• Russian Grand Prix

Who said what after Friday practice

ESPN Staff
October 10, 2014 « Drivers surprised by Sochi circuit challenge | One car the best Bianchi tribute - Marussia »

ESPN rounds up all the reaction from around the paddock after Friday practice for the Russian Grand Prix

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Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel: "Does getting back in the car help us after what's happened? It does and it doesn't. It helps to get your head elsewhere and focus on the day job - looking after the best possible set up and comparing the tyres and learning the new track, it keeps you occupied. But on the other hand it's only been a couple of days, so it's quite fresh and difficult. It looks like we will struggle here; it's a nice track, but maybe not made for us."

Daniel Ricciardo: "After what happened in Japan, you try and do the best you can. I would be lying if I said other things weren't on my mind, but you do what you can to make sure you're 100% committed to driving and that's the best way for our job and our headspace. It's the best way, but it was tricky and not as easy as I expected. It was our last Friday with that engine, so it's not a worry that she turned off at the end there. We tried a few settings and we're not so fast here, the straights are long and we're suffering a bit."


Lewis Hamilton: "I like the new circuit; it's got really good grip and great corners, with a lot at medium speed. It's good fun. The car has been feeling really good today. McLaren look close which is great for everyone as it should make for a decent race. We've got quite a good balance with the car so there are a lot of boxes ticked but we still have work to do to see if we can improve for tomorrow."

Nico Rosberg: "That was a very productive day from an engineering point of view. The team decided to go two different ways in terms of setup. I took a very creative setup for my car in the second practice session, which didn't work out. So we will go back to the conservative way for tomorrow, because we saw that Lewis was very quick with that. The track is really cool to drive, very enjoyable. Turn three is a very special one and the asphalt is very smooth, so the tyres last long. We won't see that many pit stops on Sunday, I guess. That's a bit surprising to me."

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Toto Wolff, Executive Director (Business) "My compliments go to the organisers on the standard of the facility here in Sochi and this challenging new circuit. Like at any new track, the surface was very green today and we need running time for the grip levels to build up; we could see that lap times were improving all the way through both sessions. The conditions will probably ramp up even further through the weekend and we need to make the right decisions on set-up."

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical): "The first thing we must say is that it's great to be here at this new circuit in Sochi. We are very happy with the circuit and the facilities and a great job has been done to prepare everything to a high standard. On track, the biggest challenge of the weekend will be to make the tyres work on this brand new tarmac. The problems seem to be shared by all teams and we worked hard between the sessions to make some changes, with some moderate success. We expect tomorrow to prove very challenging as a number of our competitors were looking very fast today. On the positive front, we enjoyed a trouble-free day in terms of reliability, but we have a busy evening of analysis ahead of us."

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Fernando Alonso: "The track is very unusual and I didn't think that Formula 1 had already got such a large following here. Also surprising today was the good level of grip from the track surface, which is unusual on a brand new circuit. From this point of view, I felt comfortable right from the first lap and that helped a lot when it came to today's most important job, namely learning the track. We worked a lot on set-up and found the two compounds had behaved in similar fashion and tyre performance improved as the laps went by. The track is very hard on brakes, but that is a specific thing we can work on this evening to be well prepared for qualifying."

Kimi Raikkonen: "This first day of practice was given over to learning the track, which I like and although it's new, the grip level was good. In the first session, we went through our programme step by step, even if towards the end of the session I was unable to complete my last run. In the afternoon, we focused on tyre behaviour, with both compounds taking a long time to reach the maximum performance, which is unusual, especially for the Soft tyre. In order to have a clearer picture on this topic, we will have to wait for the track to evolve. Unfortunately, here too I still don't feel comfortable with the front end and this prevented me from putting together a good lap. Now, along with the team, we will try and find a solution that will allow me to get the most out of the car."

