2009 season has finally started today with a lot of questions and concerns in mind. Despite these two sessions were only practice sessions, we have surprisingly three teams which are the subject of diffuser protests at the top of the standings. They are closely followed by Red Bull, Ferrari and Renault while BMW and McLaren were near the bottom. As you know practice is only for setup the car and evaluate different options. So, Let’s try to analyze which teams are really fast and which teams are not.
Ferrari seemed better in the first practice whereas they had some difficulties in the second one. They are very consistent over the long runs and Massa was running in low and medium 27’s in one of his ten lap stints. Thinking that most of the fastest times of their rivals have been set during the short stints Ferrari is now in a strong position for the race. As far as race fuel loads concerned, they have a very solid car with the prime tires from the beginning. But their problems started to rise when they opted to softer tires. They were almost without grip and missing brake points at every corner. This is mostly because of the graining at their rear tires. Also as I realized Massa was pressing KERS button a couple of times during a lap. So, they are probably using KERS not just once, but a couple of times during a lap which is logical for the circuits like Melbourne with mpre than one circuits.
McLAren seems better than their test pace at Barcelona, but they still have a long way in front of them. Both drivers found the car stable, but both of them concerned from the lack of speed. I watched a couple of onboard videos of different cars and the McLarens are not even pushing the car when they entered to the corners. Also they start accelerating very late. This is a sign of lack of downforce especially at the rear of the car.
If BMW is not sandbagging again like last year, tomorrow and Sunday will be very difficult for them. Both drivers concerned from lack of grip and they were near the bottom of the time sheets most of the day. Kubica during his radio conversation was very unhappy about his car. They were sliding all over the circuit and they never seemed on the pace.
Williams was at the top of the time sheets at both sessions with Rosberg and Kazuki was not far away as well. They worked mostly on short stints and their quickest times have come on short stints too. This type of street circuits suit their car well historically but their true pace will only can be seen tomorrow when everyone is at same fuel level and fresh tires.
Toyota have a quick and solid car and they are definitely using the advantages of not running KERS and their diffusers like Williams and Brawn. Both drivers are happy with car’s performance and they are upbeat about their chances for the race.
Brawn drivers were not one second ahead as predicted but they showed a very consistent pace today. Both drivers managed to do good times, but Button seemed better than Barrichello on the long stints. Button’s lap times were around low 27’s and high 26’s during one of his ten laps stint which makes him the fastest of the day over the long runs.
Redbull had a problematic day today as Vettel had a hydraulic problem in the first session and an off-track on the second one. These occasions costs Redbull valuable track time. On the other hand Webber seems quick and consistent.
Things were not very well for Renault as well. They had problems with heating their tires and some reliability problems which cost them some track time. If they can fix their problems they can fight for Q3 at least with Alonso.
Torro Rosso and Force India mainly continues their testing program since they launched their car very late and do not test them very much.
Also another important point is, most of the teams chose not to use their engines at 18000 RPM during practice sessions because of the new rules which mandate each driver to use eight engines whole season. It’s beleived teams using Ferrari, BMW and Reanult engines used their engines at high 16 and low 17 thousand RPM’s whereas Mercedes engines were a lot higher and Toyota engines were at 18000 RPM.