HEIKKI KOVALAINEN MP4-24-03 P1 programme 7 laps - 1m38.483s (20th) Heikki conducted a single installation lap to evaluate some new bodywork. His first run of the morning (three laps/1m38.483s best) was cut short by traffic and a locked ...
7 laps - 1m38.483s (20th)
Heikki conducted a single installation lap to evaluate some new bodywork. His first run of the morning (three laps/1m38.483s best) was cut short by traffic and a locked front-right wheel, which flat-spotted the tyre. With the flat-spot compromising efforts, the team shifted emphasis to aero mapping. Heikki completed a final single-lap run before the deteriorating front-right prompted a precautionary halt to proceedings.
"The track grip was immediately good, and less dusty than in Australia," Heikki said. "We've made some good progress with the car's development."
40 laps - 1m36.397s (9th)
The team switched to longer runs for the afternoon, carrying out a number of longer runs on both the prime and option tyre. Heikki completed four runs, switching between the option and the prime: 10 laps/1m37.640s; 11 laps/1m37.099s; 11 laps/1m36.401s and four laps/1m36.397s.
"As we started pushing, the car started to move around quite a bit and was more difficult to drive," Heikki concluded. "But our consistency over the long runs looks quite promising. I just need some aircon in the car -- it's totally boiling!"
16 laps - 1m36.699s (7th)
Bodywork and aero evaluation filled the morning's programme. Lewis tried some new components, setting a 1m38.009s best on his four-lap baseline run. "I had no particular issues with the car this morning," he said.
"Clearly, we still need a bit more grip but our balance, particularly through the high-speed stuff, felt good. The car felt stronger than I expected." Lewis completed a second run (five laps/1m36.699s) but a final run was curtailed when Lewis hit a bump, locked both wheels and ran wide into the Turn 15 gravel, he continued back to the pits.
11th - 1m36.515s (11th)
With the team following a very disciplined programme throughout the day, neither driver was particularly pushing for a laptime, resulting in Heikki and Lewis finishing the afternoon session in ninth and 11th respectively. Lewis carried out four runs: five laps/1m37.950s; nine laps; 1m37.593s; eight laps/1m36.626s; four laps/1m36.515s. The sweltering conditions required monitoring of MP4-24's cooling systems, particularly the KERS installation, which has not been tested in such extremes, but the two cars ran reliably in both sessions.
MARTIN WHITMARSH -- team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
"Once again, we fully utilised the track time during both Friday practice sessions to refine the bodywork developments we are making to MP4-24 and focus on set-up ahead of Sunday's grand prix -- a race we anticipate will be one of the hottest and most demanding of the year. MP4-24 continues to evolve, and today's programme underlines the encouraging progress we feel we are making with the car."
NORBERT HAUG -- vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"We compared both tyre compounds and posted consistent laptimes. After today, I would not say that we made a step forward but at least it looks as if we are headed in the right direction. The team improved quite a lot since the team test in Barcelona less than a month ago. But everybody inside Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is aware that we still have a lot of work ahead of us until we will be back at the top."