F1

That Friday feeling

That Friday feeling

F1 2007 has now officially hit the track and Friday's practice sessions are already over and done with. So how are the drivers feeling after the initial foray, admittedly in difficult conditions. McLaren rookie Lewis Hamilton clocked the third ...

F1 2007 has now officially hit the track and Friday's practice sessions are already over and done with. So how are the drivers feeling after the initial foray, admittedly in difficult conditions. McLaren rookie Lewis Hamilton clocked the third quickest time in the afternoon session and was, understandably, fairly happy about his first day.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren Mercedes.
Photo by xpb.cc.

"It's been a fantastic day for me," he said in the FIA's post-practice press conference. "To go out, first time here for me in Melbourne, to go out of the pits, go out of the garage, down the pit straight for the first time, it was living my dream, so it's been quite a decent day."

Despite his enthusiasm, he hadn't quite expected to be that high up the time sheet on his official practice debut for McLaren. "No, not really," he admitted when asked if he had imagined such a good result. "As I said, it is a steep learning curve. This is testing... tomorrow is what matters so we will see what happens tomorrow."

Another of this season's rookies is Heikki Kovalainen. It was not such a good day for the Renault debutant as his car failed in the second practice with a fuel pressure gremlin. Not only that, teammate Giancarlo Fisichella also suffered a similar breakdown. But Kovalainen is optimistic for the rest of the weekend.

"It's actually the same problem in both cars," he commented. "The fuel system failed. We don't know any more details about what was actually the cause of the problem, but it is related to the fuel system. Shame it happened earlier for me, but in any case, Giancarlo's runs were promising so I think we are in good shape."

After the rookies, the old hands, as it were, also had mixed fortunes. Kimi Raikkonen was a lowly 19th in the morning session but jumped right up the times in the afternoon. His Ferrari was second only to teammate Felipe Massa, fractionally under four tenths off, and the Finn was satisfied with that.

"I think it's always been raining here for the last three years and difficult weather so not exactly what we wanted," he said. "But I think we've done what we wanted to do, we tried different tyres and we learned something even though there was traffic but I'm pretty happy."

Not so happy was Jenson Button. Honda's eco-cuddling philosophy might be attracting a lot of attention but on track the performance was pretty disappointing. 14th was the best Button could manage in the afternoon session and teammate Rubens Barrichello was one behind in 15th.

"We're really struggling, as a few other drivers behind us have been, we're really struggling under braking," was Button's frank assessment. "We just can't slow the car down, and we've got a stability issue as well… We understand the issues, I think…"

"Tomorrow's practice is also important to us to work a little bit more with the balance, because the longer runs are obviously slightly worse than the one timed laps so we've got to work a bit on that and get a consistent balance. Then we will be looking okay for the race."

Red Bull performed better than had been indicated by the winter testing results. Both David Coulthard and Mark Webber were in the top 10 in the morning, and Coulthard again in the afternoon. However, Webber suffered a transmission problem in the second session and was a lowly 17th. The Aussie is not predicting a big step in performance in the immediate future.

"I still think that once we've made the car reliable and more of a consistent balance, and start to get a genuine understanding of the car… more running, and it's good to go racing because that's when you actually find out where you're weak, more so than in testing," he remarked.

"There is definitely potential in this car, no question about it. Adrian (Newey, chief technical officer) is working hard and he knows... he's shown in the past that he can deliver a good car. But it's not easy, you don't just roll them out and they go quick, you've got to work with them."

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