McLaren Honda drivers Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button ended the opening day of practice ahead of Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix in the top ten. Fernando Alonso ended the second session in 6th place just ahead of Button in seventh.
In this morning’s session the pair ended up with Alonso in seventh and Button in eighth place.
Speaking following the on track action Fernando Alonso commented by saying:
I think we’re feeling quite happy after today.
“It’s nice to be back here in Melbourne: sometimes, when you come away from testing and go to a different circuit, you receive a pleasant surprise… or an unpleasant surprise. Well, today, we received a pleasant surprise.
“We more or less completed our programme – there were a few things we couldn’t quite accomplish, because we didn’t have enough dry running, but it was the same for everyone and we’ll hopefully run through our braking and ride-height checks tomorrow.
“Looking ahead to qualifying tomorrow, we have a clear and structured plan. Because we’ll be running both cars at the same time, we’ll need everything to be organised and synchronised between the two pit-crews so that they can focus on both cars simultaneously.
“Nevertheless, it’s a new system, and some teams will inevitably make mistakes with it during these early races, but I hope McLaren-Honda won’t be one of them.
In Free Practice one on his way setting a time of 1m 33.129s, Jenson Button completed 16 laps overall which was more than any other driver in the field. Speaking following his day in the car, the 2009 world champion commented by saying:
This wasn’t the easiest day on which to run race cars – even if it had been dry, those 50km/h winds made things very tricky, and the early rain made them trickier still. In fact in conditions like we saw today, when it’s wet and windy, you can lose control of the car very easily, so I hope tomorrow will be a lot calmer to be honest.
“Having said that, we still managed to trial some engine and ride-height settings. We’d like to have tried even more, but there was little point in such bad weather conditions. All in all, though, I definitely think we made the best of today.
“For qualifying tomorrow, I think it’s important that the fans know what’s happening. The fans are a big part of this sport, and it’s important that they understand the reasons for the change.
“I reckon some teams and drivers will make mistakes in quali during the next few races, but I think we’re well prepared.
McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier commented by saying:
Our positions in both today’s sessions underlined the team’s experience and competence in dealing with unexpected and difficult conditions. It would have been easy to make mistakes, or to have missed out on useful running, but, in fact, we did the opposite; gathering plenty of good data whenever the track was clear, and getting a thorough understanding of the direction we need to adopt for the remainder of the weekend.
“So it’s been an extremely encouraging day. We know there’s work to be done, but today has shown that we’ve made real progress – both in terms of reliability and in terms of performance. Given the unpredictable and changeable conditions facing us for both Saturday and Sunday, therefore, we’re well placed to maximise our potential this weekend.
Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 project and executive chief engineer Yuske Hasegawa commented by saying:
The first day of the season opening race was hampered by gusty winds and temperamental rain, so unfortunately we were unable to confirm the full performance of the car. Thankfully, our two drivers’ patience and good laps in these tricky conditions enabled us to gather enough data for the day.
“We have combined today’s power unit data with that gathered in Barcelona two weeks ago, and successfully prepared ourselves for tomorrow’s running. Hopefully, we will be blessed with better track conditions tomorrow.