The ING Renault F1 Team experienced a difficult opening day of the 2007 Formula 1 season during the first two practice sessions at Melbourne's Albert Park Circuit. Rain this morning meant the circuit was drying throughout the first 90 minute session, and the teams could only fit dry tyres during the final minutes. This afternoon's session was held under overcast skies, but the circuit remained dry and the teams were able to make progress with their technical programmes.
Unfortunately, the ING Renault F1 Team was unable to take full advantage of the dry conditions, with both cars stopping on track at different points of the second session: Heikki Kovalainen halfway through, and Giancarlo Fisichella during the final minutes. Both cars suffered from similar fuel pressure problems, which are currently being investigated by the team.
However, in spite of the disruption they caused, the team was pleased with the car's level of performance, as demonstrated by Fisichella's long and short runs during the afternoon. The priority ahead of qualifying and the race will be to diagnose and resolve today's problems, in order to allow the drivers to make the most of the R27 during qualifying tomorrow.
"It was a bit of a mixed day for us -- the performance of the car looked quite encouraging, especially on the longer runs, but our problems meant we didn't complete the programme. The set-up was not fantastic this morning, especially on the first lap, but we made good progress, and it was much more consistent during the afternoon session."
"The hard tyre is working well on our car, but we are suffering from some graining with the soft tyre at the moment, which is costing us performance. We still need to fine-tune the set-up, but the handling is OK, and now we need to try and match our long-run performance, on the first lap with new tyres.
"It wasn't a perfect first day for me, but we got something done even so. It was only a minor problem that stopped the car, and that meant I lost the whole of the dry, second session -- and I didn't manage to run the soft tyre at any point. When I was out on track, though, the car balance felt good and I feel I have learned the track without too many problems."
"It is a good, challenging layout -- and it makes a nice change from driving round Jerez and Barcelona like I did most of last year! Of course, it will be important for me to make good use of tomorrow morning's session to catch up the lost time from today, but I think our pace looks pretty strong -- and I am confident we will be in good shape.
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering:
"Our first Friday under the new rules was a little more traumatic than we had expected. The weather compromised the first session, but that was true for all the teams; however, both cars suffered fuel pressure problems during the afternoon which cost us track time, particularly with Heikki on his first day."
"The cause is currently unexplained, and we will be investigating this evening. Apart from this, the drivers were both happy with the balance and grip of the car -- and Giancarlo's long run on the hard tyre this afternoon looked competitive."
Denis Chevrier, Head of Engine Track Operations:
"It was a far from ideal start to the new season, with both programmes interrupted because of reliability problems. The fuel pressure problem we suffered has a number of possible causes, and they are under investigation at the moment."
"Of course, if we are to encounter difficulties, this is the best point of the weekend at which to do so, but we now need to make sure that they are not reproduced during more critical moments. Overall, it has been a frustrating start -- but we will work hard to ensure the situation improves tomorrow."
1st practice: 12th, 1:32.011, 14 laps
2nd practice: 4th, 1:27.941, 33 laps
Fastest Lap on Hard Tyre: 1:28.344
Fastest Lap on Soft Tyre: 1:27.941
1st practice: 8th, 1:31.571, 20 laps
2nd practice: 18th, 1:30.097, 10 laps
Fastest Lap on Hard Tyre: 1:30.097
Fastest Lap on Soft Tyre: n/a