Scuderia Ferrari spent Friday free practice for the Australian Grand Prix working on a busy programme aimed mainly at getting all the performance out of the SF-23 in race trim, without however neglecting preparations for qualifying. Various set-ups were tried to find out more about the car, while allowing the drivers to get reacquainted with the walls and turns of the Albert Park track. They evaluated all the dry weather compounds Pirelli has made available here in the Antipodes, as well as the Intermediates, required in a rain-affected second session.
FP1. Charles and Carlos were fifth and sixth fastest in the first session, starting off on Hard tyres before switching to the Softs in the middle of the hour, setting their best times of 1’19”378 and 1’19”505. In the final part of the session, after the first red flag was brought out when the track’s GPS failed, Leclerc and Sainz went out with a high fuel load, although this did not produce much in the way of useful data as the session was ended prematurely with four minutes remaining, after Logan Sargeant stopped on track in sector 3. Charles completed 16 laps, while Carlos did 20.
FP2. Rain affected the programme in the second hour on track. Both drivers started on Medium tyres, with Charles setting a time of 1’20”138 and Carlos a 1’20”378, before getting down to 1’19”332 and 1’19”695. At around the 20 minute mark, the rain arrived at Albert Park with all drivers staying in the garages for a while. When conditions seemed to have improved, Charles and Carlos tried a lap on Softs, but it was too wet and they switched to Intermediates. Then, having completed a few laps, they pitted as there was little point in further running, especially as no more rain is forecast for the rest of the weekend. Leclerc completed 10 laps, Carlos 12. Tomorrow’s final hour of free practice starts at 12.30 (3.30 CET) and will be particularly important, given the time lost today. Qualifying is at 16 (7 CET).
‘We explored quite a few set-up variations today, which was interesting as it felt like we were going in a right direction. That doesn’t mean that we have the same pace as our competitors, as they still seem to have the upper hand for now. There is still a lot of work to do before we can get back in a proper fight but we will put all our energy in making further steps forward.’
‘This Friday was a bit compromised by the rain in FP2, so we decided not to do many laps in the rain, choosing instead to start preparing everything for tomorrow. On the other hand, FP1 was very useful for the team. We went through very different set-up configurations trying to improve the feeling with the car and to get to understand the current package a bit more. We are pushing hard to maximise everything and I look forward to the rest of the weekend.’