Rob WHITE (Renault Sport F1)
Nick CHESTER (Lotus)
Paddy LOWE (Mercedes)
Adrian NEWEY (Red Bull Racing)
James ALLISON (Ferrari)
Q: Three of the gentlemen here are, of course, in new roles, one within the same team, in Nick's case, but in Paddy and James within different teams, so plenty to talk about. James, can I start with you? How big is the job you've taken on at Ferrari and what's it going to take to get back to winning ways?
James ALLISON: I think technical director at any Formula One team is a very big job, it certainly doesn't leave room for much else than the job in your life, Ferrari is an extremely prestigious Formula One team with a lot of resource and an extremely high level of expectation. There is really no result other than winning that is good enough at Ferrari. So there is a lot of pressure to make sure I play my part in achieving that, but it is a wholly realistic ambition. It's a team with the kit, with the resource, with the people and with the drivers to get the job done, so looking forward to being there when it happens.
Q: You've been in the post for a few months now, what's your assessment of what you've seen so far? Have you seen where changes need to be made and have you already started making those changes?
Allison: I've, first of all, been very fortunate to arrive at Ferrari at a point in their cycle when a lot of the changes necessary to return to the front rank – I mean right at the front rank, i.e. winning championships – a lot of the changes necessary to do that have been put in place by Pat Fry. I think I'm particularly lucky to have arrived and been able to benefit from those investments rather than having to start them from scratch. There is much more to be done but I'm a lucky chap to be picking up where I am.
Q: Thanks for the moment. Coming to you Nick. Obviously we have to start with Heikki Kovalainen and his performance this afternoon – fifth fastest in the free practice session. Was that as impressive within the team as it looked from the outside?
Nick CHESTER: Yes, it was. We feel he's done a brilliant job today, particularly with all the procedures and getting used to driving a new car. We felt it might take a little bit of time. But actually straight away in P1 he was already looking after the car very well and in P2 he was fifth quickest and good long runs, I think he's done a great job today.
Q: Like James, you've been in your role for a little bit of time now, taking over from James at the Lotus team. What's your route forward? Are you going to continue the path he had set or have you got some changes you want to make in the technical structure?
Chester: There are a few changes. There are a couple of areas where we felt things could be moved on. Those are going into place now. Most of it's a good baseline. It's a very good team and there are a lot of good guys there. But there are always chances to look at things you could do better and you have to move those things on when you can.
Q: Thank you for that. Paddy, coming to you. Like these other two gentlemen, you're a few months into your position at Mercedes. What excites you about the role you have and how do you see it evolving over the next period of time?
Paddy LOWE: It's fantastic to come to a team like Mercedes, they've got a very positive momentum. We've seen the progress made since last year through to this season. So it's just fantastic to come into that team. Had a great welcome from Ross and all the other people there. It's just very exciting to build on that. I really feel I can make a difference, but they're already in a great place, with momentum going the same way.
Q: Obviously, you're locked in a fight for second place in the Constructors' Championship with James' team and Nick's team. You've got it at the moment. If you were to finish there on Sunday in Sao Paulo – second in the championship – would you consider that a success for Mercedes this year, particularly given the distance behind Red Bull. And also, would it build a sense of expectation within the Mercedes board in terms of 2014?
Lowe: Absolutely. Formula One is a very tough business and you can't build to championships from nowhere. Our target this year was actually to come third, so if we can get third or exceed third that would be meeting our ambitions. We very much hope we can get second and that would be a fantastic platform from which to mount an attack for the championship next year. But we have tough rivals around us, so we're not underestimating how difficult that would be.
Q: And expectations from the board if you were to do that [finish second]? Would that be a positive thing or would that put extra pressure on you?
Lowe: We get tremendous support from the board. Daimler is a very big company, with a huge, long pedigree of motor racing success. They're full of support for us but they want us to win, clearly, and that what we want to do.
Q: Coming to you Sam. Obviously we have to start by talking about the decision this week to replace Sergio Perez with Kevin Magnussen. Simple question: why was this the right thing to do?
