Mclaren surprise in FP2

After lagging behind during winter testing, McLaren came to Albert Park with renewed vigour, claiming a second-a-lap improvement thanks to a few design tweaks. They certainly didn’t disappoint, claiming a 1-2 in FP2, while getting in 55 laps during FP1. The wear rate on the tyres did not seem that extreme either.

McLaren chief Martin Whitmarsh explained that the team’s octopus style exhaust just wasn’t working as they hoped, and going back to a conventional exit, together with a new floor, made sense. There was also a new front wing, to improve the airflow. Button commented that the handling of the car felt more “complete”.

Elsewhere, Red Bull and Ferrari stayed at the sharp end of the times, Webber topping the FP1 timesheets, and Alonso taking third in both sessions. Massa remained slightly anonymous however, in 11th and 7th respectively. Mercedes too looked promising, although not quite as quick as the expected title favourites.

Renault were disappointing. Both Petrov and Heidfeld struggled to make an impact on the times, Petrov outpacing Heidfeld in both sessions. For a team that looked promising in testing, it was quite a difference. One wonders what they would have done with a fired up Kubica behind the wheel.

At the other end, Lotus reserve driver Karun Chandhok took the honours for the first crash of the season, ripping apart the front of his Lotus on his first corner out. Force India and Williams held fort in midfield, although Paul Di Resta did outpace Sutil in his only practice run out.

At the back were Virgin, who struggled to achieve a time within 107% of the fastest. Their hopes are that hard tyres are used by the front-runners, while they will set their times on the medium compounds (an update on tyre markings to follow!). HRT are probably wishing that tyre choice was their only problem too. Neither car made it out in FP1, while Luizzi only completed an installation lap in the final two minutes of the second session.

So, where are we for quali and the race tomorrow? Who knows!

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