2006 Australian Grand Prix - Race 3/18

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Davidson fastest in practice 1

Honda test driver Anthony Davidson topped the times in opening practice for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix, the British driver finishing ahead of Dutchman Robert Doornbos in a Red Bull Ferrari.

On a cool, cloudy and windy morning at Albert Park, and in front of a sparse crowd in the grandstands, Davidson dominated the first hour-long session, which ran without major incident.

Few of the leading drivers took much part until the final minutes, as expected, but there were moments of concern for a handful of men who took unscheduled excursions off the circuit.

The first of these came after 14 minutes when Neel Jani, in a Scuderia Toro Rosso car, went off at turn 9, his car coming to a halt in the gravel trap.

Twenty minutes later, Robert Kubica's BMW-Sauber appeared to blow an engine, and he parked his car close to turn 1 before walking back to the pits.

The Polish driver was at that time threatening to produce a notably fast lap in the session.

There were few other note-worthy incidents then apart from the installation laps run by some of the leading drivers - and an off-track run across the grass from Canadian Jacques Villeneuve in his BMW Sauber - until the final minutes.

Then, in quick succession, Ralf Schumacher in his Toyota, Kimi Raikkonen in his McLaren-Mercedes and Doornbos, in his Red Bull, went off at turns 6, 6 and 3 respectively, but without other mishap.
 
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Davidson remains on top in Australia

Anthony Davidson followed up his quickest lap in morning practice by topping the times in the afternoon on the opening day at the Australian Grand Prix.

The British driver, who clocked his best lap late in the session, finished up fastest ahead of Alexander Wurz in a Williams and Robert Kubica in a BMW Sauber.

Fellow-Briton Jenson Button was fourth in his Honda ahead of defending champion Fernando Alonso in his Renault, with seven-times champion Michael Schumacher sixth for Ferrari.

If anything, the weather in the afternoon was cooler and cloudier than it had been in the morning, but with an air temperature of 22 degrees Celsius and a track temperature of 25 degrees, it remained comfortable.

The early part of the session saw several drivers running off and recovering to return to the circuit, notably Yuji Ide in his Super Aguri, who went off at turns one and nine, the Clark and Brabham chicanes respectively.

He was followed by Briton David Coulthard in his Red Bull Ferrari, Vitantionio Liuzzi in a Toro Rosso and then Felipe Massa, in his Ferrari.

The crowd - the grandstands looked three-quarters full - enjoyed seeing not just some action, but also big name drivers out on the track.

Jacques Villeneuve, who had done so much to entertain the spectators in the morning, did the same in his BMW Sauber in the afternoon, running off and recovering at the first chicane.

On track, it was defending champion Alonso who led the way in his Renault, the Spaniard clocking an early fastest time and staying on top with a lap in 1:27.443.

The closest in pursuit were Michael Schumacher in his Ferrari and soon afterwards Button in his Honda, who clocked a lap in 1:27.213 to take over at the top after half an hour.

Eight minutes later, Button was outpaced by Williams third driver Alexander Wurz, who delivered a lap in 1:26.832 before Liuzzi lost control of his Toro Rosso Cosworth at the Walte Curve, having braked late and gone across a kerb.

The Italian's car crashed heavily into the trackside barrier, but he was not injured.

Wurz's time stood unchallenged for some time until Robert Kubica showed his pace, and both his and his BMW's potential, by moving up to second.

With five minutes remaining, Davidson followed up his fastest time in the morning session with another quick lap to take over at the top of the time sheets in one minute and 26.822 seconds in his Honda.

Alonso then did a late lap, during which he went close to losing control briefly at turn 12, and Christijan Albers, in his Midland Toyota, went off heavily at turn five.

Button, pushing in the final seconds, skidded off and on to the grass, but regained control to complete his lap without disturbing the order.
 
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Australia Friday notes: Toro Rosso

Scott Speed: "The out lap this morning felt intimidating as it was very very slippery out there. Then, after I saw Neel go off, I thought 'oh man, this looks like a recipe for disaster.' So at first it was difficult to push hard enough to keep the temperature in the tyres. So that was intense. Then, this afternoon we made very good progress, our speed looks quite good and I reckon we can be competitive."

Neel Jani: "I ended up having to learn the track this afternoon after crashing this morning when I locked the rear brakes. I had problems all day long trying to find a brake balance that suited me. So, unfortunately, I was not that much help to the team today. Not a great day for me."

Tonio Liuzzi: "I chose to do just two laps to get a taste of the track this morning. This afternoon, I found I had understeer in the high speed corners. I messed up my entry to the chicane and that put me wide at the exit and so I spun. That was the end of my day. I'm really ****** off because I lost a lot of track time."
 
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Australia Friday notes: Super Aguri

Takuma Sato: "We had a difficult start to the weekend today as we suffered a few minor problems and could not complete as much of our planned programme as we had hoped. However, we did complete our Bridgestone tyre comparison, which is very important, and on a more positive note we have made a good step forward with our aero package as the new front wing is working well. Now we have to work hard over night to conquer some of our issues so that we can make more progress during our running tomorrow morning."

Yuji Ide: "It was my first time driving at this track so I concentrated on memorising the layout during the first practice session. Unfortunately a flat-spot on one of my tyres during the afternoon session meant that the car was not so easy to drive and I also spun on a new set of tyres when I was running on quite a good lap, but in the end I was able to complete quite a long run and my time was okay. We will be working hard tonight as I want to be able to set up the car properly and improve my driving style for tomorrow."

Aguri Suzuki, Team Principal: "We were able to try a number of different programme elements on both cars during free practice today and Takuma was able to complete a good long run, so I am relatively happy about what we were able to accomplish. Yuji is still trying to find the right set-up and is learning the track slowly with every lap he completes. We will now have a meeting to decide on our plans for tomorrow and prepare us for the Qualifying."
 