Sam MICHAEL: I think it doesn't overshadow the fact that we haven't had a good enough car this year, I think that's been pretty well documented, so it's one of those decisions that every team takes every year. You look and assess where your capabilities are where you think you can improve and the view internally is that we could improve by going with Magnussen. As I said, Checo's doing a fantastic job at the moment considering the pressure that he's under. He's keeping his head level and being very professional about it. So, very commendable his approach over the recent races, and as recently as this one. It's obviously a discussion that's been going on for quiet some time. It's always going to be difficult when you make a call like that. But I think we're in a very fortunate position at the moment with our young driver program, in that it's very rich with talent and Kevin's just the first of the guys in that pool. I've come across lots of drivers in my time in Formula One and when you see drivers like that come along, it's very important that you react and make the most of those opportunities. So really, it's always a twofold thing. It's what you currently have and what you can do to improve yourself. To be honest, it's not that much different with engineers and designers and all your people. You're always looking to add and improve the team. Clearly, the driver is much more in the public eye, because there's only two of them and they're in the race cars at any one time. Anyway, it's a decision the team has taken and we're looking forward from here.
Q: Jenson Button was saying yesterday that there's a lot of work to do with the new technology for 2014 with these cars and obviously it's an extra challenge having a rookie driving one of the two cars. To what extent have you factored that into your plans and is there an element of risk there?
Michael: I think we've factored all of those sort of things into what we're doing, including the testing he's done for us already, all the simulator work, his performance in the lower categories and any sort of work that we can do between now and the start of next season. I think with the rule change – and it is a huge rule change, on the powertrain and aerodynamics – the way you drive the cars is going to be quite different. We've already done quite a lot of work in the simulator on that at this point and, if anything, it probably lends itself some good opportunities for change. To be honest you can argue that either way: you can argue and say experience is going to count; you can also argue the benchmark is being reset. But ultimately it's four tires on the ground that you drive as quick as you can around a circuit. We've got a good balance of Jenson, who's a world champion, plenty of experience, and if you're going to have the risk that you take of putting a young guy in – because there inevitably is – then it's a good time to do it.
Q: Adrian, obviously the standout story of this season is the way that you have developed this Red Bull car and also, Sebastian's way of driving it. Now that the title is decided and obviously the technology is obsolete for next year, can you tell us how you did it?
Adrian NEWEY: There's no magic bullet, it's the usual development story I think. This year's car was a very close cousin of last year's. Relatively small evolutions over the winter with essentially stable regulations. So really started this year where we left off last year from a car point of view and it was just about developing it, understanding it. I think the change in tires back to the 2012 tires was also obviously something that had an effect on the car and possibly suited us – it's difficult to know exactly. So general development, no magic.
Q: Obviously continuity is an important part of your success, as it was with Ferrari's ten years ago. You're losing one of your closest lieutenants in Peter Prodromou who's moving on at some point in the next couple of years. What's your feeling on that? How disappointed are you in that and how difficult is it to keep a winning group together?
Newey: Movement is the nature of Formula One – and you only have to look at the people sitting at this table. I think it's healthy in many ways that there is a bit of movement otherwise it would all go stale. I am sad that Peter's leaving because I've worked with him for many years but I guess he has his reasons for wanting to move on. I think we've got good strength in depth in Red Bull so we will carry on as well.
Q: Rob, as Adrian was saying, there has been a fair bit of movement between teams of engineers and obviously the same thing's been going on to some extent within engine builders as well. As a result of that do you feel you have a better understanding now of where you stand relative to Mercedes and Ferrari in terms of 2014 technology – and where do you think that is?
Rob WHITE: I think the first thing to say is that traditionally – and it's still the case – there's perhaps a less volatile environment amongst the engine people and that remains the case and there hasn't been substantial movement around. Answering the question about does that give us incite into where we stand relative to the other guys in 2014, we have very little way of knowing where we shall be in 2014 relative to the others. At the moment, it's absolutely about getting the best out of our own program, making the best of the resources that we have. I feel that we have everything that we need to do a good job but we're now in a phase where actually delivering is absolutely the top of everybody's job list.
Q: And how much will driving styles have to change next year, do you think and how much slower or how much faster will the cars be do you believe than they are this year?
