teams. Get rid of HRT and that other team who are ‘verging’ on the ridiculous!

    1. Jo Torrent says:

      +1

      F1 should sue HRT for damaging the F1 image.

      1. kristian says:

        It’s shocking. I was a total supporter hoping they’d get their act together as the staff and drivers are more than competent but they have lost the plot. They could have learned from Lotus last year, gone simple then planned a half-year major bodywork update. When they didn’t make the final test, I thought it was over but the will to live is strong. You could blame it on lack of money, at this point it doesn’t matter. Virgin and Wirth’s CFD plan get one more year, but HRT are done. It will work out better for Liuzzi anyway, after Chandhok canned it before the first corner of practice I think test and reserve driver has suddenly opened up at Lotus ;)

  12. Phil says:

    Looks like Virgin and HRT won’t even get through qualifying, given the 107% rule is back…

    1. Jo Torrent says:

      Virgin has the biggest computing facility in the world but no windtunnel and more importantly no brains to run the facility.

    2. The 107% rule only applies in Q1 though, if I recall correctly from the commentary at the wee hours of the morning. Q1 times tend to be a bit slower than Q3 times, so they might just scrape through.

  13. Sean says:

    Virgin and HRT to both fail to qualify tomorrow, or just HRT?

    1. Chapor says:

      I actually think that HRT might make it and Virgin don’t… Would be funny if that happened. lol

  14. Stu says:

    Since it looks very likely we’ll see a few drivers outside the 107% mark who decides whether these guys are allowed in? Is it the other teams as before or the stewards?

    1. Ian H says:

      if it’s down to the teams to decide as was previously the case with 107% rule, can you see many of the front running teams agreeing to let those outside 107% race?

      in recent seasons when this rule was enforced it was usually only the minardi team who on a few occasions fractionally missed out and the teams agreed to let them race. But this was back when the grid was only around 10 teams, but with more teams on the grid now, will the front runners be happy to have cars racing who are outside of 107% pace?

      I think for the first half of the season HRT are going to struggle to make it within 107%, which could put more pressure on their finances as their sponsors surely wont be happy with no race day exposure – possibly team may disappear before the end of season?

      1. Stu says:

        I was at Spa in 2001 when Jos missed out. He was allowed in the next day but that didn’t stop a load of Dutch fans packing up and going home Saturday night. :)

        One key difference this time will that the top drivers may use the harder tyres for Q1 which will lead to a slower 107% time.

      2. Andrew Woodruff says:

        Looking at Button’s time of 1:25.854 in FP2, I reckon that in quali trim the Red Bull could easily do a 1:24.500 or better. This would make the 107% time 1.30.415.

        On that basis, Lotus look borderline but probably okay, and Virgin look likely to be outside by around a second in quali trim. HRT haven’t done a lap yet, so we can only assume they will be nowhere even close.

        In that situation, would it be possible for Virgin to be allowed to race, but HRT not?

  15. For Sure says:

    Macca looks impressive indeed.James do you think they are ahead of Mercedes and may be even Ferrari?

    1. Darran says:

      No way. They weren’t as bad as everyone was saying, and they are certainly not ‘dominant’ now.

      Patience, we will know the truth soon.

    2. Jo Torrent says:

      The Matrix has you mate, you’re dreaming

      1. Nando says:

        Probably ahead of Mercedes and likely ahead of Massa. 75% right isn’t dreaming.

      2. Jack Randall says:

        Again Jo you are doing it again.

  16. Jamie Ross says:

    One interesting thing I saw during that half hour session at the end of FP2 when the DRS was acting in race mode. We were sitting at the final turn and could see down the straight – twice during the session the system was clearly activated on a car closely following another car which then pulled into the pit lane.

    The marking lines which show the gap required to make the system activate were very useful as a spectator, but at Melbourne they are right at the pit entrance. It appears the system was triggered even though the leading car then pulled into the pits – allowing the following car to use the DRS system even though no car was now in front of them.

    1. RickeeBoy says:

      But isn’t the qualification of closer than 1 sec in the previous corner so therefore the leading car hasn’t slowed for the pits then ???

  17. Doug says:

    What value do Hispania add to the sport? As if being a mobile chicaine for all of last year wasn’t bad enough, they have once again turned up with a car in no position to compete.

