Friday at the Spanish Grand Prix saw not only new parts but also a new face as Nyck de Vries made his Formula One weekend debut during FP1.
The 27-year-old Dutchman quickly got up to speed in his new surroundings and finished the session in P18, one place ahead of Nicholas Latifi, whose day consisted of trialling different parts.
Alex Albon returned to his seat for FP2, with both Williams Racing drivers again recording best times that placed them P18 and P19 on the leaderboard.
“We tried some new components on the car today and collected some useful data,” said Head of Vehicle Performance, Dave Robson, this evening, adding: “Which will allow us to decide how to build the cars for tomorrow.
“Nyck did an excellent job in FP1 to understand the car and complete the programme as planned; these cars are not easy to drive, especially when the track is so hot, and he did a good job of coming to terms with that and learning how the tyres behave.
“Nicholas ran most of the test items today with Nyck and Alex acting as the baseline and whilst this gave Nicholas a few more balance issues than he would’ve liked, he was able to provide some good feedback, which will help us get the most from the new parts.
“Alex had a short day and whilst he knows Barcelona very well, there is no substitute for time in the car. However, he was up to speed quickly in FP2 and was able to understand the requirements of the Soft tyre during that session.
“We have some improvement to make in terms of how we get the most out of the tyres for a single lap, but even if we do this overnight, it will still be a challenging weekend and we will be looking to Sunday to provide some opportunities as tyre management is likely to dominate the Grand Prix.”
Results from FP1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
Nyck, who was not only experiencing his first time on track during an F1 weekend but also his first time behind the wheel of our FW44, gave us his thoughts on what was a memorable day for him, saying: “I will admit I was very nervous ahead of FP1! I’m racing and fighting for championships away from F1, but making your Formula One debut is very unique and special, so I am very grateful for the opportunity.
“But when you get into the car and start the engine you forget everything around you and you’re alone with the car; all those nerves go away and you focus on your job.
“It wasn’t easy to jump in not knowing the car or the tyres and everything was new, but I gave myself the time to adapt and I’m pretty satisfied with my performance. I’m always critical of myself so I think there was more on the table, but I’m happy and positive about my first experience with Williams.”
It was back to work as usual for Alex in the latter of the two sessions, and the Thai driver was straight back up and running.
“I think I got back up to speed pretty quickly after missing FP1 due to Nyck driving,” he said, continuing: “Every driver does enough laps around here that we know the circuit like the back of our hands, so it was a good session to miss in that respect.
“On track, we’re not as quick as we’d like to be, so our focus tonight is to look over the data to see what we can improve going into Saturday. We can see already that tyre degradation will be a challenge this weekend.
“It’s not something that’s been a huge issue so far this season, but I’m expecting that there will be a lot of emphasis on tyre management due to the nature of the track, so that could make things interesting in both Qualifying and the race.
Results from FP2 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
Nicky played an important role for the team today, trialling the fresh parts in both sessions and offered his reaction in the sunshine of the Catalan evening.
“Our focus today was on trying a lot of different things and parts on the car,” stated the Canadian.
“We didn’t come here with upgrades, but instead different parts to understand and try to optimise the package and, without sugar-coating it, we were very far off.
“It’s been a bit of head-scratching as it’s not just one problem we are facing, but there are a lot of different issues we need to address.
“I think in FP1 especially it was extremely out of the window and it felt like I was driving a completely different car, but for the long-term learning for the team, it’s important, especially at a track like this where we know how the car should feel.
“So it’s been good in that sense to understand the set-up options we have, but I think we have a lot of work to do tonight to go into the details and fine-tune everything ahead of tomorrow.”
There is a full complement of support races here in Barcelona this weekend, with four Driver Academy members all in action.
Logan Sargeant qualified P5 in Formula 2, with Roy Nissany a little further down the order in P17 whilst in Formula 3, Zak O’Sullivan suffered in the 30-car traffic jam and could only put his Carlin in P19.
Jamie Chadwick couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present as the two-time champion, and current championship leader, put her Jenner Racing car on pole position in the W Series.
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