Pat Fry: "As always on a new track, the first day of practice was particularly demanding, both for the drivers and the mechanics in the garage. Today, it was important to concentrate on the balance of the car and to make the most of every minute available, so that Kimi and Fernando could do as many laps as possible and get to learn the track. This track features a series of right-angle corners, all taken at similar speeds, which requires a high level of aerodynamic downforce. Between these corners run two long straights which constitute the two DRS activation zones. It will also be vital to find a set-up that produces a good top speed. From what we saw today, the tyres perform very consistently: the surface is very smooth and the lap times evolved at an impressive rate, as did the wear which was low. This is something we must keep an eye on in terms of qualifying, as well as paying close attention to all the data that will help us establish the best mechanical parameters and those linked to the power unit."


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Romain Grosjean: "It was pretty difficult today as we really had to chase the set-up of the car as the track evolved, which always gives you a lot to do behind the wheel. The layout of the circuit is really good and I think it will mean an enjoyable race here. We have quite a bit of work to do to get the most out of the car and the tyres, which is normal for a new circuit. The track is fun to drive and certainly gives you a lot to think about. I'm looking forward to unlocking more pace tomorrow."

Pastor Maldonado: "It's great to learn a new circuit and we ran well today. We made good progress with the car through the two sessions as well as the track improving over the course of the day. As expected, there wasn't too much grip to start with and I think there is still quite a lot of improvement to come in this area tomorrow and even on Sunday too. It was good first day and I think we can expect more progress on Saturday."

Alan Permane, trackside operations director "Today we had the added challenge of learning a new track to add to our programme. This means as well as the drivers getting on top of the layout and grip levels, we spend a reasonable amount of time refining the set-up of the cars. We completed some valuable aerodynamic assessments in the morning before being tyre-focused in the afternoon. We ran reliably through the day to give us plenty of data to analyse. The Sochi Autodrom is an impressive facility with the track constructed to a very high standard which gave our engineers and drivers plenty of work to do today."


Kevin Magnussen: "It was a pretty decent day for us today, and the car feels good. However, this is a brand-new track, so it's hard to be sure of where we really are because we were mostly working on set-up rather than outright pace. However, I can confirm that it's a nice circuit, it has quite a lot of grip, the surface is pretty good, and it appears to suit the Pirelli tyres, so that makes it quite enjoyable to drive. Also, the Options [tyres] seem to last pretty well, so we might see not a lot of pit-stops in the race.

Finally, the track is a bit different from how it felt in the simulator, and also from the impressions I formed when I walked it yesterday; better, to be honest. But, as I say, it's still too early to say anything definitive, because we don't know if today's result is the true picture, so we'll need to wait and see what happens tomorrow.Last but far from least, Jules [Bianchi] is very much in our minds, and we're all still thinking about him and hoping for the best."

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Jenson Button: "Things went okay today from the word 'go'. We were quick on the Primes [tyres], and the Options on high fuel seemed pretty good, too. On low fuel I couldn't quite get a balance, but hopefully we can improve that tomorrow. It's a circuit that seems to suit us reasonably well at the moment, but it will inevitably evolve tomorrow and we'll have to be very careful of that.

"In the simulator, however, it wasn't much fun to drive at all, but here it's nice to drive, so I can say with confidence that I'm happy with the job the designers and organisers have done. There are a few places that are a bit bumpy, but that adds to the challenge. Turn 13 is particularly bumpy on the entry, and your left front wheel is unweighted, so it's very easy to lock that wheel under braking; it's pretty tricky there so we'll have to make sure we get the brake balance right.

"Also, a few of the corners are quite difficult to get right on the exit, because they're negative-camber, so it's easy to get a big snap of oversteer. finally, as Kevin says, our thoughts and prayers are with Jules, whom all of us are missing greatly."

Eric Boullier, racing director: "Our first impressions of the Sochi track are good. Our drivers enjoyed driving on it, and the organisation and facilities here are impressive. As ever, when you're running on a brand-new circuit for the very first time, however, your learning curve is necessarily steep.