    Not only does it make them look like an incompetent outfit, it makes F1 look bad and is disrespectful to the other teams in my opinion. The sooner they are purged from the sport the better.

    1. unoc vII says:

      Comical value mate.

      As long as they don’t qualify for a race them we are fine. If they do it will look ridiculous.

      The most amazing thing for though is in 2010 they wanted to let in 3 new teams.

      They were hand selected after harsh criteria and they were

      Campos – Failed and became HRT which is a synonym for living dead or why it’s sometimes good to have a team go bankrupt
      USF1 – Collapsed, didn’t even get to the grid nor anything of the testing.
      Manor – Works with Virgin basically running of them, and using stupid CFD whihc is a failuer but is atleast on the grid doing something. Marussia is pretty cool though

      THen after TOyota left, 1 more scored a spot
      Lotus – actually running well, with backing, improving, 2 solid drivers, a 3rd driver, decent improvement, etc…

      Kind of sad that they looked through all and the best they originally found were the 3 above, 2 of which are inexistant/should be and 1 is barely there (virgin).

      THe 2nd look found Lotus who nearly didn’t get a chance when they should.

      Prodrive put in an application and I’ms ure they would have got more of an act together especially given that Prodrive scored an invite back in 08 or so.

      1. RickeeBoy says:

        Dave Richards is superb but wasn’t allowed in – Following a legal challenge by Williams to Prodrive’s proposed use of a customer car David Richards announced on 23 November 2007 that Prodrive would not be entering Formula One for the 2008 season. Richards made it clear that it was still the intention of Prodrive to enter Formula One. However, following further clarifications of the rules surrounding the use of customer cars, and the resulting ban on the use of customer chassis from the beginning of the 2009 F1 season, the pursuit of an entry via the customer car route has been abandoned. Richards has previously stated that entry as an independent constructor would be prohibitively expensive.

      2. Andy C says:

        Ironic that they stopped richards bid using “customer” cars, then let STR run what was effectively a customer Redbull chassis with a different coloured nosecone and a different engine, until recently.

  18. J says:

    Hi James. I hope you are enjoying your time in our country? Are the teams becoming more cagey than ever before in F1 or has it always been the same?I quite like it because it makes the competition very hard to predict and interesting!

  19. andrew says:

    Hello 2011!.
    Something positive for Maclaren fans for sure. When Martin Whitmarsh was interviewed before the session he certainly looked like he beleived it would happen. This was in contrast to your interview with Leiws, while he was ‘saying’ things like fitter and more focussed than ever, and yes I can be competitive for the championship, to me the body language wasn’t matching the words. Its still only Friday but, but perhaps it will be so after all.

  20. goferet says:

    Red Bull are playing their games again just like last year.

    Blitz FP1 then sandbag till qualifying Urgh. While Mclaren do it the other way round, top the time sheets (mainly the second) only for the performance to fade away when it matters most – IN QUALIFYING *Sigh*

    Qualifying predictions
    Hammy
    Alonso
    Button

    1. Tomma says:

      How can Red Bull ‘Blitz’ FP1 yet be slower than Mclaren?

      Also how can Red Bull be so quick yet you don’t have either in your top 3?!

      1. goferet says:

        @Tomma Simples, I do not rate the Red Bull drivers. So all that is needed is a Mclaren that’s a few hundreds off the pace & the job will be done

      2. Jon says:

        Doesn’t matter how you rate Red Bull drivers.

        This is modern F1. The differenece between the best driver and the 12th best driver is a few tenths. The better the car, the more the gap closes.

        The gap between Vettel and Webber last season was usually a tenth meaning they were both very close to the same limit, but that’s beside the point since you don’t rate them.

        The point is.. average drivers in a good car will still take pole position in modern F1. Not so simples.

      3. StallionGP F1 says:

        If it was the maclaren that was as fast as the bull am sure hamilton would be the best thing since sliced bread but different drivers with different styles i think people love to hate vettel but he is very talented

  21. Sebee says:

    What happened to Renault? Looks like they are not as fast as we thought. Neither is Mercedes.

    1. unoc vII says:

      Infact lots has happened,
      as you said Mercedes and Renault have disappeared. Although Mercedes weren’t so good at the end of testing.