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Australia Friday notes: Red Bull

David Coulthard: "We had a productive day, as we were able to take advantage of the fact that we'd only done ten laps in Malaysia. As a result, my engine is 50 laps in credit, which means we could do more than normal today and get up to speed in case the weather's wet tomorrow. I wasn't evaluating tyres today, as we're saving our allocation for tomorrow. Other than that – not much else to report, until we get into the tyre evaluation tomorrow."

Christian Klien: "I had a new engine for the race weekend, so was limited on distance today. I went out just for one run in the first session. The track was very dirty and there wasn't much grip, you could see a lot of cars spinning off the circuit. In the second session, I did two runs on a heavier fuel load to enable us to get a decent set up for Sunday. It's good fun to drive here, as it's almost like a road circuit.

Robert Doornbos: "I really, really enjoy this circuit, and it's a lot of fun in a Formula One car here. This morning we started off really well. Everyone's very positive after last year's Australian result, and to start in the top two this morning, trading places with Anthony (Davidson) for first place, was really cool. In the afternoon, we were doing longer runs and my times were pretty consistent. That will help the guys make a judgement regarding the tyres and I wish them good luck for the weekend – I'll be cheering them on."
 
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Australia Friday notes: McLaren

Team McLaren Mercedes drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya finished seventh and ninth overall following today's two practice sessions for the 2006 Australian Grand Prix. Kimi's fastest time was 1:27.773 and he completed 21 laps whilst Juan Pablo set a time of 1:28.200 and completed 16 laps of the Albert Park circuit.

Kimi Raikkonen: "A good start to the weekend where we went through everything we wanted to including our tyre evaluation with Michelin. It was a bit cooler than we expected but no problems, and I guess the temperature will stay pretty much the same for the rest of the weekend. I had a small off at one point which is what happens sometimes when you try different things, and I'm expecting the track surface to improve further as more cars run."

Juan Pablo Montoya: "We completed our planned programme with no problems, and I'm pleased with the data we have achieved from our Michelin tyre evaluation. However, we still have to see how everything develops during this weekend once the track gets more grip."

Ron Dennis: "A trouble free start to the Australian Grand Prix weekend where we achieved our objectives. The variable track conditions make setting up the cars somewhat more difficult but generally we are pleased with today's outcome."

Norbert Haug: "A productive first practice day during which we worked on the race set-up and completed our programme as planned. Everything is OK so far."
 
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Australia Friday notes: BMW

In practice for the Australian GP, BMW Sauber F1 Team drivers Robert Kubica, Jacques Villeneuve and Nick Heidfeld finished third, 12th and 15th respectively.

Robert Kubica: After the engine problem this morning we had a pretty good second session. We tried some promising aero solutions and were able to do consistent times in our long run. On my last outing I had some traffic, otherwise I would have been even quicker, but that is less important in a free practice session.

Jacques Villeneuve: The car seems to be competitive. One issue so far has been warming up the tyres, which should not be a problem in qualifying now that we can run more than one lap, or in the race, but it will be critical to be competitive then because of the penalty I will get for needing an engine change. That's a pity, because the balance of the car is very good, and I'm really happy with its speed.

Nick Heidfeld: I don't like these Friday sessions so much. This morning I just did an installation lap, and this afternoon just one outing with only a few laps. However, the car wasn't too bad and was definitely better than the lap time suggests; I had traffic in the second sector and there were yellow flags in the third.

Mario Theissen (BMW Motorsport Director): Robert had to stop the first practice prematurely due to an engine failure after 13 laps. Our whole focus is on reliability, but the time for development was too short. Over the winter our test engines of identical-specification covered the required distances without problem. However, our investigations into the breakages units after Bahrain and Malaysia revealed that some components have not met their required production tolerances. Our short-term reaction has been to build new engines with hand-selected components that best meet these rigorous requirements. We have two of these revised engines here. One is already installed in Nick's car, and Jacques will get the second in time for qualifying after Saturday's morning practice session. As a result he will lose 10 positions on the grid.

Willy Rampf (Technical Director Chassis): Apart from the engine problems, I'm quite happy with the performance that we demonstrated today. Robert did the tyre evaluation but also concentrated on set-up work, particularly for qualifying. Jacques focused on race preparation, while Nick just did a baseline run.
 
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Australia Friday notes: Ferrari

Jean Todt: "The initial analysis of these first two hours of free practice provides us with a clear indication that the major players in this early part of the season are all very closely matched. For our part, we worked mainly on setting up the two 248 F1s and now it is up to the engineers to analyse the data. Temperature will be a very important factor this weekend, both in terms of making the right tyre choice and then of optimising their performance."

Michael Schumacher: "Things went pretty well, apart from a bit of traffic stopping us from getting through 100% of our planned programme. One variable was the wind, which occasionally made for unpredictable handling. On one lap, I ended up running a bit wide in a corner when a gust of wind pushed the car from behind, when I had no more room to brake. As for the tyres, it will be important to always ensure they are up to temperature. There are no other problems, partly because over the winter we ran in much colder conditions than this. Tomorrow, I hope to be a front runner and be able to start the race from as near to the lights as possible."

Felipe Massa: "It was a good day's work. We concentrated mainly on finding the best set- up. My final time does not reflect my real performance level, because on my last run I had a lot of yellow flags in the final sector of track and I had to keep lifting off the throttle. I am satisfied, because the car is well balanced and we improved constantly throughout the day. I am confident for tomorrow and Sunday."

Ross Brawn: "It was a reasonably positive day. The cars seem well balanced and we had no problems at all. Air and track temperatures are a bit lower than expected and so it takes a bit longer to get the tyres working at their best. Once they reach operating temperature, their performance is good. Now we have to analyse the data we have gathered over these two hours to be as well prepared as possible for qualifying and the race."
 
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Australia Friday notes: Toyota

Panasonic Toyota Racing today began its preparations for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix around the streets of the Albert Park circuit. On a cloudy day in Melbourne, the team began its bid to make progress after its difficult start to the year. Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli both successfully completed their programmes of tyre comparison and set-up work in today's two practice sessions. The drivers will now look to make continued improvements over the rest of the weekend as Toyota bids for points in the race.

The Albert Park track is always dirty on the Friday of the race weekend, and grip was again at a premium today.

Jarno Trulli: "That was a normal Friday of tyre testing, set-up work and trying to find a good balance for the car. We still have some work to do to get more grip if we want to be more competitive so we have to work on some solutions to that over the course of the weekend. We spent today collecting as much data as we can for the next two days but being a street circuit the track here always evolves a lot during the course of the weekend. We will have to wait and see how much we can improve in the next two days but our target is to make the points on Sunday."

After meeting the cast of Australian soap Neighbours this week, Ralf Schumacher began work on setting up the TF106.

Ralf Schumacher: "Today's practice sessions made for a difficult start to the weekend here. We are again struggling to find general grip, so that is something we need to find for tomorrow to be in a decent position. The circuit always starts out dirty here so the grip of the tarmac will improve as the weekend goes on. We have some different tyres here that we hope will help us to solve some of the problems we have had with tyre temperature at the first two races. We already looked better in Malaysia so we hope to be able to continue to improve our set-up. Of course it is relatively cool here this weekend and the weather forecast is not very good. But if everything runs according to plan then we should aim to score points."

Panasonic Toyota Racing's two TF106 cars both completed their day of set-up work in preparation for Sunday's race.

Mike Gascoyne – Technical Director Chassis: "Both our drivers completed their normal programmes of work in the two sessions today. The track is always difficult on the first day here, very dirty and slippery with low levels of grip, but it improved throughout the day. Certainly the new spec Bridgestone tyre is working well in these conditions but we have to look at all the data we have in order to make the correct tyre choice for tomorrow. Overall there were no real problems but we now have to look to improve the set-up to get more grip out of the package. We are not yet where we want to be but we will have to see what the weather does tomorrow before we can know exactly where we are."
 
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Australia Friday notes: Midland

Adrian Burgess, Sporting Director: "We covered a lot of laps today with the third car, while the two race cars ran their normal programmes. We've tried to work out a couple of reliability issues over the course of the afternoon, so hopefully we've made some good progress there. The racecars worked well today, with no issues. Christijan had a small spin at the end of the second session this afternoon, but the damage was relatively minor and shouldn't be a problem for tomorrow. We've got plenty of useful information to digest overnight regarding tyres and strategy, lots of good data. Our pace was also pretty encouraging. Tiago made a reasonably good run late in the second session, so we're looking forward to building on that tomorrow."

Tiago Monteiro: "In the morning, we didn't do any performance runs; we just checked out all the systems to make sure everything was working properly. We had a lot of work planned for today and we managed to get through it all without any issues. We solved our problems pretty early on, so that allowed us to focus on improving the car in the second session. The team did a fantastic job - the more I drove, the better the car felt. I like this kind of track, so I felt confident right away and was able to push hard. We know where our weak points are, so we're going to work on that tonight. But obviously, compared to our opponents, today was a pretty good day. It's still too early to get overly excited about the times, but it's good to know we're making progress with the car's pace and that we know how to get even more out of it."

Christijan Albers: "I have to say we had a really good day today. The first session went really well, and the second session had a promising start on the same set of tyres. Then, when we changed to a new set of tyres that just didn't suit me, I had a lot of problems with understeer and raising the temperature. I also had a little spin near the end of the session, which was a shame, because that spoiled what was otherwise a very productive day. But we'll be all right tomorrow. I'm sure we'll find a solution and make the right tyre choices."

Markus Winkelhock: "I think it went pretty well today. During the first practice, I had to learn the track, as everything was new. I was very careful in the beginning because the walls are narrow and quite close to the track. The track is also pretty bumpy, so I had to search for all the bumps before pushing hard. In the second session, we changed something on the car, which made it much more balanced and easier to drive. I was feeling much more comfortable toward the end but I encountered some yellow flags when I went out on a new set of tyres, and I also made a small mistake, so that's unfortunate. But I think we've got enough information to make a good tyre choice for the weekend, and that's the most important thing."
 
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Australia Friday notes: WilliamsF1

Sam Michael, Technical Director, WilliamsF1: "We had a good day today and worked through our programme with Alex, our main focus being tyre selection and we now have a good idea of which direction to follow. Bridgestone have a new tyre here and so far it is working well. Mark and Nico undertook some running mainly to familiarise themselves with the track and the conditions. We had some hydraulic problems today - while they are unrelated to the problems in Malaysia, it is something we will look into tonight."

Alex Wurz: "Conditions were not so easy today. It was cold, windy and it was difficult to know where to put the car on the circuit. Now we need to think about our tyre choice and the strategy for tomorrow and Sunday and we have some good ideas."

Mark Webber: "I had a little bit of a fright on my out lap as I thought there was a problem with the car, so I did the first third of the lap in first gear. But when everything got up to temperature, the engineers told me to push on and everything worked fine afterwards. As usual for a first run, we have a lot to do tonight on the balance, but it's good that we've got some runs in. We have beaten the weather and we have got some good data to go through from Alex's car as well."

Nico Rosberg: "This track is perhaps a little bit more difficult than I expected in terms of finding its particular characteristics in order to go quick. We also had some technical problems and I made some mistakes throughout the session which limited my ability to improve. So not so good today, but we still have some track time tomorrow. After my first runs, I think this is a nice track and I like it, but I just need some more laps to enjoy it properly."

Sean O'Mahony, Principal Engineer - F1 Race Engineering, Cosworth Ltd: "As at previous races, most of today's running was focused on the T-car with Alex Wurz. We took the opportunity to test some new engine calibrations developed at last week's test in Valencia. Mark and Nico completed some laps in the second session which enabled us to check for installation issues with their fresh engines. These engines have several updated features compared to the engines we ran in Malaysia which are aimed at improving reliability."
 
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Australia Friday notes: Renault

The opening day of practice for the 2006 Australian Grand Prix took place in overcast conditions and cool temperatures at Melbourne's Albert Park circuit today, with track temperatures barely reaching 25°C. As usual, the Renault F1 Team completed only installation laps during the opening hour of running, prior to beginning its full technical programme in the afternoon. Fernando Alonso completed a positive afternoon's work with his R26, but Giancarlo Fisichella's programme was cut short after he suffered a fuel feed problem. This has now been fixed, and will not require the V8 engine to be changed.

Fernando Alonso: We seem to be in good shape. The conditions were quite windy out on the track and the grip levels are poor at the moment, but I am quite happy with the car even so. The grip levels will improve as more rubber goes down on the track, which will give all the drivers the confidence to attack more. But at the moment, the Renault feels nice to drive, and our pace is good. I think we are in a similar position to the other races so far this season – aiming for the top positions in qualifying, and hopefully on Sunday as well.

Giancarlo Fisichella: It was a bit of a difficult day for me. The cold temperatures meant the car was understeering a lot, and we had just started to improve the balance when I felt something strange with the engine. I brought the car back to the garage slowly, and we found the fuel feed problem after the session. On the positive side, Fernando's times showed that the car is quick at this circuit so I think we will be in a strong position.

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: We anticipated cooler conditions in Melbourne this year owing to its later position in the calendar, and made our tyre choice with that in mind. Even so, it is still not easy to get the tyres working well in the cold weather. However, the problem is the same for all the teams, and we made some good changes with Fernando's car to put us on the right track. Giancarlo stopped before the end of the session when we saw signs of a potential engine problem. We will look to make up for the lost set-up time during tomorrow's session.

Denis Chevrier, Head of Trackside Engine Operations: Fernando's day ran smoothly, and we were able to complete our normal programme with him, working on fine-tuning the engine mapping for this circuit. Giancarlo experienced a performance loss on the engine during the second session, which cost him track time. We diagnosed a fuel feed problem after the session ended, which has now been solved.
 
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Australia Friday notes: Honda

The Honda Racing F1 Team's Australian Grand Prix got off to a promising start today as Third Driver Anthony Davidson once again topped the timesheets in free practice running, with Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello posting the fastest and 5th fastest times of the race drivers.

Anthony Davidson: "I've had a very positive day today and I'm pleased to be top of the times again. It's been quite a difficult day in terms of traffic because none of the teams get to drive this circuit outside of the Grand Prix weekend, so there were a lot of cars on track at one time, especially when the circuit evolved towards the end of the second session. I think we've done a good job on tyre evaluation and overall we're looking good. There's definitely more to come though so if we keep moving forward like we have today we should have a good weekend."

Jenson Button: "It's been a positive start to the weekend and so far, so good. The circuit had very low grip but we ran through everything we intended to and, most importantly, it's good that Anthony completed all his test items."

Rubens Barrichello: "I have had a much better Friday today than at the past two races. We had a little problem this morning so it's good that we got some good running this afternoon but I'm definitely looking a lot more competitive. I hope we can continue like this through the rest of the weekend and it should be a better race for me."

Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director: "We had a good start to the weekend; all three cars ran without any glitches today and were in the top third of the time sheets. Anthony worked hard evaluating the tyres and different set-ups. Despite the fact we are competitive today the drivers are not 100% happy with the car, so there is room for improvement. Tonight we will review all the data and hopefully make some good decisions for tomorrow."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Management Board Member - Honda Racing F1 Team, Engineering Director - Honda Racing Development: "The engine is running well and the lap times were reasonably encouraging. Anthony did another sound job, running more laps than anyone, and topping the times for the third Friday in a row."
 
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Australia Friday notes: Bridgestone

Bridgestone Motorsport's teams have had a busy day today at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne, Australia. Despite the looming grey clouds and breezy conditions, the weather stayed dry, allowing the teams a chance to start their dry tyre evaluations. As has been the case at the opening two rounds of the 2006 FIA Formula One World Championship, WilliamsF1's Friday test driver Alex Wurz topped the times of the Bridgestone runners, finishing the faster second practice session in second place with a time of 1m26.832 seconds. With Wurz completing a total of 46 laps the team's race drivers, Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg, were able to minimise their use of valuable sets of tyres, saving them for later in the weekend. Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro's Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa were not far off the pace either. The pair was sixth and tenth fastest in the second session. Toyota's Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher were 16th and 18th respectively in the second session. MF1 Racing and Super Aguri also got plenty of running in today with MF1 Racing making the most of having Markus Winkelhock as their Friday test driver.

Hisao Suganuma, Bridgestone Motorsport Technical Manager: "The Albert Park circuit is a street track but nevertheless we had expected this morning's conditions to be a bit better than they were. In previous years the support race categories would have cleaned up the track a bit more but we had quite low grip conditions today, due to the wind blowing dirt on track perhaps. However, conditions did start to improve in the afternoon session. The lap times got quicker and the teams were able to get some meaningful work done. We did see some graining but this is to be expected and we anticipate that the circuit conditions will keep improving as the weekend progresses. Our teams were able to compare both their specifications of tyre. Alex Wurz completed the most number of laps of the Bridgestone runners and has been able to give us some some good feedback on the tyres' characteristics. Our new series of compound is working well and we expect to see it being used by some of our teams in Sunday's race."
 
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Australia Friday notes: Michelin

Honda test driver Anthony Davidson set the pace on the opening day of the Australian Grand Prix meeting in Melbourne. Track conditions improved during the day and the Englishman worked his way down to 1m 26.822s during the afternoon session. Earlier, he had also been quicker during the morning's first free practice.

Michelin drivers annexed seven of the top 10 positions on aggregate. Robert Kubica was third, ahead of Jenson Button – and fastest of the regular race drivers - world championship leader Fernando Alonso, Kimi Räikkönen, Rubens Barrichello and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Scuderia Toro Rosso test driver Neel Jani spun off the track and hit the retaining wall at Turn Nine during this morning's first free practice. His car was not seriously damaged. Team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi was in the wars during the afternoon: he crashed at Turn 12.

BMW reserve Robert Kubica was also in trouble during the first session. He pulled off the circuit after 33 minutes when his engine began smoking.

Nick Shorrock, Michelin Formula One director: "This has been an interesting opening day. It was difficult getting our tyres to reach their optimum operating window this morning, because temperatures were cool and the asphalt is traditionally very 'green' here – it's important to remember that this is not a permanent circuit and thus takes longer to 'rubber in'.

"Conditions picked up significantly this afternoon, when cars completed a greater number of laps and laid down more rubber. That gave us a much clearer idea of how well the eight different Michelin specifications, across our partners teams, are suited to the conditions. All of them have performed very well, so much so that our six partners are likely to face a delicate choice when selecting between 'prime' and 'option' compounds tomorrow. It has been an encouraging start to the weekend."
 
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Friday's press conference - Australia

Participating: Nick Fry (Honda), Norbert Haug (McLaren Mercedes), Sam Michael (Williams), Pat Symonds (Renault).

Q. A quick GPMA question, principally to Nick and Norbert and then to Pat afterwards: the fact that the GPMA has entered the 2008 World Championship, does that mean that any thoughts of a rival series are now dead?

Norbert Haug: We have been trying to bring things together for a while, as everybody knows. I think we are in a good way, but that does not necessarily mean that everything is sorted out, but we have a very constructive basis in the meantime and it's progressing in the right direction. But having said that, not everything has been sorted out so far but I think there are really very good prospects of getting it sorted.

Q. So what is the role now of the GPMA, Nick?

Nick Fry: I think it's got an on-going role, regardless of whether everything's sorted out. I think the big car companies are obviously spending large amounts of money on Formula One and I think the dialogue between them has been a) better than it's ever been, and b) allows them, if you like, to get their act together before talking to the FIA or other outside bodies. So I would see an on-going role for that type of group. Whether it would be called GPMA or whatever is neither here nor there, because I think it's a constructive thing to do.

Q. Pat, your feelings?

Pat Symonds: Well, I think we should look at all the positive things that have come out of the GPMA: for example, we know the funded aerodynamic research, the fact that the teams are communicating, talking about common issues; so many positive things about the GPMA.

As you say, the teams are now signing up for 2008 and a lot of good things have come from that. I think we should focus not on 'has the threat of a second series gone away?' or things like that. I think we should focus on the very many positive things that have happened in the last year or two as a result of the formation of the GPMA.

Q. Nick and Norbert again, what do you feel about these engine regulations that have been suggested and the freeze on development?

NH: Well, first of all I have a big problem with the expression freeze. Freeze is something for the fridge but not for Formula One and that's why I don't think we should use a word like freeze. We are very interested in saving costs, as everybody knows. I think the manufacturers again had a very constructive discussion in that direction, together with Renault, Honda, all the guys who are here.

And if you compare that to five years ago, say, I think we are really on a very good path. It's constructive, respectful but it doesn't necessarily mean that all the problems are solved, but at least it is respectful and we listen to each other. I think the combination of the discussion and of the various manufacturers leads us in the right direction. I think that if we could cut the costs in half that would be perfect, as a first step. Maybe that is feasible.

From Mercedes' side we are very open on new regulations that help to make that happen but we absolutely have to make sure that we achieve these goals. It's not a long time ago that we tried to achieve these goals with the V8s and I think it's fair to say that at the beginning we have costs and at the end there might be a possibility to save ten percent or whatever but we need bigger steps, that is for sure.

That's why it needs to be carefully thought through and we are in the process of doing so and I think there are constructive discussions in place.

NF: Much the same as Norbert. I think the saving of money is something we would completely support. The car manufacturers are saving enormous amounts on changing the engines year after year, so to reduce that is clearly something we would want. I think the question is the way that you go about it, and we're not at all convinced that a freeze is a good idea.

As you probably know, that was tried in North America in oval racing and kind of almost directly led to one manufacturer pulling out and then the other one did so shortly or a couple of years later. So I don't think there's any good evidence that that's a good thing for racing. I think that what we've got to do over the next couple of months is sit down as a group and work out the best way to save money.

I think the meeting that took place at Ferrari last week was a first step, but no doubt between now and June there will be more of those meetings.

PS: Well, I think Renault's attitude is that we are very very firmly committed to cost-cutting. If you look at an average budget for a Formula One team in round numbers, 50 percent is going on the engine, 50 percent is going on everything else: the chassis, running the team etc etc.

So, as Norbert said, if we can cut 50 percent out of the engine budget, 25 percent out of the overall budget then yes, that is the sort of thing we should do. The FIA 2008 regulations, as published, are quite draconian on homologation of engines, but of course by entering the 2008 championship, as we all have done now, we inherit the right to discuss these regulations and Max (Mosley, president of the FIA) has been very open about it.

The first of those discussions did take place at Maranello last week, with only a few teams there because it was a very early stage of discussion, but there was a reasonable amount of agreement. I think that far from it being the final solution or anything, I think that the idea of homologation is reasonable, but it should not be... to use the expression that you used, it should not be 'freezing' an engine, that's totally wrong. We would need to allow some scope for development, we would need to bear in mind that Formula One is a spectacle, it's entertainment, it's a sport and an element of it, unlike many other sports, is the technical element.

We need to maintain that technical element and I think engines revving at 19,000 rpm or whatever is part of that spectacle, I think, and it's part of what both the casual and the dedicated spectator likes to see. So we don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, we need to think carefully about what we do. We've got to try and get this - round numbers - fifty percent cut in our engine budgets but still provide a good entertainment for all those people who want to come and watch us.

Sam Michael: As Pat said, Cosworth were involved in those discussions as well and we're quite happy that they are representing our interests properly in it. There's going to be discussion, debate and I'm sure they will come up with a good solution. There's no one inside Formula One who doesn't want to do that.

Q. Sam, you must be quite encouraged by your season so far this year in some ways.

SM: We're encouraged that we probably exceeded expectations of our performance for the first couple of races but so far we've obviously had a sixth and seventh place in Bahrain and a double DNF in Malaysia, so if you look at the results card, it's nothing that's going to excite us.

But I think there have been very good signs on both fronts. We obviously had first and fourth fastest lap in Bahrain, we were quite confident of the cars' race pace from practice in Malaysia and the DNFs that we had obviously put a stop to us showing what we could have done on Sunday, but I'm quite sure that we can do a good job here in Melbourne as well.

Q. Have there been reasonably quick fixes to those problems in Malaysia?

SM: There has. Obviously the engine problem that we had on Nico's car, Cosworth already had a fix in place coming for Melbourne, because obviously you couldn't otherwise respond that quickly. We've tested that solution on the dyno so they are happy with that, and the fault that we had on Mark's car was a hydraulic line that failed which was probably worth about a hundred quid, so it was one of those ones that had done 17,000 kilometers of winter testing, but decided to give up the ghost then, so that was quite an easy thing to fix. We tested a solution to that at Valencia last week.

Q. Over the last couple of years, you've started off with a car that hasn't performed that well. Presumably this year's is better.

SM: It is. The thing that's encouraging for us is that we expected it to be difficult to start off with. We've got one new driver who has turned out to be pretty good, we've got a new tyre partner and a new engine partner as well so when you have all those changes, you're bound not to have things optimised to start with and given that the car doesn't look too bad to start with, we're quite encouraged that we can develop it hard. One of the things that we've always managed to do at Williams is develop very strongly throughout the year and we don't see this year as any different.

Q. What's Mark's reaction been to the arrival of Nico within the team?

SM: The effect on Mark has been… I think it's been very positive for both of them. Mark's a very mature guy, very talented and fast and they are using both their experiences together. They get on very well as teammates, considering they've only known each other for a few months and he's good, no problem.

Q. Is the Ferrari wing affair dead and buried now as far as you're concerned?

SM: It wasn't something that we got involved in anyway. These sort of things come up quite regularly. At least two or three times throughout the season something like that happens but we also have complete faith that Charlie (Whiting) will ultimately make the right decision. Every situation is different; that's why you have somebody like Charlie there because you need to have an interpretation of the rules and we're 100 percent happy with whatever interpretation Charlie gives.

Q. Nick, quick question for you about qualifying; do you feel it still needs to be tweaked a little, one or two small modifications?

NF: I think we're quite happy with it as it is at the moment. I think that after just two races where I think that it's shown to be extremely exciting it's a bit too soon to talk about changing it, so I would leave as it is for the moment. I know that some people have suggested that the first part of the third section is a bit dull with just running down fuel but I think there's probably so much excitement in the second part that having ten minutes with maybe slightly less action before building up to a crescendo at the end is quite nice, so I think we should leave it and see, that would be my recommendation.

Q. And do you feel that you've got to the bottom of Rubens's problems in the last couple of races?

NF: There's a couple of things on the car which are very different from the car he drove before. I wouldn't expect it to change overnight. We did some testing at Vallelunga last week, where we made some changes to the traction control system which works in a very different way.

They're not the final solution, as it were. We've made some mods which will help but we've got more work to do and I would expect Rubens's performance to improve race by race as he gets more used to the team, but I think the thing that is a huge benefit is that these are genuine improvements to the car so if it helps Rubens, it will help both Jenson and Anthony as well, so I see it as win-win situation here.

Q. Pat, leading the championship in these early days, but this time last year you had a similar lead - actually one point more - over everybody else. This was when you really built up points; is that happening again this year?

PS: Well, I think that this year is going to be a lot tougher than last year. Last year turned into a fairly straightforward fight between ourselves and McLaren. This year, that fight is still there. Honda have joined in, Ferrari have joined in and Williams have joined in, so it's going to be a hard year. We've had a great start, of course we have and we're massively encouraged by it. We've got a great car, it seems to have all the good attributes of last year's car and more, but I don't think it's going to be easy. I didn't find last year easy. I don't think this year's going to be easy either.

Q. Do you feel qualifying needs to be tweaked at all?

PS: Yeah. I'm not in total agreement with Nick. I actually had the chance to watch the Malaysian qualifying when I went back to the UK after the race and I didn't find it terribly impressive. You know, on the pit wall you really get very little impression, it's a very very busy period for us and you're not able to take an objective view of it.

So it's quite nice to go home and watch it on television with a bit of commentary etc and I did find the first bit of Q3 rather dull: cars that were very obviously not being driven on the limit, and I don't think that it really serves much purpose. I was all in favour of the changes and trying new things, but equally, I think we've got to look at what we've done and just tweak it slightly. It's good but it can be improved.

Q. Norbert, your feelings on qualifying?

NH: Very much the same. I think we need to stick with what we have in terms of refuelling, because otherwise… everybody keeps telling me why are we not running without fuel but if you run without fuel, put it on pole and then you go for a one stop strategy, you will certainly not have an entertaining race, so I think it is vital the refuelling issue stays as it is.

The problem that we currently have is that, here we get 2.9 kilos per lap and you tend to consume 2.2 or whatever because that helps you probably to go the lap longer in the race and I think to convey that to the public is quite a difficult issue. Having said that, if we take some time, I think changing tomorrow would not be the right thing. I'm very convinced that we're going to have great performances in Monaco and so on. Certainly at the first qualifying, everybody was very much in favour of it, but I think that was due to the earlier accident.

I was not pleased with the first qualifying at all, obviously, but that added a certainly thrill, obviously. I think we will see dramas, but as Pat pointed out, the start of Q3 is not really what you're expecting. Having said that, I think you can find at least two or three highlights over the course of the session which is quite good. It probably needs to be slightly modified but I'm afraid we need to stay with the refuelling or with the ban on refuelling, however you call it and that can probably be achieved in a different way, but so far it is certainly - and this is the most important thing - a good step from what we saw last year.

Q. In terms of McLaren Mercedes, you've had fantastic reliability, you're the only team not to have had an engine failure so far this year, but have we seen the true speed of McLaren Mercedes so far this year?

NH: I think we saw good speed in Bahrain really, Kimi coming from 22nd and finishing third. I think that was well-deserved, that was good speed. If you compare us to the fastest race laps, I think that was good. You are certainly slightly handicapped if you are on a one stop compared to the best lap times. Kimi was out on the first lap due to an accident in the second race.

I think he was in a position to go for a podium finish. It certainly would have been very very difficult to beat the Renaults, they have the edge. I think Honda has made a good step (forward) and we are quite close together, but I expected quite a difficult start for us and I have to say that since our first test on January 23rd I think we made good steps and I hope we continue in that direction. And there is more to come, but as Pat pointed out, I think you have named the GPMA teams, Ferrari as the sixth one - not in that order - but Williams are absolutely fully there, as we saw. This is the seventh team.

Speedwise, I saw some very impressive laps from Red Bull already. They probably didn't have the best winter testing but still they finished the first race, I think, and speedwise they were there, so eight teams. When did we ever have a Formula One season where eight teams… Renault has the edge but this hopefully can change, but there is a great potential there of 16 cars at least.

I think that's high class and I think that has a lot to do with all the efforts of the teams, of the manufacturer teams, of the newcomers, of the Red Bulls, but it is a set-up like we have never had before, as long as I remember, which is good for the sport and good for the spectators.
 
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Questions From The Floor

Q. We are hearing a lot of conciliatory noises about how it is all going to be sorted out before June, but if you look at it from a philosophical point of view, you have the FIA who are trying to slash costs and Honda who believe in open development and pushing to the limit of that. Surely we are looking at something that is impossible to please everybody?

NF: As we were named in your question I think ill start. I think there is a reasonable compromise to be found. We do, as you know, believe in a more liberal approach on development because it is very much an engineering project for Honda. Its developing the engineers and the technology that feeds into the road cars and that is important, but at the end of the day we don't want to end up competing with ourselves.

So, I think there is some common ground that can be found and that is all around what I call useable technology that can be used in a road car environment or in other fields. So I think what we've got to do between us is to sort out the wheat from the chaff - for example, some of the material development is very applicable and some of it is less so. And we are quite happy to be part of that process.

SM: I think that there will be a solution, I mean most of the things go to the Technical Working Group which is where a lot these things will go now, we find a solution because we have to -- I think when you get 11 technical people in a room with Charlie you'll come up with a good solution that is sensible for everyone. |It wont be favourable for everyone, but it'll be a good solution.

NH: Yes, we are very much the same. I think it is a step in the right direction that we have a majority rule right now so we can at least get things moved and you know we need to agree on what the majority says at the end of the day. We already did that with the v8 we were very much in favour of a restricted v10 as everybody knows, but three or five manufacturers were very much for the V8 and that is what we have right now.

I think the baseline is good. Not everything is sorted out, but at least the direction is better than we had a couple of years ago and I think due to the efforts of the teams, GPMA, Bernie, the FIA, I have to say that max is sometimes criticised for wanting to put his ideas through, but I honestly believe the background really is cost-saving and making the sport more interesting, but my view is that we should sit together which is what we are doing and, you know, competent opinions brought together in a respectful way normally lead in the right direction and I think that there is a better atmosphere than there has been before which does not necessarily mean that we are under the control of everything, but the basis is a very good one.

PS: Well, we spoke earlier about the new spirit of cooperation amongst the teams and I think that if you couple that with some of the constitutional changes in how voting will take place in 2008, we are effectively removing the single veto on change and I think that there is every likelihood that things will come together and I think that Joe is right that you are not going to please all of the people all of the time.

But I think that in general I think the teams are reasonably alike in where they want to go I think all of us want to save money and even those teams that are better financed don't want to waste money so I think that given the time we have got to develop the regulations for 2008, I think we will come up with some pretty sensible solutions.

Q. Nick, you were talking about things that were applicable to road cars, (but), specifically, are you talking about hybrid systems that use different kinds of energy? Because if you have all the same engines, how are we going to see overtaking, particularly if you have standard tyres and standard aerodynamics and standard this and that?

NF: On hybrid, for example, I think Formula One has to move with the times and it has to be applicable to road cars and I think as road cars move ever more environmentally friendly and efficient I think Formula One needs to move in the same direction and that is something that needs to be done gradually because the cost of that kind of technology is enormous. Honda are quite adept at hybrid technology so we might be at quite an advantageous position, but I don't think we'd advocate doing it quickly because the costs are so enormous, but I can certainly see an environment in five years time where that type of technology is employed on Formula One cars.

PS: Yes, I think I'd go along with that and I think that while we are closing down many areas of research in Formula One I think it is good to have applicable research. Hybrid technology is very, very interesting and since Max first proposed it we have spent a fair bit of time looking closely at it and the more I look at it, the more interested I am in it. If you look at the motor industry 50 years down the line, hybrid technology will probably be reasonably commonplace, but it won't actually be the fundamental energy-saving - there will be lots of other things.

We probably won't be using fossil fuel engines etcetera. But nevertheless hybrid technology will form part of whatever automotive power is used so it is an interesting thing to do. It's quite a fascinating subject when you consider how it might be used strategically in a race and probably answer some of the questions about how we are going to overtake and things like that. It is very interesting and as an engineer I love it, of course. But as trying to look after the business interests, yeah, it is going to be expensive.

But I think that if it were totally uncontrolled, it would be ridiculously expensive and we would be trying to reinvent the wheel, but I think that with a little bit of control on it - Max has, for example, said that maybe they will supply the super capacitor packs and things like that and we will work on developing things like motors, motor generators etcetera, maybe there is some interesting stuff there. But I do think we have to get our house in order first and deal with the fundamentals and we have to walk before we can run.

NH: I think that generally speaking we would support everything that makes the sport more interesting and obviously if you can draw a connection line between serious products and motor racing, if that is possible fine but what we need to be careful of is that if we start to save money on the engine side that we don't spend it or part of it again for the sake of hybrid, but basically I am open and I mean my favourite hybrid would have been to limit a v10 to whatever, say 750 horsepower and give it an overtake button for another 150 horsepower and I think that would have contributed.

This is not just thinking about the past, it might be an idea for the next engine formula but it is a kind of hybrid as well and not at all an expensive one. Basically we are open but first sport, then show and entertainment and then comes whatever helps to make that happen in a better way and I think that is the right order.

SM: I think I have similar thoughts to Pat. It does need a lot of work and is not something that is going to happen immediately for 2008 or 2009 and I think there is still a lot of groundwork to cover and in particular the sort of details on whether you can use a static capacitor or not because you can spend anywhere from say 50 grand to probably five million pounds on a capacitor system and you don't want a race between who can spend the most on capacitors and that is what is happening in the road car industry at the moment.

Max is sensible enough to know that and he knows all those details already and that sort of thing will be sorted out early on and it is not a short-term project.

Q. Most of us have seen the era of the four wheel development Lotus, the six wheel Tyrrell, the Brabham and you all know it better than I know, so I would like to ask each one of you what would be your personal favourite as a racing car - how many litres, how many cylinders, tyres - grooved or slicks?, four-wheel drive or whatever, regardless of Charlie or Bernie and so on.. Just what you personally would like…

PS: My answer is all of the above.

NF: I think that so long as whatever it is brings out the driver's skill and that things sound fast, look fast and there is overtaking and it is entertaining and it is great fun and I don't think it matters on the technical details. I don't think we have to worry too much about the technical details but think about what is entertaining to start with and work backwards from there. I think a surfeit of power over grip tends to help.

SM: As an engineer, I would like to see active suspension come back to Formula One. I think that when it was banned ten years ago things were very much in their infancy whereas now a hydraulic pump on a car with 'move' valves is pretty trivial technology. Everyone is doing it and it is not very expensive.

I think it would also add a lot to the show, more for an engineer than anyone else, and I can remember the cars, 10 or 12 years ago, when you could see the cars going through all the calibration checks by themselves in the garages and it is pretty impressive to people who are watching Formula One to think that a car can do that. And I think the rest of the things are really there for the sport. On the subject of a single tyre supply, I think that it will be good for Formula One.

Some of the best racing we had, in 1999 and 2000, was when there was a single tyre supplier and I don't think it negates on overtaking at all. I don't think it contributes on helping overtaking, but it definitely doesn't make it worse. So I think there are a few things like that that will make it better for 2008.

NH: well I think we are not too far off. I think slicks and some aerodynamic changes are feasible for the future. I think the aerodynamic changes to help with overtaking are in the pipeline as well. I would prefer a bigger engine with more torque and I think that drivers' skills is an issue in that context.

A 2.4 litre is not ideal in that sector so maybe in the future there is a little bit more cubic inches and torque. But I have to say we have fantastic racing cars and you follow Formula One longer than I do but when I look at the sophistication of the cars, how they look, I think it is an ideal formula if you cut off the engine costs it will be a big step. And we are not far off as I pointed out.

NF: Maybe we could all choose a car from the Whacky Races cartoon and so long as we can have Penelope Pitstop then we'll be happy.

Q. To all of you, is there any way we can make this Friday session more attractive, enticing, sexy so we don't fall asleep?

NH: That's the jet lag.

Q. Friday racing, or this press conference?

PS: I think that what is happening now on Fridays is an inevitability of the rules and I agree to you that were it not for the third cars the P1 session would be dire. You asked what can make the Friday session better…

Well, I think we should think a little more laterally than that and ask ourselves if we need a Friday session. I personally am more in favour of having a two-day Grand Prix event and maybe we use Friday for testing. All of these things have been talked about. But I think that while we are limited on tyres and limited on the number of kilometres we want to run our engines then the inevitability is that we cut out the least productive part of running and that is Friday, particularly Friday morning.

It is an inevitability and we need to look at why it occurred and is there a better solution than just trying to fix it. I think that all too often in Formula One there is too much heritage and tradition… You know the idea that we have to have three days of running. You know it took us ages to realise that we didn't need two qualifying sessions - things like this. We should be far more lateral thinking than we are.

NF: It is quite interesting Nicky that you know about a year ago when the GPMA, or whatever its predecessor was called, the teams started to work together, one of the early things we looked at was just doing something different on Friday and it comes to what Pat said that from a racing point of view, Friday is unnecessary and one of the ideas for Friday is to make it more of a promotional, sponsors and fun day and do different things at the circuit.

The teams would be there, but it would something much more outward facing giving members of the public and fans more access to the teams. But not necessarily practicing in the way we do at the moment and that is something we should consider. I think we are all in favour of racing more and testing less and doing things that have got wider appeal than what we do at the moment.

NH: Much the same for me I think Friday could be a test day, not a six-hours test day, but a warm-up day or whatever and a promotion day. In the afternoon, you can give the possibility to young people to enter the race track for low costs, for promotion or whatever, because these are the guys we have got to interest for the future of the sport.

I think there are some good ideas in place. We do not need a three-day event. If we could use a different engine and tyres on Friday, you could certainly learn something for the weekend it could certainly be an entertaining day.

SM: Yes, the key to it is to make it a test day because you wont get the teams to do the mileage on their race cars because they are saving them for qualifying and race. Everyone has a certain amount of mileage they have to stick to so the only way to do it is to say it is a free test day - just two two-hour sessions or something like that - where you can run a test engine and put your race engine back in on Friday night if it is from the race before and combine it with other things as well.
 

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If you lot from the UK want to watch the formula 1 tomorrow i sugest going to bed now so u can wake up for it :D
Live by australian time :p
 
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