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Australian Free Practice: What the drivers had to say

George Russell: “It was great to get out on the track in Melbourne for the first time. It really is an amazing circuit. On my first lap when I went down into turn three it felt like I was flying as everything was so close together. However, we didn’t have the best of days in terms of laptime, as we are a long way off the rest at the moment.

“We know what we are in for across the first few races so we need to focus on building on that and making sure come mid-season we have something better. Overall, it was an amazing experience, especially with all the fans around the circuit, it is something that I will remember for a long time”

George Russell (GBR) Williams Racing
George Russell (GBR) Williams Racing with James Urwin (GBR) Williams Racing Race Engineer. Australian Grand Prix, Friday 15th March 2019. Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.

Robert Kubica: “This morning was quite difficult for us with much less grip from the track. We know Australia is more bumpy and the surface is completely different to Barcelona.

We struggled quite a lot with general grip; this afternoon the feeling was slightly better as conditions improved and also the temperatures helped us a bit. We have to try to get the maximum from what we have and it depends what that maximum will be. I think we cannot target much more so the realistic aim is to extract the maximum from what we have.”

Daniil Kvyat: “Both free practice sessions today went well, we managed to run through our programmes and complete quite a few laps, which is important around this circuit. The car felt good, I think we maximised our time on track and we just need to look into what we want to change overnight. I think there are still steps we can make to improve the car for tomorrow, so we’ll try to work on that tonight.”

Alex Albon: “I’m still getting used to the timetable of an F1 weekend as well as to the car and the track. This circuit isn’t easy, but I think our pace looks good so far and I’m slowly building up confidence. I took it a bit easier after the spin in FP1 and once I got back up to speed we went on with the programme, trying a few more things on the car. Timesheet apart, we’re looking pretty strong in a very tight midfield and now it’s up to us to do our homework tonight to improve tomorrow.”

Nico Hulkenberg: “We recovered well today after a far from ideal first session. FP2 was good and consistent. I felt comfortable straight away in the car, which is one of the most important things for a driver. We’re coming in to a different circuit to that of testing and it’s such a contrasting track to get a feel for. I felt at home – happy as we can be at this stage – and we ran to our programme as planned in FP2. Our long runs were good, but there is still a lot of data to analyse overnight before Qualifying tomorrow.”

Daniel Ricciardo: “It was good to get the first day done. It’s been a busy week with a big build-up so to get Friday practice completed is nice. We had some consistent running in FP2 and I was certainly growing more comfortable on each run. We still have lots to learn and improve on, but we’re getting there. For me, it’s about developing the understanding of the car and we’ve made a good start on that today. Qualifying will be interesting tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it.”

Lewis Hamilton. 2019 Australian Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton. 2019 Australian Grand Prix, Friday – Wolfgang Wilhelm

Lewis Hamilton: “It’s really nice to get back out on track. The weather is fantastic, we’ve already got quite a big crowd. I have a positive buzz from driving the car today – this is what I love doing. The car feels like it’s in a similar place to where it was in Barcelona, which is positive coming to a different track. We got through our programme really well, there were no issues on track. There’s plenty of stuff that we can improve on, but this was not a bad start. What we have to do now is really study and analyse everything, as we always do on a Friday night. But the fact is we’ve got two cars that continue to go around, none of us made a mistake and we kept the cars in one piece – that counts for a lot.”

Valterri Bottas: “It’s nice to be back in a race car, doing the thing we love to do – I had fun today. The car felt better than it did in testing. We didn’t bring a lot of new parts to the car, but we were able to optimise the package that we have. It was a solid day for the first day back in the office, but the times are not important on a Friday. We haven’t seen the full performance from any of the other teams. We have an idea of how much we can improve for qualifying, but we have no idea how much performance the other teams can still bring. It will be interesting to see what the first competitive session holds tomorrow.”

Max Verstappen: “I’m quite happy about today and the feeling so far is pretty good. Of course, there are always areas to improve and we are not fast enough yet but it’s only the first day of the season and there is a long way to go. It looks like Mercedes are very quick and they seem to be a little happier with the overall balance. In general, the car felt alright with medium and soft tyres but we still need to fully understand the compounds. My running was also a little different to the others in terms of preparation and there is definitely some lap time in that. We will look at the data tonight and see what we can improve but from the engine side there were no problems and it all ran very smoothly. We had no expectations going into today and it’s just good to get started.”

Pierre Gasly - Red Bull Racing
Pierre Gasly – Red Bull Racing

Pierre Gasly: “It was great to be back on track for the first Free Practice of the season, and my first Friday at the track with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing was a special moment for me. It was a positive day, we tested a lot of things and my feeling in the car is getting better lap after lap. There’s still work to be done but we’re pretty happy with the package. We didn’t have any expectations today, as after testing it’s difficult to have a real idea of the pace of others. We managed to find some good direction for FP2 and I felt better in the car than I did in FP1. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow. On the engine side, we had a small loss of power on the last lap and after some checks, it turned out to be a minor sensor issue.”

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