      Torro Rosso has gone from middle-top of midfield to nowhere, Sauber has come out of nowhere. Lotus has disappeared. Virgin is actually going backwards and HRT’s combined testing, FP1 and FP2 can be sumed up in one installation lap by one driver. Or more acutely by the fact that they are getting their staff to work the long shift (1 of the 5 times they can do it this year).

      People are still running heavy and runny light. We can’t get even get similiar comparisons through 2 practice sessions on the one day, teams are mucking around so there is no point trying to guess if you want accuracy

      1. Andy C says:

        I was very interested to hear Nigel Mansell coming out and saying Schumi will win the WDC.. er Nigel wakeup, its time to go to school.

    2. Jo Torrent says:

      exhaust should always be at the back. Drivers are breathing CO2 which affects their performance.

      1. Nando says:

        The CO might cause a problem. Do F1 cars have catalytic converters?

      2. Rich M says:

        Breathing it? The whole point is that the exhaust is driven under and around the car – gets nowhere near the drivers.

  22. sender says:

    This year F-1 has a possibility to attract new fans and to gain the interest of more people. It will be interesting to see if it will be done.
    Last year it was not fully achieved.
    Before 2010 a lot of people said that the tires would not hold up for a long distance and no refuelling would bring real excitement.
    As it turned out, no refuelling is good but Bridgestones were too durable.
    Before this season and even during this event there is a lot of promise regarding the tires. But today the impression was that the tires are more durable than expected (as James mentions in the article).
    I think that the tires should be safe and raceable but just hope that during the season they will not become the repeat of Bridgestone. OK, they can develop them and that is logical, but let’s hope that it does not turn out to be similar to 2010.
    As for the competition, well, I agree with the opinion that nothing much has changed since last year. Maybe here and there will be some improvements but the overall picture is more or less clear. It will be a big surprise if Red Bull will not be out front and Ferrari, Mclaren and Mercedes will not be the chasing pack.
    There is not much to discuss. It is interesting but nothing spectacular (and here again I agree with the article).

  23. Jon says:

    This year more then ever there will be “phases” of the race, where one car appears faster or slower then another. I’m not necessarily talking about tyre wear either, but peak pace during different fuel loads. Have to keep that in mind when talking about who has the fastest car.

    Especially when there is SC’s at the right time.

    Should be interesting.

  24. I knew this would happen, I was just thinking the other day, how many times have we arrived at the start of a new season with new rule changes, and wondering what will happen etc etc, and everything works out.

    I reckon YES there will be a couple of extra stops per race, but that will be the same for everyone, and the engineers will have it all calculated out!

    I reckon, this year will be like any other, it will settle down, drivers will get used tho their systems, engineers will predict tyre degradation, they will know exactly when to stop, it will all be planned out….

    Im looking forward to a bit more overtaking, so long as it’s not too false, but the faster cars, stronger drivers will have that edge!

    1. James Allen says:

      I’m not sure these tyres will ever be like the Bridgestones. It’s better than t was in testing, but a long way from last year

      1. Jon says:

        Sounds perfect.

      2. Jodum5 says:

        You make it sound like it’s not a good thing that they’re not as durable as the bridgestones. Hopefully Pirelli found a middle ground between boring and schizophrenic tire behavior.

      3. Oh yeah I agree James, my point was the engineers ‘know’ how long they will last, wether it’s 2 laps (ie Bridgestones) or 4 laps (ie Pirelli’s) everyone is kind of in the same boat!

        Anyway, who cares, lets go racing! :-) Proof is in the pudding and all that :-)

        C

    2. Mario says:

      People fret all the time. Take no notice. You have the mind of your own, have you not?

    3. sender says:

      I have to agree with that. Of course, there will be races when there will be more unpredictability, but how many of them?
      It is logical that the drivers want more durable tyres and that step by step the tyres will evolve but to what extent?
      Yesterday and today some drivers and experts said that races will be different, unpredictable and exciting. Let’s see.
      On the other hand, it is a bit early to judge because no race has yet been held.

  25. Speed F1 says:

    Wow what a great start today!!! Saw you running around the circuit fair bit today JA. I must say it was a very enjoyable day today. However, I am not so sure about the tyres. The cars seem to be struggling on the high speed corners. I noticed that just about every driver seem to go off the road on turn 1 & turn 3 both. I have never seen so many cars sliding around the track on Friday morning.

    It’s difficult to read where everyone is. But, the tyres will work in favour of the good drivers in cooler condition. See you at the circuit JA.

