2009 AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX -- FREE PRACTICE ANALYSIS
Today's run programme targeted the following objectives: aero and mechanical set-up work, prime and option tyre evaluation, tyre degradation analysis over a long stint.
"Although the track was very green and slippery, the car felt good from the start of the session," said Heikki. "Our balance was good, particularly in the high-speed corners, and KERS deployed well, working smoothly throughout both sessions."
Heikki quickly felt comfortable with the car and the operating window of the tyres, setting a 1m27.982s best -- which placed him near the top of the P1 timesheets. He followed it up with a six-lap run (1m27.495s) as the track continued to evolve.
Focus shifted from set-up work to tyre evaluation over longer runs. Heikki completed four runs (four laps/1m28.148s; three laps/1m28.757s (cut short by flat-spotting a tyre at Turn Two); 11 laps/1m28.064s (the first on options); nine laps/1m27.802s).
The time differential between the two compounds didn't appear to be too marked -- and both held up well over the course of a stint.
"A reasonable first day -- even if the times don't properly reflect that," Heikki said, after finishing 17th on a 1m27.802s. "We saw some decent pace and made some progress which was pleasing for the new guys on my car this year."
Lewis started with a five-lap run (best time 1m30.105s) to form a baseline for the day's programme. A later four-lap run saw Lewis visibly working his tyres on his first flying lap, yielded a 1m29.042s. A two-lap, final run of the session produced a best of 1m31.747s.
"The first session didn't prove too productive for us," said Lewis. "We worked hard to get the prime tyres to operate effectively, but the track conditions and our set-up made it difficult to get them to work, and it didn't give me the confidence to push hard."
Some set-up work between the sessions made Lewis more comfortable. He completed runs of six laps (1m27.958s best), seven laps (1m28.431s), seven laps (1m27.813s) and a shorter, three-lap stint (1m29.438s) to evaluate set-up changes.
"The changes we made after P1 made the car feel much better," said Lewis. "We're still working to refine the balance -- and we have a number of issues still to address -- but we are heading in the right direction."
While the focus of the run programme precluded the setting of low-fuel fast laps, MP4-24's speed over a long run looks better than testing indicated, although it is too early to accurately predict overall. Lewis finished the day with a 1m27.813s best, 18th fastest.
MARTIN WHITMARSH -- team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
"We arrived in Australia fully aware that we'd be facing a tough start to the season. But we adhered to a disciplined programme today, focusing on tyre durability work, and weren't swayed by a desire to post flattering times. Equally, we're now focusing on implementing the performance steps we've planned for the next few races. Overall, then, we've made good progress recently but are well aware that we've still got a lot of work to do."
NORBERT HAUG -- vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"After the winter tests, we knew that we would have a difficult start into the season. While our car has improved since the Barcelona test, we still have a lot of work to do."