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Melbourne Blog – Day 2
Melbourne Blog – Day 2
Posted By:   |  27 Mar 2009   |  9:51 am GMT  |  43 comments

Finally after all the talk the protests and the politics we got some track action today.

It was very weird starting the first session at 12-30pm and the second one at 4-30pm, basically two and a half hours later than normal. I got to the track for 8-45 am and there was hardly anyone here! Many of the teams were saving money on catering by taking advantage of the breakfast included at the hotel.

By the time the second session was underway the shadows were lengthening and all the drivers commented on how hard it was to see in certain places. The sun is right in their eyes and Jenson Button, for example, was complaining that he could not see the display on the steering wheel.

If there are no hold ups or safety cars, the race will finish around 6-30pm here, by which time the sun is very low in the sky and the temperatures are dropping. It’s quite challenging for the drivers. If we do have delays then we could be cutting it fine on light.

If we are to have an incident it may come at the start. We are likely to have the seven cars using KERS in the midfield pack on the grid. Ferrari, McLaren and BMW’s Nick Heidfeld will use the system, which will give a 80hp boost of power once the cars have reached 100km/h. So there will be quite a big speed differential with the non-KERS cars in front on the short run to turn one. I’m betting that someone leaves one of these new wide front wings behind in Turn 1. In recent years we have had quite a few large shunts there anyway.

The upside of the later start is that the cars look great on TV in the yellowey light.

I’ve had some comments here about Brawn’s pace, accusing me of adding to the hype over the team. They have a massively fast car, they showed that in Barcelona and I was there to see it. I posted on it at the time.

Their mistake was to go to fast at that test. They reined themselves in at the next test in Jerez, not showing their full pace and if I were them I would not show all that they have here this weekend. They don’t need to and it would aggravate the situation after the protest over the diffuser. They can win on Sunday with something to spare and then move on to the next event.

I was interested to hear from Fernando Alonso this evening that he is using the KERS button on six or seven occasions on the lap, coming out of corners mainly. He aid that in the race it will be used more on the straight and to line up an overtake. Lewis Hamilton agreed with this analysis. He is using short bursts of a second at a time.

Both drivers said that they will not touch the moveable front wing flap at any point in the race.

I was interested to see the body language between the pair at the end of the press conference. As they got up from their seats, Lewis asked Fernando a question and Fernando put his arm around Lewis’ shoulder to listen and respond. They did not look like the enemies we take them to be. It’s a relationship which has evolved a bit from the dark days of 2007.

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Any chance of a James' friday form guide?


I bet that there will be a least four cars that require their front wings to be replaced. The advantage of poll position is going to be huge


Apparently a charge can be put into KERS pre-grid for use at the start (according to commentary this morning). Is the parade lap not fast enough to do this? If not how do Williams "pre-charge" their flywheel system?


Can you give us your insight on the pace of the cars in P1 and P2. It's always hard to read into the times and what you see on the TV screen.

Do you have any view or info on the pace of the teams / drivers?

It looks like Ferrari are struggling as are Renault. BMW look particularly confusing also. Any views?

Rosberg looks awesome though! Williams may have done it at last! And they have a flywheel KERS system (the best in my view) to add later


"Both drivers said that they will not touch the moveable front wing flap at any point in the race. "

Isnt this wierd?? I thought that the movable wings could reduce drag and aid overtaking..

The Hedge Priest

Interesting to hear that about Fernando and Lewis. I think perhaps when you've been through something like that so publicly it can't help but produce a strange kind of bond. However much they were at each others throats a personal rift can never feel as huge as the media is able to make it. Perhaps that gave them so perspective.

It's these personal relationships and the narrative they produce that makes Formula One so engaging. It's a a fantastic story.

Great blog James, it' really improving my F1 experience. Keep up the good work.


Long time reader, first time poster.

I really enjoy reading your thoughts and comments on F1. I think starting up the blog was a great idea.

Anyway, I was wondering what your thoughts were on Ferrari's pace today. Do you think their holding their speed back, or was it genuinely the best they could do today?

And were you surprised by Williams' pace? While they've been making noise about 09 being a year about opportunity, I never thought they'd top the charts...


All it takes is a red flagged start and then an incident packed, safety car strewn race and we're looking at 7pm onwards for the finish.

Realistically what time could they race until before they red flagged it?


I also think there will be a first corner incident. This is partly due to the fact I came over from Sydney to Melbourne last year to see Jenson race, only to have him in a collision on the first lap at the first corner. So this year I am hoping that a couple of Toyota and Williams cars are directly behind Brawn on the starting grid, just to make sure nothing nasty happens (at least not to the Brawn boys anyways!). It seems that KERS is only going to be visible off the starting line. I should imagine it will be a similar advantage to the Renaults from a couple of years back when they had so more traction when accelerating.