    By the way James, I saw Lewis and hig girlfriend walking around in front of the Crown casino on Wednesday evening. I even said hello to him. My question is, does any of the F1 drivers have personal security? or they don’t need to?

    1. James Allen says:

      In my experience they do for events and at race weekends where they perceive a threat, for whatever reason. Sometimes they receive threats, sadly, and they don’t take any chances.

      1. unoc vII says:

        So I’m guessing Lewis will have some guys on the lookout for some post quali burnouts….

      2. RickeeBoy says:

        Nicole and less so Lewis gets chased by the Paparazzi and therefore for Nicole to walk around with Lewis and both be recognised but both be comfortable must be wonderful and say something for Melbourne. Congratulations for being a good vibe.

  26. Andrew Woodruff says:

    Hi James

    It feels to me like the pecking order is pretty much as you were at the end of last season. I was hopful that Merc and Schumacher in particular had made a big step forward, but it looks like they are probably still at least a second off the ultimate Red Bull pace.

    I’m pleased for McLaren that they seem to have pulled a rabbit from the bottom of a very deep hat! Martin Whitmarsh took a lot of flak on this blog for the “one second” claim. I think quantifying his statement like that was a dubious thing to do, but certainly qualitatively the McLaren has improved significantly relative to others since the last test.

    Can’t wait for qualifying when we will finally see all cars on the same tyres and fuel at the same time. There has been a lot of opinionated chat based on very clouded information over the last few months.

    Now all the talking stops.

    1. James Allen says:

      Let’s wait and see where they are. RB are in front, that’s clear, but Ferrari haven’t shown yet and we don’t know exactly where they, McLaren and Mercedes fit in

      1. Michael Prestia says:

        Because McLaren are running a new floor and exhaust I think they are testing full fuel (FP1) and low fuel (FP2). Don’t get too excited about their spot in the pecking order. It is still Red Bull as Fav and Ferrari second.

      2. ACB says:

        I agree, practice may show true form or it may not. I’ve been around long enough to not put too much stock in what I see there. Then again, there are some things that are painfully obvious, namely the pace of Virgin, and the ongoing HRT drama.

  27. Zhenya says:

    Disappointing to see Renault with their ‘super-exhaust system’ where they are now. It’s a good innovation. Hope they’ll improve.

    1. Rich C says:

      Perhaps they haven’t figured out that if it points the wrong way it’s force slows them down?

  28. JohnBt says:

    Does it feel like a continuation from last year. Just have to wait for quali.

  29. James says:

    Considering if you don’t qualify, you will only be let in if they decide your practice pace was good, there will be a couple of nervous teams.

    I’m sure HRT and Virgin will reconsider their options if they cart cars, people and equipment to several races/countries and don’t qualify for the race.

  30. cjf says:

    Whoa…where did they come from? Very impressed how McLaren and Mercedes have turned around their pre-season testing form.

    I think the McLaren isn’t quite as quick as the headline time suggests and it’s a bit hard to read Ferrari’s pace as their times were all over the place, the consistency of the Redbulls over a long run is quite scary though.

    Best hunt out the lucky t-shirt ready for quali!

  31. Born 1950 says:

    So McLaren used testing to gather data and to experiment. Seems sensible. Now testing is finished — except for the bits in P1&2 — they have decided the way to go and we’re seeing the result. I really hope Jenson is as good with those tyres as we think — if so he could be in with a shout for the title.

    I predict this year that racing will be characterised by drivers swapping positions with much greater frequency than before. After a few races Hamilton and Button will work out that if they work together they’ll be able to make up ground or pull out a greater lead by using the DRS rule to allow them to leapfrog each other repeatedly lap after lap. None of the other leading drivers like each other enough to agree to this.

    Of course, I could be completely wrong.

    1. Maks says:

      But how would they agree who takes the win?
      I don’t think any of those two, as nice as they are to each other, would just let it go.
      Do you remember Turkey last year?
      ;)

  32. Mario says:

    I am glad things are turning out the way they are. Last thing I wanted was to see RB disappear on the horizon.

    Renault outside of the top ten? Petrov on top of his team mate? This would never have happened if Kubica was here! lol, Just joking. Hope they will improve.

    Talking of Kubica, his absence leaves me without a driver to support as he was my No.1

    I think my replacement No.1 this year will be Lewis.

