What we learned today?
Both cars encountered problems with their front suspension uprights in the first free practice session. After careful analysis, the team identified a material defect linked to a specific batch of components. For the afternoon session, the team reverted to a different batch and ran without any issues.

Alan Permane, Chief Engineer – Technical programme notes

  • It was difficult to learn anything today. The issues this morning limited our mileage in both sessions and it’s difficult to draw too many conclusions.
  • Due to the lack of running, neither driver was able to make much progress with their set-up programmes and we have a lot of work to do to improve the handling.

James Allison, Technical Director
“Both Vitaly and Nick suffered failures under braking in the front uprights early in the first session. As a precaution we stopped running the cars until we had understood the problem. We quickly established that the two failed items had come from the same material batch and that nothing from this batch had run prior to today. It took a little longer to rule out other potential causes but once we were confident that the failures were related to a material problem we released the cars for the second half of afternoon practice where they ran without problem.”

Nick Heidfeld, R31-01
Free practice 1: P7, 1:40.525, 6 laps
Free practice 2: P8, 1:38.570, 16 laps

Nick: “Because of the issues this morning, we didn’t run very much at all today. We therefore had to prioritise what we did in the afternoon and we felt it was best to do a long run on the soft tyres. Although we didn’t do many laps, we got some data and we learned a few things, especially about the high degradation rate of the softs. Considering that we did no real set-up work today, it’s quite encouraging that I was in the top ten in both sessions. We now have to concentrate on making good progress in the final practice session tomorrow morning.”

Vitaly Petrov, R31-03
Free practice 1: P24, 1:47.932, 4 laps
Free practice 2: P13, 1:39.267, 17 laps

Vitaly: “It wasn’t the best day. The problem in the morning was quite a surprise and we decided not to run until late in the afternoon when we had understood things properly. When I did finally get out, the car felt fine, but the time we had was very limited and we didn’t really manage to do any set-up work. As we expected, the degradation rates are very high here, especially for the soft tyres, but they definitely had more grip and were a couple of seconds quicker than the hard. However, tomorrow is a new day and I think we can still have a good weekend.”

Did you know?
Nick and Vitaly are using sparkling golden suits this weekend. It’s to allow them to stay a little cooler than they would otherwise be in their traditional black versions. Expect these suits to make several more appearances during the year – at the hotter races.

James Allison Interview:

James, quite an eventful day – can you summarise what we learnt today over the two sessions?
JA: Well, we didn’t manage to learn too much about the handling or the setting up of the car because we spent a lot of time in the garage after two very unexpected and unwelcome upright failures. Both of them in the same circumstances, both of them under braking, and both pretty much identical in terms of what bits broke.

It was very surprising to see something like that happen because we knew that there weren’t any particularly high loads going into the car here at the track, and we knew that we’d run many thousands of kilometres on this design pre-season and at the first race without any drama. So, we had to have a bit of a think about what had happened, and it was very quickly apparent that the uprights that had failed were from a separate manufacturing batch to any of the others we had run this year. The finger of suspicion quite quickly pointed at, the material, but out of an abundance of caution we wanted to check through a number of other things as well. In the end we were forced to conclude that the material from this second batch of uprights was substandard and we duly ran the second half of the afternoon session on uprights from a different batch without drama.

What did you learn about the tyres today, particularly the soft tyres?
JA: Like in Melbourne we see a very substantial performance difference between the hard and the soft tyres – well over a second, more like two. We also see that the degradation for the tyres here is much more like it was pre-season – quite high – much more so than Melbourne. However, with only very limited opportunity to set up the car, and not having achieved a particularly ideal balance, our degradation was less good than we are used to. The better the car is balanced, the more sweetly it will run on its tyres.

When we spoke in Melbourne, you mentioned there would be some upgrade packages to the car coming into this race. Can you tell us some more about that?
JA: Well, they were all running today, largely without drama although both our front wings took a bit of battle damage as we suffered this morning’s woes. However, they were back up and running in time for the next session. Overall though, we’ve got the new additions on the cars and they seem to be delivering what we’d hoped.

Going into tomorrow, you’ll be hoping for an improvement. What are your expectations going into P3 and then Qualifying?
JA: I hope we can take a step forward from Melbourne’s qualifying and have both of our cars in the top ten, and both our cars competing for a good number of points come the race.

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