White: I think driving style… I'm not sure I can give a good answer to that but one of the things that I think will be important and perhaps a differentiating factor is just the capacity to get the most out of these new and complex power units and the way in which they'll be operated over the course of the race weekend. Clearly we've had some idea of what this would entail for some long time but we're getting up close and personal now with the necessary tools and procedures necessary to do that. Some of the underlying engineering work is still under way. Some of the code-writing in order to execute the necessary control systems on the cars is still under way and the tools that the engineers and technicians in the garage will use to look after it all is still work in progress. I think the drivers adapting to the new environment will be something that will be interesting to watch.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Dan Knutson – Auto Action and National Speedsport News) For the five chassis guys, how do you see next season unfolding and what is the target for your team?
Chester: Our target is to carry on where we've been now, so try and be around the top three in the constructors. It's a bit hard to say how it's going to develop right from this point. The changes are so big, it's the biggest change in regulations that I've seen in 20 years in the sport and there's going to be a lot of different solutions. It will be very interesting to see what everyone takes to the first race. There will be different solutions for aerodynamics and some cars will be better packaged than others.
Michael: I think that Nick's right about the magnitude of change. I think it's going to be a development war all the way through the season and probably into the next year as well, it's such a big change to not just the powertrain but the aerodynamics and knowing that the slope that we currently have in the wind tunnel… when you have a slope so steep, then it normally means that you're far away from the optimum when you first make these type of changes. The powertrain is probably bigger in reality and probably more visible because you have such a brand new gearbox, brand new engine, completely new ERS system and don't underestimate how developed these current powertrains are on all fronts because they've been… especially the engine, obviously, but also the gearbox so those changes are significant as well. I'm sure you will see different levels of reliability, even though teams are much better now than what they used to be 10/15 years ago with dynos and simulations etc, there's nothing that has anywhere near… you can't replicate the almost decade of powertrain mileage on the track across different teams so I think that's going to be a big player in the next year and potentially a bit longer.
Q: (Dan Knutson – Auto Action and National Speedsport News) And the team's target?
Michael: To win.
Allison: Ferrari's target is always to win. As far as how next year will work out, I think that the size of the rule change means that there will be some unanticipated reshuffling of the pack in terms of where all the teams will find themselves in the pecking order. However, I think – notwithstanding the size of the changes – over the years it's been fairly clear that the teams, although they're hundreds of people in different places end up producing cars independent of one another that come together and are very competitive with one another and I would expect that to be true next year as well. I would also imagine that the first half of next year is likely to be heavily affected by reliability. Next year's rule changes are big enough, just in terms of the configuration of the car but they also place a much higher burden of reliability on us as well.
Q: Adrian, Mark Webber was saying that he sees Red Bull as the clear favorites for next year. Do you see it that way?
Newey: Don't know to be perfectly honest. I think that first of all, as James said, the cars are hugely complex compared to the cars that we've been used to. The level of reliability that everybody's achieving now is the result of a lot of evolution on what actually looks a relatively simple product compared to what we're facing next year so I think reliability's going to be quite an issue for the teams, could well be a deciding factor in the championship, who knows? And then, as everybody's said, then effectively you can divide it into the very large powertrain regulation changes which is obviously in the powertrain itself down to the three manufacturers for next year, but then from the team's point of view, how you install the engines and the power train… I'm sure there's going to be a lot of different solutions to start with to what is a very complicated problem.
Lowe: Our target is to win and I think the exciting aspect about next year is that we return to competition amongst engines. The last seven or eight years, the engine has been a frozen product. Of course there are differences between the engines but not in the way they used to be, so we return to an issue of a campaign not just with the chassis but with the power unit as well and I think that's really exciting and a good thing for Formula One.
Q: (Ian Parkes – Press Association) James, having worked with Kimi for a while at Lotus, how important do you feel your familiar face will be to him at the start of next season to ensure that he hits the ground running?
Allison: I don't think it will make much difference to Kimi at all! Beautiful though I am, I don't think I have a massive impact on his life. Kimi's relationship with the team is predominantly with the people that are at the track, racing the car, with him, with his race engineer and with the chief race engineer and the people that campaign round the world with him. My job is mainly a factory-based one and while I would try to lead a factory team that is sensitive to what the drivers are saying about the car and hopefully making the most of the feedback that they give us, my day-to-day interaction with the drivers is not overly extensive.
Q: (Karen Crouse – New York Times) Adrian, what are the one or two qualities Sebastian possesses that you think separates him from all the other drivers right now?
