American GP2 ace Alexander Rossi completed his first free practice session of the 2014 Formula 1 season when he replaced Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi in the Caterham for FP1 in Montreal.
Rossi had the benefit of a dry track and sunny skies as he took to the track for the first time in the Caterham CT05. He is the second young driver to have some track time for the team during a free practice session in 2014; Dutchman Robin Frijns took over the car in Bahrain.
The Californian-born American had a productive session, completing 27 untroubled laps, and he set a best lap time of 1:21.757s, which was less than four tenths of a second slower than Swedish team-mate Marcus Ericsson who has had plenty more time in the car.
“27 laps and no issues is a pretty good way to finish my first FP1 of the season,” said Rossi after the session. “It was my first time driving a 2014 car on track and I have to say it was very different to the 2013 car, but I enjoyed it. However, the focus for me today was helping the team establish a baseline set-up and starting to try a few options and I’m pleased with how it went.
”At first the balance was actually pretty good – the rear was more solid than I thought it might be but the braking was something we had to take a look at as the front inside tyre was locking in the final part of each braking zone. We made a couple of changes and it definitely improved on the second full run, and for the rest of the session. By the last run I was starting to have more confidence with the braking, and we found a good initial balance that will be useful for FP2 and the rest of the weekend.
“My next run in the F1 car is in Austin and it’ll be really interesting to see how the car develops between then and now.”
Both race drivers both endured tough Fridays, with Ericsson stopping on track during the second session with an apparent mechanical issue, while Kobayashi was seen fighting to keep the car on track more often than not.
The Japanese driver sat out the first session to allow Rossi the seat time, but completed 38 laps in the afternoon to finish 20th fastest.
“Tyre temperatures, braking issues and grip dominated FP2 for me,” said Kobayashi. “On both tyre compounds I was struggling to bring the tyres up to temperature efficiently which certainly cost me lap time, and that also contributed to the low levels of grip I had for the whole session.
“There’s definitely more time to come from the whole package here. Our final time isn’t a true picture of where we really are pace-wise, so we have to continue working as hard as possible tonight to give ourselves a chance to fight tomorrow. We’ll do just that and I’m sure we’ll make progress in FP3 and qualifying.”
Team-mate Ericsson completed 33 laps in the morning session and 13 more in the second session before a transmission failure saw him stop out on the circuit in the run-off area of turn 3. He ended both sessions 21st fastest.
“The track was very green for the first couple of runs and the car was sliding around a lot and I was having problems optimising the braking – it was like driving on ice, but we made a few set-up changes and those, combined with the rubber going down throughout the session, meant that the grip levels had improved by the end of the first session,” said Ericsson.
“We made quite a few changes over lunch to improve the balance but on the first run of FP2 it didn’t feel like a positive step so for run two we went back to a similar set-up to that we’d had before lunch. However, after 13 laps and on my second run I lost transmission and had to pull over. That was the end of the session, which is obviously not ideal but with 33 laps this morning and another 13 in FP2 it’s not been too bad a day. I’m sure we’ll make progress overnight and be back pushing on tomorrow.”