Sauber had a reasonable first day in Korea as Kamui Kobayashi and Nick Heidfeld were, respectively, tenth and eleventh fastest after the two Friday practice sessions.
The newly-laid surface of the Korean International Circuit had little grip at the beginning of the morning session but, after a few ‘familiarisation laps’ of the new circuit had been completed, the track began to develop some grip.
Kobayashi, who gave an excellent demonstration of brave overtaking in Suzuka last time out, praised the layout of the new Korean circuit, but bemoaned the lack of grip early on.
“The track is quite nice,” he said. “It is challenging, and the last sector especially is difficult but nice to drive. The only problem is the surface is still too slippery. Tyre graining is massive with both compounds. In the first session we started my programme quite early before the track had improved a bit, and my tyres were completely gone. That's why I stopped a few minutes early.”
Heidfeld said that, despite the initial slippery conditions, the team learnt a lot from the two Friday practice sessions. “We expected the track to have a very low grip level in the beginning, but it was even lower than we thought,” said the German.
“We started with lap times around two minutes, but then the grease and dirt started to disappear, rubber was laid and the circuit started to be really good fun. It is nice it has a lay-out with corner combinations. This means you need to get the first one right to get into the flow for the following ones, and I like that.
“The harder tyres took a long time to warm up, while even with the softer compound the first lap wasn't the quickest. Very soon after we reached the right temperature the tyres started graining. I hope this problem will lessen as the grip level improves. I am happy we had a dry and trouble free day to work on the set-up. We learned more and I can see potential to improve it.”
Technical director James Key explained how the team approached the first two sessions at this new track, and also had positive comments about the layout. “Not surprisingly it was a busy day learning this new track,” he explained. “As we expected it was very, very slippery in the beginning with the new tarmac having just been laid down.
“It was quite difficult for the drivers and the engineers to know exactly what issues we had to look at, because the lap times improved very significantly all through the session. But we did our best to go through some set-up changes to get a feel for what the car is responding to. We made some mechanical changes on both cars and did some aerodynamic tests on Kamui's.
“In the afternoon the track had more grip and was more consistent, so we were able to do a standard programme. We looked at some downforce levels and further set-up changes from the morning, and we evaluated the prime and the option tyres to see how they are performing. There is still a lot to understand, so we are going to be very busy tonight analysing all the data.
“Overall we are happy with the day, the drivers seem to be fairly comfortable, and I think the track is really good. It looks like a drivers' circuit. Hopefully we can maintain our momentum tomorrow.”