HEIKKI KOVALAINEN MP4-24-03 P1 programme 20 laps 1m29.590s (10th) Evaluating the latest series of aero modifications (additions to the front wing and the rear floor), Heikki started the programme on a set of Options (after his initial set of...
Evaluating the latest series of aero modifications (additions to the front wing and the rear floor), Heikki started the programme on a set of Options (after his initial set of Primes were removed with a loose valve). He completed two runs (five laps/1m31.076s best and two laps/1m31.686s) before switching to a set of Primes to carry out a four lap run at the end of the session (1m29.263s best). The morning was largely spent refining the balance as Heikki felt the set-up required some improvement before he was completely comfortable.
Heikki said: "At the start of the session, the track was very green and it was quite hard to stay on the road -- particularly in the opening corners. At first, the car was quite difficult to drive but we worked hard during the session and I think we found a very good balance."
Lunchtime changes improved handling and locking and Heikki declared himself pleased with the balance after an opening five-lap run on Primes (1m29.803s). Another short run (three laps/1m28.841s) was followed by a longer run (eight laps/1m29.882s) -- both on Primes. Two final runs were carried out on Options (two laps/1m29.550s and seven laps/1m30.427s). Despite being affected by an ongoing issue with his brake balance system, Heikki set the fastest time of the day and concluded that his car felt in good shape for the remainder of the grand prix weekend.
"The most important thing is that the car is working fine -- and the balance is surprisingly good," Heikki said. "I think we've made another step forward so everybody in the team can be pleased about today. I still think it will be a tough fight to get into the top 10 tomorrow, but we'll be trying the maximum to improve overnight so that we can join the fight. Overall, it's very encouraging that we have made another step forward."
A busy and productive first session. Starting on a green track, Lewis nonetheless quickly got down to business during three timed runs (a fourth was cut short by the late-session red flag). Running on Prime tyres throughout, Lewis completed runs of five laps/1m30.247s best, four laps/1m29.319s and four laps/1m29.263s.
"The track was very slippery this morning, particularly in the first sector where several cars were sliding around a lot," said Lewis. "But we had a very good session, I was very satisfied with the car: it felt good to drive. More encouragingly, I could also feel a subtle improvement from the new parts we tested today. A good start to our weekend."
Carrying on with a typical Friday afternoon tyre comparison session, Lewis ran a brief run on Primes to confirm between-session mechanical changes (two laps/1m29.435s) before completing two longer runs on Options (eight laps each -- 1m29.810s and 1m29.450s). Adapting to rear stability issues, Lewis lost the back of the car at the exit of Turn One and later out-braked himself into Turn 12 during his final run on the Prime (two laps/1m29.887s). Nonetheless, the subtle mechanical and aerodynamic improvements made to MP4-24 for this race look promising.
Lewis said: "Before we arrived here, we thought we'd probably have the same sort of pace that we had in Barcelona, but it seems like we're a little bit faster than we anticipated. I had a couple of spins this afternoon -- but that just proves I was pushing hard! We have a little instability on the exit of some corners but I've been pleasantly surprised by the pace of the car today. The guys back at the factory have worked hard to give us this improvement; now we'll keep on working and trying to improve the car and hope that tomorrow is an even better day for us."
MARTIN WHITMARSH -- team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
"A good effort by Heikki today, who was quickest despite having a very frustrating two sessions. This morning, he had a valve problem with his tyres so had to switch sets at the last minute, which interrupted his programme. And this afternoon, he had a problem with his brake balance sensor. Despite all this, he conducted his full programme and made reasonable progress over his long runs.
"Lewis concentrated on a tyre comparison and set-up programme. I think we possibly went in a few wrong directions this afternoon, so we're comfortable with the pace we've achieved. There's still a lot of work left to do to optimise the car, but hopefully we can continue the strong progress we started today
"It's always nice to see you've set the quickest time of the day. The reality is that the timesheets don't lie -- our aim for tomorrow is to hopefully get both cars into the final session of qualifying. That's our realistic goal."
NORBERT HAUG -- vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"Today was a productive test day for us. The laptimes seem to be closer than ever with just over seven tenths of a second separating Heikki in first from 16th place in the rankings. Our laptimes during this afternoon's race simulations looked not bad and hopefully we can make another step forward tomorrow and start from a good position on the grid for Sunday's race."