"But, as far as we're concerned, this morning's and this afternoon's sessions went more or less as planned, and we're satisfied with the progress we made during today's three hours of potential running time. Having said that, we're well aware that a lot may change tomorrow, and indeed on Sunday, so we aren't about to make any outlandish predictions.

"Suffice it to say, therefore, that both Kevin and Jenson did a good job, as did the team, and that we've gathered a lot of data which we'll crunch this evening in an effort to set ourselves up to qualify both cars in decent grid positions tomorrow. Like Kevin and Jenson, I want to end by saying that our thoughts and prayers remain with Jules."

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg: "It was a positive Friday for us. This is a nice track to drive; it's really cool but also challenging and tricky. There are some very technical parts, especially the last sector. We ticked all the boxes in our programme today and got some good data. We will work on tweaking the balance a little overnight in order to find a bit more pace and improve performance for tomorrow."

Sergio Perez: "It was nice to get out on track and get our mind off the very difficult week we all had. I would say today was a good start to our weekend. We managed to complete almost all our programme, with the only interruption caused by the red flag. This interrupted our assessment of the prime tyre in the long runs, but it feels like it handles quite well. The track has a very nice layout and the option tyres in particular work really well here. As a circuit, it appears to be quite demanding in terms of fuel, which will have implications for the strategy. These factors should make for quite an interesting race for the fans."

Vijay Mallya, team principal: "One of the priorities today was to give the drivers as much track time as possible to get acquainted with this new circuit. We were able to verify the correlation between our simulations and the actual track running, checking that we are running the correct settings and that we are getting the most of the advantages our power unit gives us. There is still plenty of work to do but it's positive to see that both Nico and Checo were getting happier and happier about the car as the day progressed. We end the day being pretty satisfied with the balance we have shown in the long runs, and we will aim to get a bit more qualifying performance ahead of tomorrow."


Esteban Gutiérrez: "After missing the first practice session, we had a very productive afternoon. It was important to catch up with the programme in FP2. I think we are surprised with the track's performance, as the tyres are working well while the grip level was quite high. We extracted a lot more than we expected today, and we are going to make sure that happens tomorrow as well. Regarding the new track, I really like it, and I am enjoying driving there. Besides that, I want to say that our thoughts and prayers are still with Jules, and his family at this difficult time. The most important thing for Jules is to let him feel our strength, and send him our positive energy. I am going to help in any way I can, and at the same time show my support for Jules and the family. Let's keep praying for him."

Adrian Sutil: "It was interesting to drive on a new circuit, and it was a lot of fun as the track has some nice corners. In general, the balance of the car is not yet good enough, but we were able to go through our programme without any issues. We will try to improve some details for tomorrow, however, I do not think we can make a huge step forward. Although we will enhance our package as well as we can to get the maximum out of it. Besides that, I can surely find some extra tenths on this new circuit."

Sergey Sirotikin: "It was a positive session. I like the track, and it was nice driving the C33. I took it easy at the beginning in order to build up confidence, as I have not driven the car for about half a year, but today I was able to quickly get the feeling for it. During my last fast lap at the end of the session, I was a bit unlucky with the traffic, and the tyres did not have the optimal temperature. The conditions were not ideal, which cost me some time during my last fast lap. I see a lot of potential to improve, as I took it easy, and I was not pushing to the absolute limit. The track is quite nice, but also tricky. Turn 1 seems to be an easy corner which can be taken flat out. However, I was a bit surprised on my first lap when I went through Turn 1, as it was quite bumpy in one place. Neverthelesse, after a few laps you get used to the track's characteristics."

