With both drivers equipped with new chassis, the team kicked off the European season with several key bodywork upgrades: most notably a new front wing (FW4 -- essentially a finessed version of the previous front-wing iteration, first raced in ...
With both drivers equipped with new chassis, the team kicked off the European season with several key bodywork upgrades: most notably a new front wing (FW4 -- essentially a finessed version of the previous front-wing iteration, first raced in Shanghai), rotating rear hubs and a new floor. Today was spent firstly evaluating the new front wing before focusing on the improvements to the floor.
21 laps -- 1m23.077s (14th)
Starting on a green circuit and running on prime tyres throughout, Lewis conducted an opening six-lap run (best time 1m23.850s) to establish a benchmark for FW4. Subsequently back-to-backing it with FW3 and returning again to FW4, he ran four laps, 1m23.121s, four laps/1m23.077s and four laps/1m23.974s). He ended up 14th
31 laps -- 1m22.809s (13th)
Switching his focus to the new floor -- which features a double-diffuser for the first time this season, Lewis again started off on primes and completed a short, four-lap run (1m23.964s) before beginning his programme on the option tyre. Conducting two longer runs (seven laps/1m23.363s and 10 laps/1m23.140s), Lewis felt that the improvements to the car were inconclusive:
"We're still a long way away and I didn't feel any improvement," he said. "I think it's going to be hard work to get into Q3 tomorrow. We're pushing but unfortunately the upgrades we tried didn't work for me and the car doesn't feel like it's improved. We lose a lot of time in Turns Three and Nine because we can't carry the speed through the high-speed corners like other teams. But we'll battle our way through."
He ended the day with a two-lap run (1m22.809s), more satisfied with his ability to lean on the car, but choosing to curtail the stint after locking up and running wide at the final chicane. He ended the day 13th.
17 laps -- 1m23.522s (19th)
Beginning the session with FW4, Heikki completed an initial four-lap run (1m24.708s) before reverting to FW2 (the front-end he has preferred since Shanghai) to complete the comparison, he carried out a six-lap programme on the prime tyre (1m23.522s). A third and final run was brought to a premature halt by a gearbox hydraulic problem, resulting in him finishing 19th.
29 laps -- 1m22.876s (14th)
Heikki's afternoon running was slightly delayed as his mechanics fixed the gearbox issue and installed a new floor. As a result, he sat out the first 20 minutes before starting the session with a four-lap run (1m23.998s) on primes. Switching to options for the rest of the day, he conducted the following programme: three laps/1m23.183s; four laps/1m23.438s and nine laps/1m22.876s to end up 14th quickest.
He said: "We had a gearbox issue in the first session which was caused by a hydraulics problem. Fortunately, the team was able to fix this shortly after we started second practice so I didn't lose too much time."
Heikki was also pleased by the improvements the new components appear to have made to MP4-24's performance: "I'm really happy with the progress we made," he said. "The new parts we have on the car obviously seem to work: I think we've improved the technical package since Bahrain but we need to wait until tomorrow to compare our pace with our rivals'."
MARTIN WHITMARSH -- team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
"Inevitably, when you come to a circuit with a big package of modifications that need assessing in a very short period of time, you get some successes and some failures. But coming into this weekend, we've been realistic and disciplined: we always knew this would be a challenging circuit, but we've gathered a lot of data -- and that will enable us to study our performance overnight and enhance the car for tomorrow. Are we as quick as we want to be? No. Do we believe we can get through into Q3 tomorrow? Yes, we do."
NORBERT HAUG -- vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"Our laptimes during our race simulation in the afternoon looked better than two months ago at the final winter test. The positive is this proves that we are working in the right direction; the negative is that we are still not quick enough to fight for podium finishes -- in fact, it will be tough to enter Q3 tomorrow and to start the race in the Top 10. Also on this circuit, our KERS hybrid is a good help for improving our laptimes and hopefully KERS will be even more of a help at the race on Sunday as only four of 20 racers are running the system here."