by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte

Australian F1 Grand Prix 2017: Friday - Free Practice Report

The 2017 Formula 1 season kicks off with the usual Australian opener at Albert Park, Melbourne. On Friday, it was a game of cards on the table. For the first time, all teams have shown their muscles and early potential. The hidden advantages that were not revealed during the winter pre-season tests have begun to shape up for most of the contender. The new regulations are aimed to boost the show to new heights as the cars are now hugely faster compared to the previous generations.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas quickly emerged as the top team, the one to beat this year, followed by Ferrari and Red Bull Racing, which also showed a remarkable development. The new F1 W08 EQ Power+ Silver Arrows driven by Lewis Hamilton and Valteri Bottas touched the Australian soil for the first time and felt right at home, impressing with their strong pace, overall performance and reliability.

Lewis managed to top both free practice sessions of the day, exhibiting lap times which were, on average, almost half a second faster than the rest. Valteri's first practice rounds in a Silver Arrow proved he is a skilled driver that succeeded in getting accustomed to a new team. He ranked P2 in the morning and then P3 in the afternoon FP session. Both drivers ran all three compounds in the morning session. Lewis used the Soft and UltraSoft in the afternoon, Valtteri the SuperSoft and UltraSoft.

Free Practice at a glance

Lewis Hamilton
Chassis: F1 W08 EQ Power+/01
FP1 stats: 22 Laps, 1:24.220, P01
FP2 stats: 34 Laps, 1:23.620, P01

Valtteri Bottas
Chassis: F1 W08 EQ Power+/03
FP1 stats: 25 Laps, 1:24.803, P02
FP2 stats: 34 Laps, 1:24.176, P03

Dry, Mild, Clear (AM), Overcast (PM)

Air: 20.7 – 23.1°C
Track: 27.2 – 36.0°C

Post-practice Comments

Lewis Hamilton
It’s great to be back in Australia and I’m super happy to be back in the car – particularly after a first day like that. It was 99 per cent perfect. After struggling with some issues in Barcelona, we didn’t know if we’d have the same thing here. What’s really encouraging is that we’ve arrived at the track just a week later and the car is exactly where it should be. It’s feeling great out there and the guys have done a fantastic job. We’ve shown good form so far on both the long and short runs and we got every lap done that we wanted to. The tyres performed really well today too. Coming into today, we really didn’t know where we’d be. We knew from FP1 that the Ferrari’s weren’t at their maximum. Of course, in FP2 all of a sudden they were quick. We’ll see tomorrow how it really stands. I feel very much at home in Melbourne. There’s always a great buzz here and a lot of support. I’m just really happy to see everyone and receive their positive energy. I’ll be pushing as hard as I can to win this race.

Valtteri Bottas
It was great to be back on track after Barcelona and overall it was a good day today. We still have work to do with the car balance but we got all of our running completed without any issues. From my side I definitely feel like I can make a step forward tomorrow. It’l l be a busy evening for us tonight looking through all the data to see where we can improve but it’s a reasonable start. In terms of our pace, it is only practice, so tomorrow we’ll find out exactly where we are. These tyre compounds are the right choice for this race. The softer compounds all felt good. Everyone is pushing to the limit, as we saw a few times out there today. This track is always quite dirty at the start of the weekend, but we’ll get used to it.

James Allison, Technical Director
It always seems like a bit of a cliché to say that we were pleased to get through our programme smoothly. But in the first practice sessions of a new season – particularly under new regulations like these – it’s especially important to achieve that and also to leave the car intact for Saturday. On both counts, I think we can say that today was a smooth day. Our programme focused on trying out the various tyre compounds that we have available this weekend to see what kind of pace and degradation we can expect from them. We also worked to ensure the car has a reasonable balance with race fuel and lower fuel. Our long run pace looked decent but it’s harder to tell where we stand at this stage in terms of single lap pace. We’ll find out tomorrow. Overall the car seems strong, so we’re looking forward to seeing what we can do with it.

Credits: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport

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