As the overcast gloom of the evening rolled over Melbourne while the dust was setting over the qualifying battle between the two Red Bulls, the interest for the Stefan Grand Prix Blog had already been settled 30 minutes earlier with Hekki Kovalainen coming on top of the 6 new boys.
The threat of rain hung over the first frantic qualifying session with traffic also a major concern due to the fact that the Melbourne track is 30-seconds slower and narrower than the Bahrain circuit.
Hydralic failures had yet again cut short Hispania Racings final practice session, once again cutting short the teams valuable track time. It was no surprise that both drivers were at the bottom of the time sheets. What was more interesting was how close Chandhok’s time was to Senna’s. With limited practice time in the previous race, we were not able to gauge the relative talent between the HRT boys. Now both drivers are getting equal, though limited, track time in their respective cars, we can see that that Karun and Bruno are very evenly matched.
“I was one of the early starters and joined track with a set of Soft tyres,” said Chandhok. “I wanted to make it through Q1 and I did. I am very pleased with this result for our second Grand Prix; we are not too far from the top runners and I haven’t made any significant errors – it’s a great way to start my F1 career!”
Meanwhile Senna was frustrated with the lack of track time in the mornings practice session. “It’s been a bit of a difficult day, stopping on the circuit this morning with a hydraulic problem after we solved yesterday’s fuel pressure problem, and then we did a good job with the team. We continue to learn how the car reacts to setup changes. We left early in the session as we were afraid that it would just start to rain. To finish where we are on the grid is okay in the circumstances and the goal is to make it through the race tomorrow.”
This will be a battle to keep our eyes on as the season develops.
Following the embarrassment that the Virgin Racing cars’ fuel tanks are no big enough for them to last a full race distance, Nick Wirth and his team were hoping to put that behind them and show that their car does have some good pace. This was not to be, as both cars have languished over a second behind Lotus F1 throughout the whole Melbourne weekend. As in Bahrain, Timo Glock was able to qualify over half a second over his rookie team make Lucas Di Grassi.
After qualifying, Glock revealed more fuel problems for his team. “We had another tough morning so all I could do is try to get the best out of the car in qualifying,” explained Glock, who starts 21st at Albert Park.” he said. “We were carrying more fuel than we would have liked because of a pick-up problem, otherwise I think we would have been able to have more of a fight with Lotus. Anyway, we’ll do what we can to prepare for tomorrow and see what the race brings.”
For Lotus F1, it was a great qualifying session all round. The team are not expecting to be able to breaking into Q2 just yet, but they were pleased to be able to comprehensively out qualify it’s main rivals. Though Hekki Kovalainen was 2.2 seconds slower that Vitaly Petrov’s Renault immediately in front of him, Hekki was very pleased with his qualifying effort.
“”It was a good run this afternoon. I got a good lap out of the car and out of the tyres and in general the car feels much better than it did in Bahrain. We have progressed with the setup and as a team we are really stepping forward. Our aim for tomorrow is to make sure we stay ahead of the other new teams and finish the race with both cars. I’m so happy with Lotus and feel I have the chance to show what I can really do.”
Meanwhile, Jarno Trulli blamed problems with his seat which caused him problems throughout the session. “I had a problem with the seat which meant it wasn’t easy to drive, bouncing around in the car, so it was a difficult qualifying session. I’m pleased for the team though, as both cars are ahead of the new teams and we’re performing really well.”
With HRT’s endless hydraulic problems and Virgin Racing’s red-faced fuel tank issues, it can pretty much be guaranteed that Lotus F1 will still be leading the Stefan Grand Prix Championship after the Australian Grand Prix.
Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:28.797 Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:29.111 Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:29.592 Di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:30.185 Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:30.526 Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1:30.613