Fernando Alonso remains level headed following today’s practice sessions in Austria. He was 9th fastest in FP1 and 8th fastest in FP2 with a respectable 1m07.510s lap time which is quicker than Schumacher’s 2003 1m08.337 record set in 2003 but +1.535s slower than today’s fastest from Lewis Hamilton who will (announced this evening – Friday) incur a 5 grid penalty for needing a new gearbox under article 23.5a of the FIA 2017 regulations.
“Everyone was looking for the limit today, so we saw many offs – but tomorrow everyone will calm down.
“Our day was not too bad. We eventually completed our programme, despite missing a little bit of track time in both sessions – this afternoon, I hit a kerb and slightly damaged the floor, so we had to change it.
“However, we were able to collect some valuable information, which we’ll now go through in detail, looking at everything we tested and what we can do with it for tomorrow.
“There are seven or eight drivers all within a few tenths of each other – tomorrow, we’ll find out if we’re in the upper or lower part of this group.
“Finally, the weather looks unstable for both Saturday and Sunday. Unless you’re fighting for the championship, some unexpected rain is always welcome. That can go either way for you, but when you have little to lose it usually works fine…”
Number 2 driver Stoffel Vandoorne managed to outpace his more experienced team-mate in FP1 but lost the pace in the second session to finish 12th.
“I think it’s been a reasonably good Friday for us as a team. We’re competing in a very, very close midfield – I think one second covered around 10 cars in FP2 this afternoon – so it will all come down to details tomorrow if we’re to have a good result in qualifying. Stated Stoffel, he continued:
“It’s such a short lap that a couple of hundredths’ difference can make a big difference in terms of grid position. We’ll focus on putting everything together and fine-tune the set-up so we can hopefully carry every ounce of performance through to tomorrow.”
Team manager Eric Boullier released a statement regarding the team’s performance with the updated engine this evening:
“It’s been a pretty productive first day here in Austria. Honda has introduced its Spec Three power unit upgrade for both cars, and it seems like a fairly useful step in performance. Taking the lap-times at face value today, we looked reasonably competitive, despite neither Fernando nor Stoffel really feeling that their MCL32s were dialled in properly.
“There’s still a fair amount of work for us to do this evening if we’re to maximise the set-up ahead of qualifying tomorrow, but I feel encouraged that we’re on the front foot and carrying good momentum after the first day of running.”
The real effects will be seen once all the data has been analysed and the car is set up for the main events of tomorrow.
Yasuke Hasegawa, head of Honda’s F1 project also made a statement:
“After the successful running of our Spec Three PU for the first time in Baku two weeks ago, we came to Austria with one apiece for both Fernando and Stoffel.
“I’m pleased to say that we were able to work through our FP1 and FP2 programmes with no issues. During the sessions, both drivers showed decent performance with constant pace, and once again we were able to see the effectiveness of the update in the data.
“It’s difficult to judge our overall competitiveness from today’s practice sessions only. However, we feel confident that we’ll have an opportunity to score some points. Of course, this doesn’t take into account the uncertain factors such as high temperatures and unstable weather, but we’ll concentrate on our preparation to give our drivers competitive cars, and hopefully they will both proceed into Q3 in tomorrow’s qualifying.”
Honda now thinks they have a reliable MGU-H and Turbo and have gained 0.2 to 0.3 seconds per lap. This appears to be what Hasegawa is calling a Honda “spec 3” PU.
The next upgrade is rumoured to bring upgrades to the ICE specifically in head work and changes in the pre-chamber. It is likely that the following (Spec 4?) next will include development in the torsional vibration issues which will prevent further gearbox replacements. I imagine they will want to be bringing this in ASAP and stand a chance at keeping Alonso.