Newey: Crikey. I think he, like all the true greats, then he has the ability to drive the car and at the same time have enough mental reserve to be able to understand how he's driving the car and be able to play that back and understand when to push and when not to, how the race is unfolding. I think he has very good recall which means that when he gets out of the car he's able to play back in his own mind what he's experienced, digest that. He works hard in the evenings with the race engineers and the result of all that is that when he steps in the car again the next day he's learned that little bit more. You apply that over many races then he keeps improving.
Q: (Edd Straw – Autosport) Question for the three in the front row: obviously, from a performance point of view the answer is not at all, but how important is it that Formula One cars look really good, look spectacular and therefore how important is it that the regulations that dictate what the cars look like are conceived with that in mind?
Lowe: Yes, it's an interesting question. I think, in the end, cars tend to look good when they're quick, so we take a while to get used to change but it's surprising how you look back at old cars and they suddenly don't look so attractive when you didn't like the change that came. But I think any car that actually is quick tends to start looking good, that's my view.
Q: James, do you agree with that?
Allison: Yeah. I think if you look back over the years there are some prettier years than other years. When 2009 came along, I didn't like the look of those cars at all but I'm wholly used to it now and I think they look pretty sexy. The stepped nose… again, I didn't like that to start with but I'm OK with it now. So I think as a technical team, we really have a duty to try and make the thing quick rather than make it beautiful. Hopefully the beauty is got for free along the way.
Q: Adrian, are aesthetics important to you when you put a car together?
Newey: They are important but they are kind of dictated by the rules inasmuch as technically obviously our job is to try and make the car as quick as possible rather than to win any styling awards so we are at the mercy of the regulations in that regard. I must admit that I think the regulations have caused some ugly areas… in terms of the stepped nose I think aren't as attractive as they used to be. Probably, in truth, the narrow track cars I don't think have ever looked quite as attractive as… they've always looked a bit out of proportion compared to the pre-'98 cars. The low nose that we have next year, I think there could be some fairly awkward looking aesthetics, nose arising. So it's something that in my view should be given a bit more consideration when the regulations are drawn up.
Q: (Craig Scarborough) You've all spoken – looking towards next year – about unreliability being a big issue; with winter testing being quite a limited amount of time… you can obviously spend a lot of time with red flags with your cars in the garage, how's that going to affect your winter testing approach, and equally, is there a case for two car test teams now?
Chester: Well obviously it puts a lot impetus to make sure we get to the first test with a car that can run as much as possible, so that means you put a lot more effort into the dyno work and you try and get there with something that's going to get you out on track as much as possible but I think everyone's expecting they're going to find a few problems. I think the development through the first three tests and up to the first race will be very strong.
White: In real life, the opportunity to substantially change the specification as a result of what happens in testing independent of the timing, give or take a week or two, is quite limited but it's absolutely a key part of the final phase of preparation to go racing. Yeah, reliability is a tough call. We have to aim for the same place, which is of course not to break down, not to stop the car. It's more difficult to achieve because the systems are more complicated, more numerate on the car. It's more difficult to achieve because the durability requirement is higher. Coming back to the question: how would it affect the way we approach testing, I think paradoxically then we have a responsibility to be more ready and to be aiming to role-play the race weekend right from the very start of private testing. I'm sure that there's so much new stuff to come in all of the procedures in every stage of the weekend that we'll going to be trying to practice those right from the get-go.
Michael: I think it's the same as what those guys said, it's going to be pretty tight in that time. If you have major problems they are difficult to solve, not impossible, that's what F1 teams are quite capable of proving, impossible things are possible in that short period of time as with all the experience round here. So I think it's an entirely necessary area. If you get into fundamental redesign such as bearing issues or cooling problems, they can be quite damaging but I don't think it really changes… I think in terms of… one of your questions was about two car testing, I think one of the reasons for going with a single car was cost and containment. I think in terms of parts and things like that, it would be a pretty tall order to go and produce two cars at this stage of the day.
Q:(Ian Parkes – Press Association) Paddy, we've had a lot of speculation about Ross's position over the past month or so. Are you able to shed any more light on that, going forward, your prospects of taking over as team principal? Is it being mentioned at all in any meetings with Daimler etc?
