Date:Friday March 25 2011
The wait is over!
After a prolonged winter with the cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix it was great to see 21 cars setting times in the first practice session of the 2011 Formula One season around the Melbourne track in the early hours of this morning.
Chandhok who managed to crash his Lotus within the opening minutes of the session and the Hispania team were the only cars to not set times, for second practice Lotus did manage to get a second car out to set a time, however Chandhok had lost his chance by then as Trulli was the man behind the wheel.
Hispania may not have set a time, but they did complete one installation lap in the last few minutes of the second practice session, giving the team hope that tomorrow could see them get more track time and hopefully see them come through qualifying.
As had been expected throughout the winter testing, Red Bull and Ferrari, particularly Fernando Alonso were the fastest cars in the first practice session.
Webber set a time of 1minute 26.831 seconds, 0.327 seconds faster than his team-mate and 2010 World champion Vettel, Alonso was 0.918 behind in third.
The best of the rest were Mercedes, Williams and McLaren with Rosberg, Barrichello, Button, Hamilton and Schumacher all within half a second of one another.
The session saw all drivers testing the new driver enabled moveable rear wing, where there were no regulations for its use during the first practice session and this saw a number of drivers falling off the track as they tested their breaking zones to the limit and how to use the wing under breaking at race pace.
One driver who appeared to be struggling a lot during the session was Massa and he finished the first practice session a second slower than team-mate Alonso and two seconds behind the Red Bulls.
The second practice session had a restriction on the use of the rear wing for the final half an hour of the session, during this period, drivers were only allowed to use the wing under race conditions ie down the start finish straight, if they were within a second of the car in front.
This period of testing was affected by light rain (and when it is raining, another regulation which we had missed until this session means this wing is not allowed to be used).
While some teams might have missed on some testing time under race regulations, Red Bull and Vettel ran much of the session under these conditions as they completed race simulation on Pirelli’s hard and soft compound tyres.
For a lot of the session Vettel was well off the pace as the other drivers continued their different set-ups for qualifying.
Vettel went on to complete 35 laps and was fourth fastest.
But the fastest man on the track was McLaren’s Jenson Button, the new exhaust and flooring modifications that the team brought to the track certainly appearing to do the trick, with team-mate Lewis Hamilton second fastest.
Button’s time of 1minute 25.854 seconds will come as a great relief to all McLaren’s fans that had feared the team would be left well behind the pace of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes this weekend.
The gap between the top drivers also suggests a very close race with Button, Hamilton, third placed Alonso and fourth placed Vettel all within two tenths of a second when the chequered flag fell.
The session also didn’t bring a clear indication into how many pit stops we can expect on Sunday, with some teams predicting three or four stops and others predicting two or three stops.
Date:Friday March 25 2011
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