24/03/2012

Friday sweep-up

With two practice sessions having been completed ahead of the Malaysian GP, the pace does look to have improved for the Sahara Force India boys when compared to Australia last weekend. As there are no updates on the car this weekend this can be attributed to the style of circuit (Malaysian track, Sepang, is a dedicated race circuit whereas the Australian track, Melbourne, is part street circuit).

One thing that we're gonna be saying all season is that the midfield is so close which means that one small error by any driver could see a car drop from a potential 9th (assuming the top teams are reliable and quick) to 18th (ahead of the three newer teams).

Meanwhile Narain Karthikeyan has had an inconsistent weekend so far due to mechanical problems with his car, however when he has had tracktime, he has been quick in comparison to his teammate; qualifying under the 107% rule however will be a challenge.

Here is what team personnel had to say after yesterday:

Nico Hulkenberg (Sahara Force India driver):
"There's not a massive amount to say about today because it was a normal Friday where we focused on getting on top of the tyres and trying to get the car in good shape for tomorrow. I think we learnt quite a lot and the car feels totally different compared to Melbourne because of the track characteristics and the hotter conditions. The set-up work we did is promising for tomorrow and the long runs have given us lots of useful data, which was something we missed out on doing in Melbourne".

Paul Di Resta (Sahara Force India driver):
"A very hot day in the car, but we got through most of the programme and have enough information going into tomorrow. There was an issue with one of the brake discs in the afternoon session, which probably looked more dramatic from outside the car, so the team made some changes before I started my long runs on the medium tyre. It's always difficult to read too much performance-wise from a Friday, but I would expect the midfield to be very competitive once again this weekend".

Jakob Andreasen (Sahara Force India chief engineer):
"As always on a Friday, the main priority was to try and get a good understanding of the tyres, which we managed to do with both the medium and hard compound. The driver feedback is encouraging and we demonstrated some good pace over the long runs this afternoon. Other items on the job list included the usual checks to our cooling solutions, especially the engine, as well as some aero comparisons this morning. The only small issue was the braking problem for Paul in the second session, which cost us some track time as we made changes to the brake material; but we understand what happened and will revert to a known solution for the rest of the weekend".

Narain Karthikeyan (HRT driver):
"In the morning session we suffered some reliability issues, the same as in Melbourne but not as bad and we’ve also got some cooling issues too. In the afternoon these issues persisted on turns 13 and 14 where I wasn’t able to select the gears properly but the important thing is that we're within the 107 percent time and can continue to improve and be in better conditions. I definitely felt the difference with regards to Australia but we need a lot more. This is one of the hardest races of the year so we’re going to need to work hard to be able to have a good performance".

There are two additional factors to note heading into FP3 and qualifying:

Rain - the chance of precipitation at some point today is 95%, it could play a major role in the order of the grid! Although as we said yesterday, in Malaysia you can just never tell when the rain will come, if at all.

Raikkonen - he is carrying a 5-place grid penalty due to an unscheduled gearbox change, this could well benefit the Sahara Force India's if Raikkonen qualifies ahead.

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