Schumacher Performing On Wet First Day

On a day where rain lingered more than sunshine, the Rainmaster of old appeared under the clouds.  The first practice session began wet and it wasn’t until later in the session when the drying track gave way to quick laptimes. McLcaren’s Jenson Button led a McLaren 1-2 at the top of the timings, a 1:27.560 was nearly three tenths of a second quicker than his team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Jenson was not bothered by the lack of dry running on the first day of the weekend, as he said everyone had the same track conditions to deal with.

“It’s the same for all of us, we didn’t get a lot of running today because of the track conditions. But it was useful because we haven’t run in the wet so to get an idea of the wing angles for the wet tyres, the inters and the dries, and the difference between them was very useful and also to get an understanding of how the car works in those different conditions.”

Hamilton was in a good mood

His team-mate Hamilton was happy to be back, as the feeling is akin to returning to school after a long break:

I think it looks quite close between us, maybe Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes. It’s going to be interesting tomorrow. People usually go through the same programmes in P3 so I think then we will get a better understanding of just how quick people are. I’m massively excited to see how it goes.”

The German gave a strong account of himself on Friday

Michael Schumacher was third in the first practice session and quickest in Practice 2. While expressing pleasure at his good showing in both sessions, he urged that no one get carried away as the Friday of a race weekend is often not the greatest guideline on judging form.

““Today was a nice start into a hopefully exciting season, and certainly two promising sessions for us,” said an upbeat Schumacher. “However, I would not go so far as to speak about being confident, as the weather conditions were too mixed to gain a clear picture. We know what Friday sessions are for and don’t know what fuel loads others were running. On the other hand, it is good to see that we were competitive in different circumstances today and that the car provides good handling – I just feel it.”

Rosberg didn't have it as good as Schumacher, but had a decent day

His team-mate Rosberg was also pleased, though he was 3 seconds slower than Schumacher in session two, and by four tenths of a second in session one.

“In general I am quite pleased: the car feels good, and it’s been a decent start,” he said. It was good to get going again, and to get an idea of where we are compared to the others. Today was mixed conditions, but we got some good dry laps in and I was able to learn some things that will be useful for a dry forecast.”

Raikkonen had steering issues which limited his running

Kimi Raikkonen did not share in the happiness of others. His Lotus-Renault had a steering issue, which ate into some of his running time and leaving him with less track time than others. He was characteristically cool about his car’s issues:

“It seems to be working okay at some circuits, but in some certain conditions and some places it might give us a small problem, but hopefully before the next race we will have a new one and we can be okay. For sure it will take a while before we get it right exactly I think. Here we are fine with what we have now, but at some circuits we definitely have to improve.”

His lack of laps, coupled with the wet weather meant the Finn is unsure of where he and the team stands:

“I had one lap in the morning without traffic and almost one lap in the afternoon so I don’t know where we’re going to be,” he said. “Tomorrow should be a bit better and after qualifying hopefully we are happy.”

Bad day at the office for HRT

At the rear end of the grid was a disastrous day for strugglers HRT. Already having passed the mandatory crash tests in recent weeks and having achieved no pre-season running, the drivers got few lap times. Pedro De La Rosa’s car underwent examinations from the FIA which took all of session one, and only got one lap in session two – his car stopping on track on track due to hydraulic problems. Team-mate Narain Karthikeyan fared a little better, completing nineteen laps over the course of the day.

The 107% rule means that if a a driver sets a time which is not within 107% of the quickest laptime in Q1, the first qualifying session, they will not be allowed to take part in the race – subject to the discretion of the race stewards. This was abolished from the sport in 2003, but was brought back in 2010 due to the entrance of three new teams to the grid, Caterham, Marussia and HRT. HRT failed to qualify in the 2011 Australian Grand Prix, but Karthikeyan was determined that both drivers could qualify one year on, even though the team has not had the best of first days:

“I have to qualify, there are no two ways about it. Everything has changed with the team and because of that I am here and I have to qualify, so I will push tomorrow. If we don’t qualify, it’s a shame. If we had a lot of running today, I don’t think it would have been a problem but tomorrow we will have to see how it goes.”

With just one practice session with a time of one hour remaining before qualifying, there is a lot of learning to be done for all of the teams. After a day largely lost due to rain, Saturday will be where the real work will begin.

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