Lowe: There's been a lot of talk about this in the last few months, you're right. The fact is that Ross will step back at some point. It's not clear what the timing is for that or whether he will step back completely or remain in a different role within the team. At the moment we're waiting for Ross's call on that. In the meantime, I'm working very well with Ross and with Toto, there's no issue there, we work very well together. I would like to say there's no impatience on that aspect, so we'll just have to wait and see how it turns out.
Sebastian Vettel (1st, 1:37.305): "The circuit was quite slippery today; I was happy with the car, but you always know you can improve here and there. I think we got through the program we were able to test some things, some were good and some not so good, but we will see. Ferrari looked quick this morning and McLaren could be a surprise here, and Lotus and Mercedes will be strong as normal. The track will improve now unless it rains, the car worked well on the tires, so we'll see what we can do on Sunday."
Mark Webber (2nd, 1:37.420): "Today was all about tires again; getting info on them and working out how they work best. It's nice to drive the car on fresh tires and it was good to be out there on the circuit on what was a clear day in the end. We were working on both long and short runs today. The car doesn't feel mega yet, there's still some work to do, but we'll work on that overnight."
Fernando Alonso (10th, 1:38.461): "I had no problem being back on track today. My back felt fine and I was able to drive the same as always. Compared to last year, the track conditions seemed better: for the first Grand Prix here, it was too new and there was a bit of oil on the track, while now there's a lot more grip. As expected, there was very little degradation today as Pirelli's choice of the Medium and Hard compounds here in Austin are an ultra-conservative choice. Generally, there were no major surprises and now we must wait and see how things go tomorrow and especially Sunday."
Felipe Massa (12th, 1:38.938): "Today was hard to interpret, because in the morning we got off to a good start and it seemed the track was well suited to the characteristics of our car, but then that changed in the afternoon and we were unable to set competitive times. Compared to recent races, the car has stayed the same and therefore we cannot expect a very different level of performance. But it's definitely important to understand why the car changed so much between the two sessions, especially as compared to last year, the asphalt has improved a lot and the grip has increased considerably. I don't think that is down to the rise in temperature, but maybe the wind didn't help. Now we have a lot of work ahead of us to try and improve for the rest of the weekend."
Pat Fry: "Because of the fog in the morning, our first practice session was shortened to just half an hour of track time and that meant we had to reorganize our program, concentrating mainly on aerodynamic testing, centered on the front and rear wings in order to find the best balance for the car. In the second session, before the usual long run tests, we tried a few different mechanical solutions aimed at completing our set up work. Compared to last year, the track seems to have improved and there is every chance that the more abrasive surface will ensure there is more grip. Tire degradation is still an unknown factor to be assessed carefully, especially in the light of the data we acquired from the long runs. As usual, it will be very important to work out the best strategy and the number of pit stops to make during the race."
Jenson Button (9th, 1:38.269):
Sergio Perez (13th, 1:38.941):
Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal:
Heikki Kovalainen (5th, 1:38.073): "It's been a pretty smooth landing, joining Lotus F1 Team. We've had no major issues on track today and we just need to keep chipping away to see how good we can get the car for tomorrow and Sunday. We lost a bit of track time in the morning, but the car balance was reasonably good straight away. I was able to settle in and work immediately on the setup and tire work. All the procedures and routines are quite similar up and down the pit lane, plus I'm familiar with all the systems from driving with a Renault engine already this year and previously, so it was a pretty straight-forward day."
Romain Grosjean (8th, 1:38.255): "It was an interesting start to the day waiting to see what the helicopter would do. After that the morning was about finding grip in the cold conditions. The afternoon was much warmer and we were able to complete some good work. We struggled a bit to get the brakes exactly as I want them on low fuel, but once that's sorted we should be well placed for tomorrow. Certainly the car feels good on the long runs so it's a positive start to the weekend."
Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer: "Obviously our program was interrupted somewhat in the morning which deprived Heikki of some vital track time to get used to the E21, but this doesn't seem to have hurt his day and we're very happy that he was immediately comfortable with the car. Romain had a couple of issues with braking on his lower fuel runs which we're working on improving for tomorrow. It's difficult to draw conclusions from the cooler morning practice, but in the afternoon we were happy with the pace from both drivers; particularly on the long runs."
