"I’ve really missed driving the car in the last 26 days!"
Shanghai International Circuit, Friday 15 April
A hard-to-read day of practice. The morning session was punctuated by two red-flag stoppages, one of which required lengthy cleaning of the track. The afternoon was spent coping with tyre management issues as the Supersoft tyre proved prone to both graining and overheating.
Neither driver was completely satisfied with the balance of MP4-31, and our aim for tomorrow is to deliver both a more driveable package and a car that is easier on its tyres.
Fernando was given a further assessment by the FIA doctors following FP1, and has been given the go-ahead to continue with his programme for the weekend.
FERNANDO ALONSO, MP4-31-02
|FP1||12th||1m40.538s (+2.501s)||11 laps|
|FP2||11th||1m38.728s (+1.832s)||31 laps|
“I’ve really missed driving the car in the last 26 days!
“But I felt good today. There’s still a little bit of pain, because the rib hasn’t completely recovered since the fracture, which is normal. But that pain is definitely manageable.
“Today, it was important to get a good read on the tyres because tomorrow it is forecast to rain. So today might be our only chance to test the dry tyres ahead of Sunday.
“We’re happy with today’s results, but we still need to find an optimal balance for the dry: we’re missing a little bit of traction and rear-end grip, so we need to make a few changes to be more competitive.
“If it’s wet tomorrow in qualifying, we’ll try to do our best, but our priority is focusing on performance for Sunday.”
JENSON BUTTON, MP4-31-03
|FP1||8th||1m39.974s (+1.937s)||11 laps|
|FP2||12th||1m38.828s (+1.932s)||28 laps|
“I think everyone is struggling a bit with tyre graining and overheating – the minimum pressures are very high, so it’s tough for everyone out there. Also, the tyres overheat quite quickly, which becomes an issue to manage – particularly on the longer runs.
“There’s still room to improve the set-up, but I think we may be a bit more competitive than we look.
“I’d welcome a wet qualifying if it mixes things up. If it’s dry tomorrow, I think we’ll be knocking on the door of the top 10 – we might even get through – and, if it’s mixed, you can make a big mistake and get it wrong, or you can get a break and get it very right. I’d go for taking the risk!”
ERIC BOULLIER - Racing director, McLaren-Honda
“The two red-flag stoppages in FP1 certainly limited our capacity for significant learning this morning, and consequently shifted the emphasis to this afternoon’s session. In FP2, pleasingly, we were able to rack up a significant number of laps – but I’d stop short of stating that we’re satisfied with our day.
“Neither Jenson nor Fernando declared themselves perfectly pleased with the balance of their cars, yet we feel we’ve got a decent handle on the direction we ought to take with regard to set-up ahead of tomorrow’s final practice and qualifying sessions.
“This afternoon’s running also demonstrated that the weekend may be characterised by tyre-management issues. We feel well equipped to handle that particular challenge, and we’re consequently gearing up for an interesting but demanding Chinese Grand Prix.”
YUSUKE HASEGAWA - Honda R&D head of F1 project & executive chief engineer
“It was a difficult Friday to gauge the performance of the overall package, as it was heavily influenced by which tyre teams chose to run within each session. Where we ended up in the timing sheet was not as good as expected, but I think that if we can manage the tyres well for the remainder of the weekend, we can have a more stable race.
“Hopefully we can find a good balance early on in FP3 to help our preparations for qualifying and the race on Sunday. The weather is also forecasted to be wet tomorrow, so it will add another challenging element to the day.”