Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne were both upbeat after their first taste of the Albert Park circuit on Friday. Neither Toro Rosso driver has raced in the Australian Grand Prix before and changeable conditions made it a tough baptism for the youngsters, although Ricciardo was a superb seventh quickest.
Ricciardo is also racing with the backing of the home crowd and the 22 year old admitted it was a special feeling when he first took to the track.
“All the hype this week has made it feel as though this is my first F1 race again, but it's not and I've just got to get on with things. It was a great feeling being back out on track here in Australia and I really enjoyed it. This morning went pretty well, very good even, while the afternoon was a bit mixed because of the weather. All the same, we managed to try most of the tyre compounds apart from the Option. The changing track conditions made it a bit 'cat and mouse': you'd go out on one tyre, then come in and wait for it to dry a bit and you had to be patient. This afternoon, I did a long run and I think we can still gain some more race pace and the good thing is I know what we have to do to achieve that. This track is very different to the two circuits where we tested this winter, but it looked positive, so I'm hoping to get a good grid position tomorrow. We'll see what the weather does, but even if it rains, I expect there'll be a big crowd to cheer us on.”
Teammate Vergne had the distinction of being the first driver out on track this morning and ended the day 19th overall. The Frenchman was one of many drivers to blame the weather for the lack of productive running but still felt it was useful day as he got to grips with Albert Park for the first time.
“My first Friday as a Formula 1 driver was a good feeling. Being the first driver out on track this morning was something special, but after that it was time to get on with all the usual work with the engineers and you forget about that side of it. This morning, we did not manage to complete all our programme, partly because of the rain. That made life difficult, but you know, it was really good fun, as I've never driven on rain tyres, which meant I did almost everything you could do today, in terms of trying tyres. I also did a long run, which was useful in terms of learning the circuit and there are still plenty of little details where I need to improve. But overall, I would say it was a positive first day and what I must do tomorrow is push more.”
Chief Engineer Laurent Mekies praised his drivers for keeping themselves out of trouble in the treacherous conditions and is looking forward to seeing what they can achieve in the dry.
“Overall this was a good day for us, with everyone happy to be racing here again. With the rain and changing conditions, it was not the ideal scenario for two young drivers to start their first race of the season and for one of them, Jean-Eric, his first real race weekend ever. But I don't think we can complain about these conditions as it's better to deal with them on a Friday than in the race. Daniel and Jean-Eric did a very good job to get as many laps under their belt as possible. They tried the Extreme wets, the Intermediates and the Mediums and our weekend has got off on the right foot.”