Who is your tip for pole James? I know I would love to say Jenson but I think Rubens might just show him up.


Lewis was probably asking Fernando how he coped with a car that he had no chance of winning in at the start of last year! Poor Lewis.

I must admit my surprise at the practice results today - I didn't expect Williams to be right up at the top, and I certainly expected Ferrari to be faster (in the 2nd session).

Though obviously we can't exactly tell because we do not know the strategies that the teams were running in practice. One thing is for certain though, we will know the outright pace of most cars tomorrow.

Please for Force India - up in the top 10 in both sessions - hopefully they can keep that up. I get the feeling that it is going to be a VERY competitive season.



We saw a thaw the Alonso and Hamilton's relationship last year too, I think. It's McLaren and Ron Dennis that Alonso's very bitter at, I'm led to believe. Don't know if you think that's accurate or not, James.

Personally, I think Hamilton will have a strained relationship with any team-mate who pushes him hard. He seems to have that character, which I think is what turns a lot of people off about him. Unlike say Massa, who seems to have a alot of personal charm.

I would not be surprised to see Hamilton only paired with a "number 2" team mate in future, as seems to be the case now. It will be a shame not to see him go up against a similarly good driver in the same machinery again, so I hope I'm mistaken.

Anyway, get yourself down to the first corner ready to pick up a memento, and book that slot on eBay.


Thanks for the insight James! Does anybody know if/where we can view a video of the press conference online? Would love to see it.


"I was interested to see the body language between the pair at the end of the press conference. As they got up from their seats, Lewis asked Fernando a question and Fernando put his arm around Lewis’ shoulder to listen and respond. They did not look like the enemies we take them to be."

More of these kind of fly-on-the-wall details please Sir!

Please explain why they are so wary of adjusting the front awing during the race.


Fernando, much to his credit, has been behaving very nicely towards Lewis for some time now, many people noted how he personally went to congratulate him in the McLaren garage in Sao Paolo and has generally been amiable and honest in his opinions even before then.

When exactly the message will get through to journalists and Fans in Spain is another matter entirely.

Amazing to hear they will not be using the front wing flaps, I hope it does not leave them in line for any of Max's "Punishment"


The Williams performance not worthy of any comment then James??
All too early to tell, I know, but surely a mention at least.
If you think their pace is false, as you concentrate on Brawn then some context as to why would be enlightening....


Please can you find someone to comment on the rear wheel covers used by Williams and Brawn.

Does the construction of the wheels allow airflow from inside the wheel to outside ie is the main body of the wheel solid or is it vented?

With covers on the outside of the wheels a great deal could be done to create a lowering of pressure between the rear wheels and expelling air from the suitably vented covers.


I have to agree that finally it was good to see all the cars go toe to toe, even if it was only a practice.

And despite all the hype around Brawn, I think it is Williams who will walk away with the 1 - 2 this weekend. A friend made the analogy that while Williams & Toyota are the people getting down to the hard graft (and probably sandbagging a little) Brawn are the cheerleader flirting with the quarterback (aka Richard Branson) who'll probably be slightly disappointed once they get into bed together.

The british tabloids must be salivating, I can see it now "The Virgin Brawn pops their cherry in Melbourne"

Surely if it does happen Ross will never live it down!


the qualifying tomorrow will show a more clearer picture of the grid lay out..from today it looks like Williams, Brawn and Toyota are in for a shout


Interesting that you remain so confident about Brawn's true pace James, now that Williams and Toyota appear to be matching them! I can't wait for qualifying to see if you're right 🙂


Great posts from Melbourne .... cheers


We need to see when the drivers press their KERS buttons. It's as if it doesn't even exist at the moment.


I do like the way you write. You give an interesting and unique insight on the drivers and the world of formula one.


"They did not look like the enemies we take them to be."

- Perhaps that's because Lewis has had to accept the possibility of Alonso consistently finishing higher than him this season and is therefore no longer able to play smug (speaking as a Hamilton fan).


You cant just take the lap times in isolation 😉 It's great that Williams are popping out these fast laps - they look very strong for points or even a podium.

Brawn look to be class of the field, and if anything i'd say Jenson has the measure of Rubens.


