Australian GP - Friday analysis

By on Friday, March 25, 2011

So the first proper day of the new F1 season started with a tame couple of sessions but certainly raised a few eyebrows.

McLaren going 1st and 2nd in FP2 was certainly a shock for the majority of the paddock, who had written off the MP4-26 after an awful winter. It is only practice, but whatever McLaren has done appears to be working. Red Bull took the honours in the first session and it appeared to be that they focused on race pace in the second session, Vettel using the DRS only where it will be permitted on Sunday. They are still firm favourites for the race. Ferrari had a quiet start with no attention grabbing times, but Massa deviated from the circuit a few more times than would have been hoped for. Mercedes also appear to be in the front running group and the W02 is a step up from last year’s car, with Schumacher seemingly getting to grip with the car well. The battle between him and Rosberg will be very interesting.

Renault is the team that, on evidence of today’s sessions, has slipped back into the midfield, where they lead a group of Sauber, Williams and Toro Rosso. Daniel Ricciardo did a competent job for the latter, whilst Alguersuari’s pace was consistent and quick. Sergio Perez made a solid start to his F1 career with 8th in second practice, whilst fellow rookie Pastor Maldonado was more ragged and some way behind his team mate, Rubens Barrichello. Force India is the team who has slipped back and both drivers are struggling, although they are some way ahead of Lotus. Their season certainly could have started better with Karun Chandhok binning the car approximately 45 seconds into the first session. They should quite easily be better than Virgin and HRT. The former are in real danger of not making the 107% time whilst the latter just need time. They must be thankful that Bahrain was cancelled, but even so, shaking down the car in the last minutes of FP2 is abysmal. Karthikeyan is yet to run and may not even manage that tomorrow. At this rate, it’s not inconceivable that we’re on course for just 20 cars on Sunday.

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