After missing out on any running in the Australian Grand Prix two weeks ago when software issues kept them in the pit lane, the Manor F1 Team finally saw track action in Malaysia, with Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi completing 34 laps of the Sepang circuit on Friday, albeit as expected well off the pace of the frontrunners.
Team Principal John Booth was delighted to see his cars get onto track, and was happy to see the cars be in or around the dreaded 107% cut-off point that would see a non-qualification during qualifying.
“On what has essentially been a shakedown and practice day – which the other teams completed a couple of months ago – we’ve achieved 34 laps of reliable running and that is a really good effort when one considers the problems teams typically encounter on the opening day of running a car,” said Booth.
“We were also encouraged by our early pace in relation to the 107% rule and solid performances by both drivers on their first day in the car.
“Of course, there is a huge amount of work still to be done, both here in Malaysia and ahead into the season, but we’ll take some reward from the day nonetheless. Most importantly, we are back doing what we do best – racing.”
Stevens was able to gradually improve his time throughout the two sessions, and felt the day ran smoothly for him, especially as it was the first time the car had been driven on track in its current specification. It was also his first time in a car since the post-Abu Dhabi tests in November 2014 when he ran the final laps of the now defunct Caterham F1 Team.
“It’s really nice to be back in a Formula 1 car and to get down to the business of racing,” insisted Stevens. “The day ran very smoothly versus our planned programme and I’m particularly pleased that my times in both sessions were inside the 107%.
“Considering how little running we have done, today is a really good step and my thanks to the team for a tremendous effort. We’re not under any illusions about the challenges that lie ahead though and we have a busy night in front of us to work through the data to try to improve and set ourselves up for the best showing possible tomorrow.”
Team-mate Merhi was also able to get some running on Friday, but found his afternoon session compromised when he spun into the turn eleven gravel trap after just six laps. He apologised for his error, and is looking to atone for it when practice resumes on Saturday.
“It was good to get going for our first day of running the car and positive for the team to have a straightforward day,” said Merhi. “This morning we were able to get a decent run and therefore a feel for the balance and some direction as to where the car is.
“In FP2 we started to do some proper running but unfortunately I had a bit of a spin into Turn 12, which brought an end to my session. My apologies to the team for that as everything had been going well, but I’m looking forward to getting back in the car tomorrow and picking up where we left off.”