Nico Rosberg (3rd, 1:37.785): "That was a crazy start to the weekend with the fog and the helicopter, which forced us to stay in the pits for quite a while this morning. This afternoon we had a very good session. The car felt like it was on rails and I was very happy with the balance. I hope we can give the Red Bulls something to think about this weekend and I will be pushing 100 per cent for another podium. It's really difficult to get it right with the tires here as the track surface is very smooth and the compounds are very hard. Therefore the tires are lasting a long time and a lot of people will try to manage only one stop on Sunday. So it will be an exciting weekend here in Texas for the fans and it was good to see so many people out there already today."
Lewis Hamilton (4th, 1:37.958): "First of all, I want to say that it's great to be back here in America – this track and city are just such a beautiful place to be racing, and especially with the support from all the fans we saw out there today. The circuit was quite green today, which made it pretty slippery out there as we are using the two hardest tire compounds this weekend. After we changed the chassis yesterday, the car felt better to drive, particularly on the long run when it was pretty consistent, so that's a positive for me. The option tire is working well for a long stint, which may open up some possibilities for us with race strategy. It was a pretty straightforward day although we still have some work to do to nail the set-up because it's not quite there yet. But all of us in the team are focused on ending the season on a high and taking that foundation with us into the winter."
Ross Brawn, Team Principal: "Everybody in our sport knows how important it is for us to have a strong presence in America and today once again showed that this circuit can be the perfect platform. It's an excellent facility here in Austin and it was really pleasing to see so many enthusiastic and knowledgeable fans out in the grandstands. On track, it was a fairly straightforward and trouble-free day of running, once we finally got underway after the fog cleared. The track and tires seemed pretty consistent; the biggest problems came from the gusting wind which was causing a few problems. Overall, the car seems to be in reasonable shape. We completed our program and particularly the important high-fuel running, and things looked pretty sensible all round."
Toto Wolff, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "It was a positive, productive day. The drivers completed their programs and the timesheets suggested we are where we would expect to be. We did good long runs with both cars, so we have plenty of data to analyze. Now we need to work well overnight and see where we end up tomorrow when it counts in qualifying."
Esteban Gutierrez (6th, 1:38.229): "It was a very productive day. Although the delay wasn't ideal, I feel comfortable with the track and enjoy driving here. This is important. We are in a good shape, but now we need to focus on maintaining it for qualifying tomorrow and the race on Sunday. I think we have very good chances for a good result here. There are two more races to go and my goal is to get the maximum out of what we have."
Nico Hulkenberg (7th, 1:38.254): "It was quite a good day. This morning was a bit of a funny situation with the fog delaying FP1. Once the session started everything went well and we managed to get through the program we had planned. The car was ok and the performance is looking good too. However, I think there is still room for improvement, but I'm not happy with the balance on the medium tires yet. It will be tight tomorrow, but I think we can improve."
Tom McCullough, Head of Track Engineering: "Overall this was a very positive day for our team. FP1 was cut short due to the fog and helicopter problems, but that was the same for everybody. We prioritized on the long-run, high fuel pace this afternoon in order to understand how the tires perform on this track, which is much cleaner compared to last year. It was a new track for Esteban, but he got on top of it quickly, doing a solid job today. Our performance on both low and high fuel is reasonable, but there is still more we can get out of the package, so we are working hard to do that tonight."
Adrian Sutil (11th, 1:38.719): "It's my first visit to Austin and I have to say I really like the track. There are some nice corners and some tricky ones where it's easy to make small mistakes. It's not that easy to learn the track either because it's a challenging lap, especially the high-speed sections. We worked hard to improve the car set-up today, but the balance is still not where I want it to be. Hopefully we can make some positive changes overnight. As for the tires, there is not a big difference between the hard and the medium, but we managed long runs on each compound so should be well prepared for the weekend."
Paul di Resta (15th, 1:39.410): "It's been a difficult day to understand exactly where we are and I don't think my position in FP2 is a true reflection of our competitiveness. I came across some traffic on my best lap so Adrian's position is probably more representative. The long runs looked more promising and if we get everything together we can hopefully match the performance level we've shown for the last few races. The focus tonight will be on tires: understanding them more and how to manage them over the weekend."