Rosberg and Nakajima set their times on 3 lap stints I am led to believe, whereas the Brawns did their best laptimes with between 8-11 laps of fuel onboard. It is also worth noting that Jenson had not yet done his 'end of day glory lap' whereas Rubens had. Jenson complained that he got caught in traffic at the end of the session when it was conceiveable that he would have beaten Rubens' time by a tenth or two, thus topping the timesheets.

Williams are very fast, especially over one lap, but their laptimes with fuel onboard are all over the place. Button's long stints were incredibly consistent (not that this is a surprise anymore) and perhaps only Barrichello and Massa came anywhere close to those kind of consistent times with fuel onboard, and even they were a good 0.3 per lap on average down on the Briton.


rpaco: I'm sure they are do guide air around the sides of the car. Many teams have employed it, inc. McLaren, Force India, etc. I *think* they are solid so their purpose isn't to use any air on the 'inside' of the tyres, rather, the air pushed out by the front wing endplates.


If there should be delays, then race will be over by 2 hours mark. Which is aprox. 7:03 PM... (formation lap not included).

Though, I don't know the conditions at 7:00 PM in Melbourne 😉


I dont know about anyone else but I got a tingle every time one car came up behind another, they seem to be very tricky breaking into the slower corners (turn one especially), and on the bumps, quite a few times drivers had to take evasive action to avoid a collision.

This seems quite similar to last year when they had a lot of difficulty, the Ferraris especially were going off right left and centre, although they seem to have a more stable car this year. There were a lot of accidents, hopefully we wont have another like Glock's this year.


IMO I think McLaren need to be patient and to learn quickly for the long season ahead. It’s definitely a marathon not a sprint. Careful thought needs to be adopted on raining in the opposition.


James - could you please explain why FA and LH won't be using the moveable wings ??

I seem a little mystified that's all.


Just like to say how interesting and informative I'm finding your blogs James. And there's lots of interesting questions in the comments, ones that I would have asked myself, like : Can they load up Kers during the formation lap ? and At what time will they have to red-flag it for lack of vision ?

And I have a follow-up : how dark does it have to be, if there's a big weather change (for ex - they have southerly busters in Melbourne, which can cut 20° off the temperature in 15 minutes and make you believe it's night already) before they call it off ? (Knowing F1, no-one has thought of this and they're planning to wing it)

Looking forward to your comments on this and the rest. Cheers.


In response to questions about the weather and visibility, Melbourne is currently in daylight saving time. At 7pm it is generally still quite sunny. The sun will be going down in the west so I would expect the only visibility problems would occur due to bad weather. So far I have successfully gotten sunburnt at the first two days of the GP!

James: are you off to an after race function or sticking around to see The Who? I should imagine you are a fan!


i'm surprised that renault and mclaren won't be using the wing - maybe not for the reasons it was intended but it can be quite useful to 'trim' the aero with tyre wear.

as for fernando being friendly to lewis, it was just the media creating a hero and villain story, blowing the whole thing out of proportion. sure on the track they are never going to do each other any favours but in the paddock it's different.

i don't understand why the race is on so late tho? what good does starting at 5pm local time do, this makes it 6am in the UK. i reckon it would be better to start at 11am so it would be midnight in the UK but then i'm not exactly an early bird. it also doesn't affect me this time but one thing i've noticed is that it turns dark *very* quickly in melbourne...


Well now the millions of english sheep-lovers might realise that making up lies about Alonso just because he was faster than Lewis.


James,If the race does finish in the dark,would the circuit lighting be enough to provide to light necessary?I mean,it's not like in Singapore where they've prepared for such condition.right?


Noticed the light for practice 2 was rather low. Does this mean at drivers will face the glare directly, which can be dangerous. I think there will be some incidents towards the final third of the race. Look forward to an exciting opener.


Thanks Tomys.


With respect, I saw that whole Alonso/Hamilton situation from very close up in 2007 and they had a real problem with each other as team mates. They were always respectful to each other, when in the same room, but the sense of antipathy was intense.


"We Won't get Fooled Again" is one of my all time fave tracks. I'll be working, but the stage is only a few hundred metres from the press office so I'll hear it anyway!


I'd say simply because it doesn't give them any benefit. It can work at Monza, maybe Sepang, Hockenheim, Fuji, but likely not Melbourne.


"When exactly the message will get through to journalists and Fans in Spain is another matter entirely."

i would like to add not only in Spain, as well in the UK.


N.B Williams doesn't have a British driver!!! So everything they do is seen with an objective point of view. How about Lewis to Williams, British team, British driver, British sponsor (RBS)?? A marketing mans dream come true. (all breaks down at the engine though lol)
If i remember correctly Willams where once given a chance to sign lewis but passed it up.

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