    C’mon Lewis!

  33. . says:

    PR topping the time sheets eh?

    Macca on Sunday starts somewhere between 5th and 8th.

  34. Nigel says:

    Overheard Button on his radio complaining about under-steer just as went and did his fastest lap….

    I suspect there’s more to come from McLaren!

    1. R.B. says:

      I agree. If this aggressive design would work, it will work!! If it fails, it would fail spectacularly. I wish they got it right this time.

  35. Joe says:

    James, can you please explain just why Hispania are so far behind. They didn’t do a single lap of pre season testing and didnt do a single flying lap in todays practice sessions. This kind of build up to the season was to be expected by the new teams this time last year, given the time those teams were put together in. Given that this is their 2nd season in the sport, why is it that they are so unprepared??!!!

    1. ACB says:

      Lack of money due to lack of sponsors = lack of parts. Their biggest setback was when Toyota pulled out on the deal to provide technology on the TF110 to HRT, this meant that they had to design their own car and find new people to build it for them. The latest big set back for them is the nose of the F111 did not pass chrash tests, so they’re temporarily fitting the F110′s nose to the F111.

  36. Andy C says:

    James
    I saw tweet this morning about Charlie Whitings mic being left on in the press conf, and that it caused some amusement in the press room with what he said.

    Anything publishable? ;-)

  37. B Martin says:

    “..racing on Sunday as it will be dirty and slippery off line.”

    Why not have a street sweeper clean the track daily? This would seem to at least help prevent some ‘offs’.

    1. leukocyte says:

      the track is definitely already swept after most significant support races or F1 sessions.

      The marbles after the V8 Supercar race yesterday were extraordinary, but F1 practice didn’t really produce the feared buildup to any unusual extent.

  38. Dan says:

    Hi James,

    Really enjoyed your commentary on OneHD today.

    I have a question I am hoping you can shed some light on:

    The McLaren DRS seems to move the entire wing, whereas most of the other cars seem to have a much smaller part of their wing (top section/flap) that moves. Can you explain the pros and cons of having a larger section of wing that moves when the DRS is engaged?

    1. I said in a comment a couple of days back that I believed McLaren had something different up their sleeve with regards to the rear wind and Ted Kravitz confirmed in commentary that they have one of the longest. My theory is this:

      The longer length provides a slightly lower drag reduction/top speed than the shorter systems, but McLaren have found a way to make that gain whilst loosing a little less downforce meaning that they can use it for more of the track during qualifying. If my gut feeling is correct, expect to see the McLaren’s wing open a lot more than other teams during qualifying

  39. ACB says:

    Thanks James, always look forward to your comments. Though it is a free practice, so all of this is taken with a grain or two of salt. How’s the weather looking for quali and the race? I think its interesting that the tyres are a bit better at Melbourne even though the temps are lower. Will we see continued improvment if the temperature increases over the weekend?

  40. Phil C says:

    james, what did you think of the tyre markings, having seem them in action? I noticed the commentators saying they found it difficult to see who was on which tyre, and I have to agree.

    Last year, with the car coming towards the camera, you could see the stripes on the top edge of the tyres, to know whether they were the softer compound. This year, you are having to wait until a side shot of the car is shown. But by this time, the camera is tracking along with the car through a corner, and you don’t have time to focus.

    On the T-Bar camera, you could see the yellow, but not the silver, however when looking at the rear wing, you couldn’t see any, due to positioning of the FOM graphics, and the bodywork. Any other camera angle on board also failed to help.

    Even so, the yellow didn’t stand out enough, and the silver really merged in with the black at speed.

    We have a few races to wait until we see the red and white, but I do feel another marker may be required, especially with all the different camera angles at the side of the track, and the speed at which these cars move!

  41. Dale says:

    Whether it’s real pace or not (we’ll know) it’s great to see McLaren leading the pack.
    If they have pulled a rabbit out of the hat, well could any other team do likewise? Me thinks not!!

  42. Neil Jenney says:

    My favorite part of this posting was the description of one of Jenson Button’s stints as a “12 lap long run”. I’m loving the paradigm change in the tire wear.