Dr. Vijay Mallya, Team Principal: "It's great to be back in Austin. The circuit still looks spectacular and the welcome from the American fans is always fantastic. Despite the disrupted morning session we made good progress today and both cars covered plenty of laps. It was a new experience for Adrian, who is driving here for the first time, but by the end of the morning session he was fully up-to-speed. Both drivers have yet to find the optimum balance and the track conditions meant it was hard to be consistent and difficult to make comparisons. The engineers have lots of data to analyze tonight to make sure we get the most from the tires in qualifying and the race."
Valtteri Bottas (16th, 1:39.512): "We did some aero testing with new parts for the car today, which look like they may provide some small gains. The track was quite slippery in the morning which seemed to suit our car but as the track improved in FP2 we struggled with the car balance. The performance in the first session showed our potential, so if we get everything right and the weather suits us it may be better for us tomorrow and Sunday."
Pastor Maldonado (18th, 1:39.784): "It was a difficult session today, particularly trying to get the most out of the tires. We are struggling to get the maximum downforce here and the car feels like it's not working together between the front and the rear. The circuit is very enjoyable to drive and fast through the corners; hopefully we can look at the data from today and put a package together for the weekend to suit our car."
Xevi Pujolar, Chief Race Engineer: "We didn't get as much running as planned in FP1 due to the delayed start, but we still managed to complete most of our tests. Valtteri had a development floor which worked as expected whilst Pastor worked through a number of aerodynamic tests. Initial comments from the drivers were that the grip level was better than last year, but that they were still struggling to get the tires to warm up. In FP2 both drivers did some further tests with different floors. Pastor also had a different exhaust configuration and rear wing level, but overall the grip and pace wasn't as good and he struggled to get the tires to work. With the higher track temperatures we couldn't improve our times but we were happier with the configuration on Valtteri's car so both will run this tomorrow."
Daniel Ricciardo (14th, 1:39.246): "Today was not what we had hoped for in terms of real performance. We were a little bit off the top ten, which is where we want to be. I wasn't really happy with the balance of the car today, both morning and afternoon. We still have some work to do tonight to understand how to improve the car and hopefully we can come up with some good solutions for tomorrow. I felt as if the tires were a bit too hard for conditions today, as it was taking a long time for them to warm up."
Jean-Eric Vergne (17th, 1:39.579): "Of course I've got no problem with Daniil driving my car in FP1, as it's good experience for the whole team for next year, but it does make life a little bit harder when you only drive one session. We struggled with the car today and I wasn't happy with the setup, but at least the long runs were good given the problem we had with the balance of the car. We definitely have to work hard tonight for qualifying and I'm confident we can improve and be more competitive tomorrow."
Daniil Kvyat: "I enjoyed every single moment of driving the track even though there was a delay because of the fog and then a red flag. We didn't do the full program of course because the session was shortened, but we still did 20 laps which is important mileage for me and we also managed to do some aero measurements. Of course I've never driven here before and I think the track is very nice. It was good to go out there to try and find the limit of the car and the brakes. I've finished driving here but for the rest of the weekend I will be attending all the engineers' briefings, which again will be a very valuable experience."
Laurent Mekies, Head of Vehicle Performance: "It was the first time for Daniil in the car with us and unfortunately for him the session got shortened. But still the track was in a much better condition in FP1 than last year so this allowed him to get reasonable running. At the end of the session he got 2 runs in the car and he did a good job with no mistakes and gave some interesting feedback to the engineers. It was a good first try â€š so well done to him. For our regular drivers, we are not happy with the car right now. Obviously it was a little bit more difficult for JEV who had to jump straight into the car in FP2. We are equally unhappy with Daniel and therefore we have scanned a lot of things to try to find a best possible solution for tomorrow. The two cars ran quite differently in terms of set up this afternoon, I expect by putting together the best of both worlds that tomorrow we should be able to get back into our usual midfield positions."
Charles Pic (19th, 1:40.376): "We obviously had to wait quite a bit for the session to start which cut into our run plan but by the end of the session we'd still completed 19 laps which was quite close to the target, but it still didn't really help us sort out the understeer that dominated the session. The low track temperatures didn't help, but on all three runs the car had very little front grip and it was understeering everywhere, obviously meaning I couldn't push anywhere around the lap. For FP2 we made quite a few changes to the car and it was immediately better â€š we made a good step with the work we did over lunch and I could immediately push much more than the morning session. We started with the hard tires and then went onto options for run two and with a bit more front wing added the grip improved in the low and medium speed corners, not so much in the high speeds, but overall it was another improvement. On the long run we started on the hards and went onto options after 15 laps. They both held up pretty well and the times were pretty competitive with the cars ahead, something we also saw in Abu Dhabi. We've completed a lot of laps today so we have a good amount of data to work on tonight and now the aim is to continue to progress tomorrow."
