The Friday debrief

By on Friday, March 16, 2012

For the last two months, all we've been told is 'We don't know, wait until Melbourne'.

Now that the F1 field is well and truly assembled in Australia, the waiting goes on as the infamously fickle weather in the seaside city disrupted running on Friday. The waiting goes in, if only for another 24 hours at which point more questions will be asked. It's a fun game.

The dark horse in Melbourne is Mercedes. Their rear wing system means that they're setting the fastest times in the speed trap, a trait that will undoubtedly assist them in qualifying. Simply watching on Friday you could see that Michael Schumacher has more confidence in the W03 than the previous two Mercedes car.

Ferrari's struggles have been well documented and Friday's running did little to appease concerned fans. Felipe Massa made a rookie error and spun into the gravel, while Fernando Alonso - as ever - was pushing the F2012 to the extreme, saving the car in the final corner.

Sky reported that there were some long faces at Red Bull. It's not unusual for the reigning champions to be uncompetitive on Friday but the team appears concerned at the lack of straight line speed, particularly compared to main rivals McLaren.

Are Force India contenders to lead the midfield? It looks probable. Nico Hulkenberg was very confident in tricky conditions in FP2, while Paul di Resta was also assured in the VJM05.

Further down the grid there was good news for Marussia as both Timo Glock and Charles Pic got in some decent running without many issues, bar a wild moment for the German, which should give the team a good platform for Saturday.

HRT was less fortunate. Narain Karthikeyan stopped on track in FP1, while Pedro de La Rosa managed just a single lap in FP2. With several problems on the F112, the team faces an uphill struggle to make the grid on Saturday. Their task could be harder this year as the harder compound tyres, which the top teams are likely to use during Q1, seem to be closer in performance to the softer compound.

Surprisingly, nobody hit the barriers. The aforementioned Massa found the gravel trap while Heikki Kovalainen survived a lairy moment at Turn 1. Kamui Kobayashi avoided a huge accident at the final turn after running wide on to the wet grass, eventually ending up sideways several metres further down the track.

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