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Giampaolo Dall'Ara, head of track engineering: "All in all it was a good day as we were able to complete our programme. The morning was all about learning about this new track from both the drivers' and engineers' sides. We got a first impression how the tyres would cope with the tarmac. The lap times were improving pretty quickly, something we had to consider when working on the set-up. In one of the cars we had Sergey, who did a good job, did not make any mistakes and built up the speed progressively. This cost a bit of track time for Esteban, so we decided to adapt his programme in the afternoon and give him some more time to work on the set-up. Adrian did the regular tyre evaluation programme."

Toro Rosso

Jean-Eric Vergne: "It was a productive Friday. The team did a great job to arrive here with a car that was straight away well set up for this new track. I think we have a good car but today we didn't get the best out of the tyres. We still have some work to do tonight to understand their behavior and go quicker tomorrow."

Daniil Kvyat: "It was a normal Friday and we worked on trying to find the best compromise for the general set up on this new track. Even though we were already looking quite promising today, hopefully we can do another good step forward for tomorrow and look even better. I had a good feeling with the car, which seems quite promising here. It was great to finally get out there and I enjoyed driving on this cool track a lot."

Phil Charles, chief race engineer: "A very interesting day. Both drivers settled in to the new track pretty well, so overall we are quite happy. I think our simulation work in advance was pretty good. The start set up really wasn't too far off and it was just a matter of little tweaks today, which is very positive. The big thing that everybody will have noticed is the fact that lap times were getting quicker and quicker through the runs so getting the tyre in the right window is the key. We'll do a bit more homework tonight to see if we can get it really good. Both drivers seem comfortable with the track, so it's just optimising the set up around the tyres."

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Valtteri Bottas: "I'm positively surprised by the track as it's more challenging than I expected with quite a few technical sections, especially the final sector and I found it enjoyable to drive. The asphalt is quite smooth and combined with the hard compounds we saw little tyre degradation today, but this has corresponding challenges as it makes it harder to get the tyres to work on your opening laps. We therefore have work to do to make sure we get the most out of the tyres for qualifying tomorrow but overall a good start for us and this track seems to suit our car pretty well."

Felipe Massa: "The first day is always about understanding each corner and finding out what lines you need to take and where you can push the car. My first impression is that the car seems to be performing well around here and I like the track layout. The track surface was very slippery this morning but the track improved a lot over the day and we will see it getting better as the weekend progresses. I'm pretty happy with the cars balance and it's performing consistently so overall I'm happy with our days running."

Rob Smedley, Head of Vehicle Performance: "This is an interesting circuit and we've had a positive practice today. It's very much a low speed track, with no real high speed corners and our primary focus was to get the set-up of the cars right and to get the drivers honed in to the right trajectory. We still have a bit more to find on this but that was always going to be the case given this is a new circuit. The car balance is looking good for the first day and the car performance has looked good on both low and high fuel runs. Valtteri had a problem with his tyre blankets this morning which hindered his run time in FP1 but this didn't affect the overall run programme in the end. The compounds are looking very hard for this track but this is the same for everyone and we need to analyse how this will affect the race weekend. The tyre performance might change quickly so we need to be open minded with our strategy and react to this when needed."


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Max Chilton: "Obviously a very difficult day for everyone in the team, and one in which we have had to dig deep in order to focus on the race weekend ahead. In terms of the Free Practice sessions, we have had a productive day from a technical set-up and track learning perspective. The new circuit here is impressive; I like the fast-flowing high-speed sections and the slow-speed technical challenges. This evening will give us a chance to reflect on the day a little more and hopefully we will come back stronger still tomorrow."

John Booth, Team Principal: "A tough day in which Jules has continued to be uppermost in our thoughts, but we can be very proud of our race team for the way they have handled themselves. Max has had a similarly tough job, but, again, he has remained strong and focused and done everything required of him to complete our planned programme. This morning's focus was to give Max the maximum running time in order to allow him to learn the circuit. Max has progressed well during both sessions, making incremental gains as the day has gone on. It is clear that there has been a reasonable amount of track improvement during the day, which has favoured running new option tyres later; however with the track time we have achieved, we have evaluated several set-up changes during the day. Tonight will be about assessing each change in the data and confirming which solutions to carry over into Saturday."


