An intriguing Friday at the Australian Grand Prix has added importance to Saturday’s practice session with a GPS issue in FP1 and wet weather in FP2 impacting running.
Round three of the F1 world championship is taking place at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne, Australia, and the forecast mixed weather conditions hit on Friday, with FP2 in particular affected.
Before that, though, dry running in FP1 was hampered by a GPS issue, causing a number of traffic jams out on circuit as drivers could not be warned who was coming up behind them on a fast lap.
In the end, Max Verstappen topped FP1 and Fernando Alonso was fastest in FP2, but there’s a great deal more to discuss than just that. Let’s take a look at five talking points from Friday at the Australian Grand Prix…
Conditions catch out drivers even before the rain
Before the rain even fell in FP2, FP1 saw a number of offs as drivers explored the limits of the circuit.
Wind was swirling around parts of the Albert Park circuit and a number of drivers found themselves running wide.
Yuki Tsunoda had the biggest off of all, sliding backwards through the grass and gravel trap at turn one, but he luckily avoided hitting the wall.
Kevin Magnussen also found himself cutting the grass during the session, whilst defending champion Max Verstappen was not exempt as he got in a spin during FP1.
Naturally, with the rain arriving in FP2, drivers found themselves sliding about as they tried to stay on slicks for as long as possible, and eventually the rain curtailed dry running.
GPS issue causes havoc
A GPS issue during FP1 caused a red flag and therefore limited running in the one-hour session.
Its failure meant drivers had no idea where one another were out on track before it was almost too late, with a number of near-misses taking place around the circuit as cars bunched up at certain points creating quite the expensive traffic jam.
This confusion, followed by the session stopping, naturally took time out of the hour and, alongside the rain later in the day, not as much data could be collected by the teams on Friday as they would have liked.
Representative qualifying data limited
Fernando Alonso was top of the timesheets in FP2 after the first third of the session but then the heavens opened and from there on no one would put in a quicker time.
Indeed, whilst the rain gave the drivers an opportunity to experience their 2023 cars for the first time in wet conditions, we now have limited data on which to work with that is truly representative of qualifying.
FP2 is often seen as the session with the most similarities to qualifying as it is run at the same time, just a day earlier, but the conditions tomorrow are expected to be a lot drier, and so the teams are going into the weekend with one hand tied behind their backs.
They’ll get as much information as they can in FP3 tomorrow, but with that happening earlier in the day, track conditions will still change between then and qualy.
Long run data also limited
As with data for qualifying, there was not a lot collected around long-run pace for the weekend either, meaning teams are going to have to pack a lot into FP3 tomorrow.
The punctuated FP1 session, followed by the effectively curtailed FP2 session, means that no-one was really able to go on serious long runs and establish where their race pace is.
In many respects it makes things more exciting as it’s still not apparent what the true pecking order of the field is, and it might not be totally clear until we head into qualifying tomorrow in Melbourne.
Drivers get first wet running in 2023 cars
The drivers were eager to get out in the wet conditions in FP2 and have at least learned a little bit about how their 2023 cars handle difficult conditions now.
There were a fair few slides, as to be expected, with Lance Stroll among those to come closest to hitting the wall, whilst Lewis Hamilton also held on well to a moment in his Mercedes.
Ultimately, not a massive amount can be drawn from this small amount of wet running in terms of a pecking order for the rest of the season but important data will have at least been picked up about their cars in different conditions.
Rain isn’t expected to be a factor for the rest of the weekend, though, so that data will likely only be utilised later in the year now.