What did we learn from Friday practice?

Posted: March 26, 2011 in Formula 1
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Actually, before we get into that…this blog has various tools built into it so I know how many folk are visiting and how they’re finding me (that is, how they’re coming to be on the blog, not “This Simpson fellow is a most agreeable chap”).  One of you beautiful people got here by running a Google search under “pirelli reveals the colors of the signs of tires before the australian grand prix”.  In doing so, you’ve won the award for the longest, least concise Google search I’ve seen in 7 years of writing.  Bravo!

It’s difficult to argue that we’ve learned very much at all from a practice session which saw winter slow-pokes McLaren finishing 1st and 2nd, but let’s have a crack anyway, shall we?

  • Whether they’re genuinely fastest or not (which I’m fairly sure they’re not, for reasons I’ll come to in a tick), McLaren are at least not as bad as they looked throughout February.  While Lewis Hamilton did periodically come into view going sideways and Jenson Button complained of understeer, the MP4/26 spent much of Friday going roughly where the drivers had aimed it.
  • Virgin are much worse than they looked throughout February.  When your lead driver is telling the world that he thinks he can just about go quickly enough to qualify for the race, you’re in bad shape.  Better shape, though, than…
  • …our pals at HRT.  If the dampers really were held up in Spanish customs last week, the rest of the car must have been sent to Melbourne on the slow boat from Valencia.  This year, as last year, the cars were still being built when practice got underway.  This year, as last year, a talented Indian driver had to wait his turn, Karthikeyan’s car still not in one piece yet.  Last year’s victim, Karun Chandhok, drove around 3 corners this morning in a Lotus before crashing it, presumably overcome with excitement at having joined a team whose cars actually existed as a whole.
  • Red Bull haven’t yet shown their hand.  Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were both quick and consistent on longer runs, while their fastest times of the day were set without apparent effort.  McLaren report that Vettel didn’t use the moveable rear wing at all on his quickest lap.
  • Even so, it seems fairly close.  Red Bull and Ferrari don’t appear to be a million miles apart, with Mercedes sniffing around just behind.  McLaren might be in there too, while the midfield squabble between Williams, Renault, Sauber and Toro Rosso promises to be an almighty one.
  • Those Pirelli tyres aren’t falling to bits anything like as badly as the drivers had invited us to believe.  Melbourne is cool and damp at the moment, so we’re still waiting to see these tyres run in the weather conditions they were designed for, but early signs are that the degradation isn’t as severe as expected.  It’s still likely to be a 3 stop race, though, so there remains plenty of scope for a midfield runner to score big, big points through good tyre management rather than outright pace.
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