Season Gets Underway in Melbourne
The season got underway under damp conditions in Melbourne, meaning it’s still anyone guess as to where anyone is in the overall pecking order. McLaren went quickest in the first session, Jenson Button pipping his team mate as the track quickly dried out. Just behind them was the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher who set the fastest lap of a wet second free practice with a late lap as the track began to dry.
HRT endured a torrid time at the back of the field as Pedro de la Rosa made just a solitary installation lap while Narain Karthikeyan had little better luck and the outfit look like they will struggle to make the 107% qualifying cut-off point. Marussia may do likewise on the basis of their first practice pace – Timo Glock’s 12th in FP2 may not be enough to convince the stewards to allow his participation if he does miss the mark considering the impact the weather had on the session. Meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen also suffered a lack of running with Lotus, as the team struggled to sort out steering issues.
Teams are allocated a total of 11 sets of slick tyres for the race weekend, and under this year’s rules they now have every set available to them from the start of free practice. However, as rain dominated proceedings during both of Friday’s sessions, the rules now state that if both Friday sessions are wet, one set of dry tyres can be carried over to the following day. Furthermore, if either of the two free practice sessions is wet, the teams are entitled to an extra set of intermediate tyres. So there is an opportunity to make up lost track time tomorrow with dry weather forecast for the rest of the weekend – a good idea, no?
Despite going fourth fastest in both sessions, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso remains downbeat. “Overall a good Friday, but the feeling with the car didn’t change too much,” said the Spaniard. “I think especially in FP2, with the conditions we had it is impossible to see the level of competitiveness. The car feels OK, we got some answers and a good feeling driving the car, but we had a good feeling during testing.”
Kimi Raikkonen remains unhappy with the feel of his car’s steering, with a complete remedy not expected until Malaysia at the earliest. “We tried a different steering rack in the first session,” explained the Finn. “It would have been fine to run, but we knew that the base system would be better. The setup we have now is working well, it may take a while before we get it perfect but we’ll make the best of it.”
At the back, Pedro de la Rosa just sounds happy to be in a car in Australia. “We managed to complete our installation lap in order to check the systems, but afterwards we detected a problem with the hydraulic system which forced us to stop,” explained the HRT driver. “This is all part of the learning process, we’ve arrived here with a new car and just to have been able to get out for the second session was a feat, but we would have liked to have done more and learnt more.”
At least Lewis Hamilton has a smile, the McLaren driver pleased with his car although remaining cautious about his rivals. “Our car feels there or thereabouts but, as in testing, we don’t know the fuel-loads the others were running,” said the 2008 World Champion. “It still looks close between ourselves, Red Bull and Mercedes. It’s going to be interesting tomorrow – we’ll get a better understanding of who’s going to be quick.”
New for this year, Saltire and I are going to stick our necks out by predicting the 1-2-3 in each weekend’s race and, to give it some extra spice we’re inviting a different guest blogger each weekend. This week’s guest predictor is Pat of the brilliant I Watch Too Much Racing. Pat has the unfortunate prospect of making his picks in the year’s most unpredictable race but thinks that Jenson “always seems good around here and (that) McLaren will be more competitive in 2012!” The result is all of us going for a Button-Vettel-Hamilton podium, just not necessarily in that order.
|Mav||1. Hamilton||2. Button||3. Vettel|
|Salti||1. Button||2. Hamilton||3. Vettel|
|Pat||1. Button||2. Vettel||3. Hamilton|
Three points for a driver finishing in the predicted position with one point less for each position away.
Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas