Okay so here we go again for another F1 season and it's all change on track and off for me. Anyone who has read my stuff before will know me as "that bloke who loved Honda." I started writing about them in 2008 and followed them like a loving puppy through until the end of 2009, when I felt the team changed for the worse and Jenson left for McLaren.
Now, I’m certainly no McLaren fan so I will not be simply wagging my tail for them this season. I have instead decided to try and write reviews of the sessions from a neutral perspective (though I’m telling you now my two favourite drivers are Alonso and Button and I’m tipping the former for the title).
I must say, writing about all the drivers (or at least trying to), was made annoyingly difficult as for some strange reason we didn’t get our usual position graphic down the left hand side of the screen. VERY IRRITATING!
Anyway, this first practice session was not only a first for the drivers in 2010, it was also my first attempt to report on the whole grid…here it goes…
The session hadn’t even started yet and we had our first controversy. McLaren have an ingenious knee operated vent on the nose of their car which helps direct air to the rear wing. This part apparently gives the team anything up to 6 mph extra speed on straights.
The FIA have ruled it legal, but of course those teams who didn’t think of it are up in arms. It doesn’t stop there, though, as Ferrari and Force India have designed their own legal takes on the now banned "spinner" wheel covers. I suspect we’ll only get complaints if one of the controversial teams wins on Sunday.
However, I couldn’t care less about F1 controversy and so we’ll move swiftly onto the first practice session of 2010.
The session started as usual with all the instillation laps. Most of the teams made it out for this, but some of the newer outfits remained hard at work in their garages.
Kovalainen’s Lotus gave us the first time of 2:07:702 about 13 minutes in. This may seem like a pretty long lap, but the track has been extended for this new season and of course it was Lotus’s first race weekend lap for a long time!
Trulli joined his team mate a few minutes later and began testing the water in his new machine. As I said earlier, not having the positions at the side of the screen was a real pain as I can’t tell you how many runners were out at this stage. From what I could see, it was only Lotus early on.
With 50 minutes left we got a chance to see one of the top teams as Hamilton took to the track. He was quickly much faster than his ex-teammate and finished his first lap with a 1:57:759 (five seconds faster than the Lotus driver’s improved time).
Button too was ready before long and as a Jens fan, I was nervous to see how he compared to his team mate. The World Champion lapped faster in sectors one and two, but fell away in sector three to record a P2 time of 1:57:903.
The next man out was Mr. Hype himself…Schumacher. Now, I have an opinion on this man's return that may differ to the vast majority of press. I believe the German’s return will prove to be the biggest mistake of his career.
I am more than happy to be proved wrong, but I simply believe that it has been too long since he last raced; F1 has changed and if he starts to lose, his impressive 7 time World Champ status will be tainted if he fails to achieve much this year. It is only early though, and he probably needs to get back up to speed!
Anyway, he certainly moved to prove me wrong with his first time which was a 1:58:762 (P3). This Champ was joined by another in the form of Alonso, but our attention was on the current title holder as Button went through into P1.
With just over half an hour remaining the positions were as follows:
Button (looking fast in P1), Hamilton (that McLaren looks to be the real deal), Kubica (lapping surprisingly well in that Renault), Rosberg (doing a great job, working to prove his doubters wrong), Massa (faster of the two Ferraris at the moment), Alonso (still working up to speed), Webber (hmm that Red Bull just isn’t lapping as fast as I’d thought), Schumacher (certainly not as fast as the media thought he’d be), Petrov (nice job from the Russian), Liuzzi (solid driver, solid times), Hulkenberg (look out for this guy, he’s meant to be very quick! Not a bad position for this rookie), Kovalainen (certainly the top runner of the new teams), Kobayashi (working hard), De la Rossa (finding some rythm),
Button (looking fast in P1),
Hamilton (that McLaren looks to be the real deal),
Kubica (lapping surprisingly well in that Renault),
Rosberg (doing a great job, working to prove his doubters wrong),
Massa (faster of the two Ferraris at the moment),
Alonso (still working up to speed),
Webber (hmm that Red Bull just isn’t lapping as fast as I’d thought),
Schumacher (certainly not as fast as the media thought he’d be),
Petrov (nice job from the Russian),
Liuzzi (solid driver, solid times),
Hulkenberg (look out for this guy, he’s meant to be very quick! Not a bad position for this rookie),
Kovalainen (certainly the top runner of the new teams),
Kobayashi (working hard),
De la Rossa (finding some rythm),
Of course it didn’t take long for all of the above to change! Alonso quickly shot to the top of the standings with a 1:56:909.
As we passed the hour mark, the "big rival" stories were that Button was on top in McLaren, Alonso at Ferrari, and shock horror….Rosberg was the fastest Mercedes driver (Schumacher was not a happy man and the team set to work on his car ASAP)!
Now, I know this is only testing so we have to take these times with a pinch of salt, but I was getting increasingly worried about Red Bull’s times. Sure, as I say it is only practice, but of the teams we expected to be doing well…where was Red Bull? P8 and P14!?
The biggest development in the final half hour was that Sutil managed to get his Force India on pole (1:56:696) and stay there! Of the session long absentees, we finally got to see Barrachello in his Williams and with just 20 minutes left, we also watched the first Senna in F1 since May 1 1994. However, Virgin didn’t really set any pace worth talking about.
Other than Sutil occupying P1, the real big story was that Schumacher was furious! The changes his team made to the car hadn’t worked and he was so angry that Ross Brawn had to come down off the pit wall to calm his number one down!
Of course this was only practice and so the times aren’t necessarily representative of true pace. However, I think we all expected McLaren, Ferrari, and Mercedes to be in the top 10 (which they were). I was shocked at Red Bull’s position though? I think that the second session will be very interesting and in many ways will perhaps give us a better picture. I can’t wait to find out what the standings will be at the end of the day!
Pos No Driver Team Time/Retired Gap Laps
1 14 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:56.583 18
2 8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:56.766 0.183 18
3 11 Robert Kubica Renault 1:57.041 0.458 19
4 7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:57.055 0.472 19
5 1 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:57.068 0.485 19
6 2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:57.163 0.580 19
7 15 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:57.194 0.611 19
8 4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Benz GP Ltd 1:57.199 0.616 15
9 6 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:57.255 0.672 17
10 3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes Benz GP Ltd 1:57.662 1.079 16
11 17 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari 1:57.722 1.139 18
12 10 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:57.894 1.311 20
13 5 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:57.943 1.360 17
14 16 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:58.399 1.816 13
15 9 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:58.782 2.199 11
16 12 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:58.880 2.297 13
17 22 Pedro de la Rosa BMW Sauber-Ferrari 2:00.250 3.667 18
18 23 Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari 2:01.388 4.805 11
19 24 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 2:03.680 7.097 8
20 19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 2:03.848 7.265 21
21 18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 2:03.970 7.387 15
22 25 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth No time 2
23 21 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth No time 3
24 20 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth No time 0