  43. Onyx says:

    Why do so many journos,mags,tv give so much creedence to a rubbish driver like Chandhok?His record is poor but he speaks well!
    If Fernandes is so committed to pushing Team Lotus to the front why is he running clowns like him?
    Renault wont do anything until they put a couple of proper drivers in their car not journeymen…
    I thought HRT were ready to go on the friday of the last test bar the dampers stuck in customs?What a joke that Kolles is!
    Ok rant over…i’m going to lie down now…

  44. enrique says:

    look at RBR Front Wing. same again, scrape asphalt.

  45. The other Ian says:

    I wonder if HRT will only be running one car, this weekend?

  46. Maks says:

    I have a litlle moment of satisfaction.
    I have written after last day in Barcelona that I have strong fealing that Mclaren is not in such a bad shape as test might have suggested.
    It was strange but I suppose normal for sensationist world of internet, that some people had written them off completly.
    Good to see them fighting. Can’t wait for Sunday.

    It looks like this years trick with exhaust is to have it as simple as possible. To get most out of lower wing element, clean airflow arround the car seems to be best achieved by disposing hot gases behind the car. Renlaut system is inriguing, but idea of creating heat-skirt kind of effect sounds like laboratory enviroment possibility.
    All credit goes to Red Bull again… drinks company (what a silly thing to say).

    Unfortunatly however I am dissapointed by midfield. I really hoped that someone might challenge establishment a bit more. I hoped for more from Williams in particular. They developed ugly habit of trying to make cars look better in testing and often on fridays than they really are. Is it desperation in trying to atract more sponsors? I hope to feel better about them comes Sunday.

  47. Born 1950 says:

    That final shot in the trailer — with Mansell and Senna side by side down that straight, with time seemingly standing still — is, IMHO, the most exciting moment ever seen in F1. I remember it well. Simply stunning.

    1. Born 1950 says:

      Sorry, somehow posted this in the wrong thread — meant to be a comment on the Senna trailer.

  48. Damian J says:

    James

    Do you think re introducing the 107% qualification rule for slow cars is a good thing?

    Either we want a full grid of cars or not. I don’t see the point of this rule, having accepted their bids to enter F1.

    If they fail to qualify, the team sponsors will rapidly disappear and along with it their ability to survive in F1.

    1. mtb says:

      Perhaps Jean Todt doesn’t believe that overall numbers on the grid is what matters.

  49. jack_faith says:

    following the practice coverage on BBC, which I wouldn’t normally do. This must have been said on here before but Ted Kravitz is a class apart from those two 5 live guys. Embarrassing at times.

    1. Gold Leaf says:

      Yes, Ted is always great value.

      Those other two guys, Hamilton and Philips, shocking stuff. I thought 5Live had actually worked this out for themselves last year when they were dropped (well Philips getting the elbow from Force India helped) … but apparently not, now they are both back to torment the fans.

      I was riding the mute button like a maniac.

      I don’t know who you offended in BBC Towers, but there is no way 5-Live can reasonably and realistically justify giving 95 minutes airtime to an Ian Philips, especially on any occasion where a James Allen is available in the paddock.
      A bit of relaxed colour-commentary during the odd practice session now and again, bit of minformed context for the punters, sounds ideal, go and grab Swales and make this happen.

      1. James Allen says:

        I’m flat out presenting the coverage on Australian TV this weekend.

  50. Thank God the season has started! James, thank you for keeping up with the F1 circus in the off-season. I look forward to reading your articles here often this year.

  51. LT says:

    RB will still dominate, but I’m very happy to see McLaren going in the right direction, even if we aren’t anywhere near the RBs. I believe we will get there during the course of the season and Jo and his red fanboy ilk can say whatever they like about us, I don’t really care!

  52. Spyros says:

    Seeing that Heidfeld’s times compare to Petrov’s, is a little worrying…

    This may be rather a dumb question but here goes: do you think that the two Renault drivers will be using extra-efficient earplugs this year? :D

    Thanks for the excellent winter coverage of a new, interesting season, James. Many of us drop in to read, without contributing much in the discussions, but this doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate what a wonderful resource this site is.

    1. James Allen says:

      I don’t know about ear plugs but they will get warm in the cockpit with the exhausts wrapped around them!

  53. andrew says:

    If your local broadcaster is only showing the highlights – The local Australian broadcaster is showing a full coverage (6hrs today).
    James Allen is working with them too. Plenty of JA insight and interviews etc.

    http://onehd.com.au/motorsport-live-streaming.htm

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