Unsurprisingly, heat was a major factor in today’s opening Free Practice sessions for Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix, which saw us fielding not two but three drivers over the course of the day.
This morning, we welcomed our Reserve Driver, Venezuela’s Rodolfo Gonzalez, to the MR02 for the first of several FP1 sessions he will participate in this season. On this occasion, he took over the MR02-02 of Jules Bianchi, running alongside Max Chilton for the opening 90 minute session. Unfortunately, he was only able to complete seven laps before a gearbox issue surfaced and thereafter he was confined to the garage. This afternoon, Jules, who has some prior experience of this circuit, took over the reins again for FP2 and spent the session getting up to speed before working through his programme.
The programme was completed but the ambient heat and track conditions have conspired to create a tough day in terms of finding a good balance. Whilst this has proved elusive today, the challenge is at least localised and we are optimistic that a good solution can be found overnight.
“I’m pleased that I was able to complete plenty of running in both sessions today. This is especially important given the tough conditions we are facing, which are obviously impacting quite a lot on the way the car is behaving here. The heat is making it difficult to find good grip. We’ve tried a few things and gathered plenty of data, all of which will need some careful thought overnight, but I’m sure we can reach some conclusions which will improve things for tomorrow.”
“It was not an easy task getting up to speed this afternoon. Having watched and listened to the challenges Max and Rodolfo were experiencing this morning, it was clear that FP2 would not be straightforward for me either. The heat is playing a big part in the way the car has been performing but I think, for my part, we were limited by the time to improve on these issues in the space of an afternoon. Given this, I am not so unhappy with my time as I was making progress and I am sure that, overnight, we will find a good solution for tomorrow.”
Rodolfo Gonzalez, Reserve Driver:
“Although my first experience of the MR02 was quite brief, it provided a good start for my FP1 programme at various races this year. With my programme, I had actually experienced and achieved quite a few different things before the problem with the gearbox. I felt comfortable with the car and I could see that Max and Jules were going to have quite a challenging day with the heat and the track conditions. I’m looking forward to being able to make a wider contribution to the Team’s performance during a Grand Prix weekend and next time will be better for sure.”
John Booth, Team Principal:
“A tough day, not only in terms of the balance problem we were experiencing with the car, but also the very hot conditions that the Team and drivers have been experiencing. Whilst we are not particularly happy with the performance of the car today, at least it is clear that the problem is clear and localised and we therefore feel confident that we will be able to work to improve the performance of the car overnight. This morning Rodolfo did a good job getting used to the procedures required for the car. It was unfortunate that we had a gearbox issue in FP1 that abbreviated his running, however more opportunities will come his way and at least today, however brief, will provide a reference for that. Max worked hard with his engineers to try and improve the balance of the car between the two sessions and he did seem to be moving in a positive direction. For Jules it was very much about getting up to speed in a limited amount of time and there are areas he has identified for improvement overnight. Overall, we have completed our programme and worked on ensuring that the systems of the MR02 can cope with the extreme temperatures we are going to experience this weekend. I’m sure we can look forward to better things tomorrow.”
Info & Images: Marussia F1 Team