Marcus Ericsson: "This morning's FP1 was all about learning the track and preparing for the rest of the weekend. We didn't go out straight away as we waited for the track conditions to improve but once we were out it was not too bad; apart from a small energy management problem it was a useful session. Then in FP2 we completed plenty of laps and I felt comfortable, it was a good session. We fined-tuned the car a bit more to suit the track and my driving style and I think we did a decent job and gathered good information for the rest of the weekend.

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"When I saw the layout of this new circuit I thought most of the corners were going to be slow ones but, to be honest, now that I've driven it I can say that it's better than I expected - these 90° corners are actually medium-speed corners and that makes it quite good, it's a fun track to drive and I look forward to driving here the rest of the weekend. Overall it's been a good day out on track, but of course we're not forgetting about Jules, all our thoughts and prayers continue to be with him, his family and Marussia."

Kamui Kobayashi: "Missing FP1 wasn't the ideal way to start the weekend here in Sochi, as this is a new track and it's always best to get as much mileage as possible, but I think it was a smooth start for me and we were able to gather plenty of valuable data that we will analyse tonight. It was also good to finally drive here; the Sochi Autodrom layout is interesting, I like it. It has some high-speed sections and it's quite flat, I enjoy driving here."

Roberto Merhi: "It was a positive morning and I enjoyed driving here in Sochi for the first time. We were late out as we waited for the track conditions to improve. My first run was okay, we used it to check the track out and understand the behaviour of the car - I have to say that I felt comfortable from the very start. We made some adjustments before our second run and they certainly improved the car for our second run. We can be happy, our final result is very positive. I'm feeling more comfortable in the car each time and I'm satisfied with my third practice session with the team."

Cedrik Staudohar, Renault Sport track leader: "There were no big issues today and we were able to work pretty smoothly across both sessions, particularly FP2. Like at every new circuit we visit the drivers need to learn the track while the team assesses whether their pre-event simulations are accurate. We were almost on target from the start but did have to slightly adjust our energy management scenarios. They were ironed out in the morning, which meant we could focus on other things this afternoon. Now we'll work towards optimising everything in order to extract the maximum from the Power Unit tomorrow."

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Remi Taffin, head of track operations: "There were a lot of encouraging signs today, especially as most of our Power Units were running old parts or coming to the end of their cycles. That was certainly the case with Daniel Ricciardo's PU, which was safely stopped on track. There's no fundamental problem to worry about there, but we'll still check to find out if there's any potential issues. Toro Rosso's form looks especially good. I know they've enjoyed a lot of trouble-free running today and also seem to have found a good set-up. If they can build on that tomorrow then I think both drivers have a fantastic chance of breaking into Q3.

"Red Bull are probably a bit behind where they'd like to be, and you can be sure we'll be assisting them this evening in helping to extract the car's true pace. The Sochi circuit is unusual in having so many 90-degree corners, which can throw up some specific demands. But ultimately I fully expect them to be in podium contention on Sunday, especially as both of our factories are working flat-out to build on today's track data and find the right car set-up. Both Lotus and Caterham also had positive days, especially in FP2 after they'd verified their pre-event simulations"


Paul Hembery, motorsport director: "From what we can see of the first day of action in Russia we're happy with our choices. The medium and soft tyres are the right choice for a new track. With turn three in particular the supersoft tyre may not have worked, but we'll analyse all of this carefully after the grand prix. We're seeing very low wear and degradation, which puts us on course for an average of two pit stops per car during the race. We're also facing a high degree of track evolution, which is normal for a new circuit, and this may yet alter the overall picture of tyre behaviour. Because the circuit was so slippery there was a risk of graining today - which is always the case for a new track - but in the end this did not prove to be a major factor. We've got plenty of data to look at tonight and our understanding of the circuit has already improved."

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