The first day of free practice ended with many questions that have not yet been answered given the numerous interruptions in the morning and the arrival of rain in the afternoon session.
The double red flag in the first session due to the GPS problem and the breakdown of Logan Sargeant’s car prevented the set-up from being perfected, while the wet afternoon did not allow the drivers to lap as they would have liked.
Traffic made the day even more complicated, especially in the second session, with the drivers taking to the track at the same time to report at least one fastest lap to help understand the track limit. However, having found another car in the third sector did not allow either Sergio Perez or Max Verstappen to complete a clean lap.
At the end of the day, the two drivers expressed somewhat conflicting opinions on the car’s behaviour, with the Mexican overall proving to be more satisfied than his team mate. “We’ve made some changes that seem to work in the first and second sectors, but there’s not much to say. Tomorrow we will have a lot of work to do in the third session, we will approach the race a bit in the dark, it could be interesting”, explained Perez at the end of the session.
Right from the first practice session, the Mexican opted for a more loaded set-up, running with the same rear wing used in Bahrain and the new front wing introduced just for the Melbourne round. The new specification at the front features a different chord than the one used two weeks ago in Saudi Arabia, as well as a revised side bulkhead, more twisted towards the outside, accentuating the outwash effect.
On the contrary, Verstappen took advantage of an overall lighter configuration, mounting the same units used for the Jeddah round.
Comparative tests which suggest two interesting aspects: firstly, the Bahrain configuration now has a more loaded front wing to guarantee better balance and greater precision on a track which requires a precise front in certain stretches.
The second aspect is linked above all to the configuration of the track and the asphalt: with four areas in which the DRS can be exploited even in qualifying, the heavier set-up might not prove to be as penalizing on a flying lap as it is on other tracks, especially keeping in mind mind how effective Red Bull proved to be on stretches with the flying wing wide open.
The front wing more discharged between the two options available.
Photo by: Uncredited
Furthermore, given the difficulties encountered by the drivers during Friday in getting the tires to work in the correct temperature window, a more charged configuration could prove to be more advantageous in the warm-up phase, both on Saturday and after a possible Safety Car in the race .
An element that must not go into the background concerns the track temperatures, which further complicated the riders’ work: if in FP1 the asphalt temperature was around 30°C, in the afternoon it dropped further, around 25°C in the few passages completed still in dry conditions, to then drop to 21°C when the rain arrived.
Keeping this aspect in mind, the set-up chosen by Perez could become the most interesting in view of the continuation of the weekend, because it would allow for better tire management on a track that has proved to be particularly demanding from a grip point of view: “To be honestly the car was ok, (the problem) is that the grip offered by the track is really low. The asphalt is very slippery, already last year and it is complex to get the tires up to temperature”, explained Verstappen at the end of the tests.
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