Giedo van der Garde (20th, 1:40.563): "This is my first time driving this track so overall I'm pretty pleased with how close I ended up to my teammate, and the fact that we completed a good number of laps in FP2. I was comfortable with the track from early in the session and because I'd sat out FP1 we ran a slightly different run plan for the afternoon than normal â€š two runs on primes, a performance run on options and then the long run, also on the options. On the first run I had the same sort of understeer Charles had said his car had in FP1 â€š not as bad but still not something I was happy with. We added a bit of front wing which helped a little but on run two the car was behaving a bit strangely, not like it has all year. I just couldn't carry any speed into the corners and even though my quickest lap time on the mediums was ok there was definitely time to be found. We finished with a long run on the mediums but we still had the same understeer issue throughout the run. We'll have a proper look at that tonight and I'm sure we'll sort it for tomorrow."
Alexander Rossi: "I'm very pleased with how my FP1 session went, both for me and for the team. It was a proud moment when I drove out on track as the first American driver to take part in an official F1 race weekend session at COTA, something that will live with me for ever and an accolade I want to thank the team for, and everyone's who's backed me to help make happen here in Austin. It's obviously a bit of a shame the session was cut short by the issues with the helicopter, but the team worked really hard to make sure we could still run a decent number of laps, and by the end of the session we were only a few laps short of what we'd planned. In the car the balance was pretty good right from the start of the session. With the cold track temperatures we knew we'd have issues with tire warm-up and that was definitely the case on the first two runs, but on run three it had improved a bit, both because the temperatures had gone up and with a couple of setup changes we'd made. I was mostly dealing with understeer throughout the session but I'm sure, with more time, it's something we'd have been able to sort out and I think my final lap time showed pretty clearly that it wasn't holding me back."
Max Chilton (21st, 1:46.226): "Generally I've had a good day today when everything seemed to be going in a positive direction, so I think we have to look beyond the brake disc problem that cut short my afternoon session because we seem to be making good progress. Luckily we didn't lose much time and we can find a good solution for the rest of the weekend. I have enjoyed my first day at the Circuit of the Americas and hope to see this continue tomorrow and into the race."
Jules Bianchi (22nd, 1:47.009): "When the day is cut short to just one session it is not always easy to properly acclimatize to the circuit and be in a good place with the car balance by the end of the day. Today this was made even more difficult by the fact that the car balance has been really inconsistent, and we had to try lots of different things to try to improve. We won't know which is the right solution or how well it will work until the engineers have looked at all the data this evening, but it has been a tough day and I hope we can resolve a few things overnight to ensure we can have a better day tomorrow."
Rodolfo Gonzalez: "Today was not a very straightforward day but we did make progress with the program so it's just a shame to experience the engine problem at the end of the session. I had a very specific program to help the Team understand some race trim issues experienced over the past few races so it's good that we have some useful data to work with."
John Booth, Team Principal: "Overall, a tough day today and one where we have encountered a number of problems. This morning, Rodolfo's session was cut short by a problem with the engine, however up to that point he was doing a good job learning the circuit in what were quite cold – and therefore quite low grip – conditions. Max had a good morning during which we chose to run with relatively high fuel in order to remain flexible with the time we had available on the circuit. For the afternoon we had decided that we would run race fuel throughout so that we could look to improve the race balance issues. With Max we were well on target to complete the program and arrive at a reasonable balance on the car, but unfortunately a brake disc failure on the right front curtailed his running. We will investigate this tonight and look to make the necessary changes going forward to the race. With Jules it was a tough ask for him to go straight into high fuel running but we felt this was required in order to formulate as full a picture as possible. Unfortunately, his car balance has been very inconsistent and this led us to try to perform a number of changes to parts on the car during the session to try to understand this. We have a busy evening ahead to work through all the data and make progress ahead of tomorrow."