Formula One is back, we return to the Albert Park Circuit based in sunny Melbourne for the first F1 practice session of 2017. This year sees a number of changes to the cars which are expected to alter the order on the grid while reducing lap times by up to 6 seconds per lap.
FP1 saw a slow start, hardly any running within the first hour despite the additional tyre allocation. The reduction in engines used per season from 5 down to 4, saw most teams opting to remain in the pits. In many ways, it has always been like this, but without many back runners to clean up a dusty circuit and with Torro Rosso being slow to go out, it was left to some of the top teams to take to the track and make the best of it.
Lace Stroll being the first out on the track, taking it carefully as he explored the circuit. Lewis venturing out early in the session to set the pace, quickly matched by the Red Bulls, times tumbled as the track began to rubber-in.
Palmer suffering a technical issue early in the session reducing him to only 6 laps, while Hulkenberg’s Renault was looking very stiff on the bumps while his seating position appeared abnormally high, unusual given the obvious impact on aero performance. Talking of abnormal, the Haas F1 was featuring a surprisingly bendy fin and T-wing. Wobbling around significantly at speed, it could be a cause of concern for the FIA who will no doubt cast an eye over this as the weekend progresses.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was late to take to the circuit running the least laps barring technical faults, the Ferrari still not showing its full pace. Forse India’s Esteban Ocon initially slow at getting out, later both cars were able to put in solid running. The rookies needing all the track time they can get in finding their war around this relatively bumpy venue.
So at the end of the session, Lewis fastest with a bigger gap to second than Valtteri would probably be comfortable with, though a hard hit on the curbs may have affected his push. Red Bull are as expected, the second place team so far but noting that Mercedes ran on the Ultra Soft while Red Bull remained on the Super Soft tyres. Significant upgrades to the Red Bull car making a difference. While the Ferrari’s put in banker laps but are still possibly holding out on their true pace. Elsewhere Torro Rosso and McLaren managed to put in reasonable runs, though McLaren at reduced power, their plan will be to finish the weekend damaging as few engines as possible. That’s it for FP1, not a hugely eventful session, we’ll look to see how the cars evolve on their relative pace in FP2.