It was a strong day on track at Sochi for the McLaren Mercedes team, with Kevin Magnussen finishing an impressive second in the afternoon free practice session, while Jenson Button finished third in the opening session in the morning.
Despite showing good pace on Friday, Magnussen believes it is too early in proceedings to determine the true order of things, and it will become clearer on Saturday where McLaren sit in the pecking order. Magnussen was fifth in the opening session and second in the second.
“It was a pretty decent day for us today, and the car feels good,” insisted Magnussen. “However, this is a brand-new track, so it’s hard to be sure of where we really are because we were mostly working on set-up rather than outright pace.
“However, I can confirm that it’s a nice circuit, it has quite a lot of grip, the surface is pretty good, and it appears to suit the Pirelli tyres, so that makes it quite enjoyable to drive. Also, the Options [tyres] seem to last pretty well, so we might see not a lot of pit-stops in the race. Finally, the track is a bit different from how it felt in the simulator, and also from the impressions I formed when I walked it yesterday; better, to be honest.
“But, as I say, it’s still too early to say anything definitive, because we don’t know if today’s result is the true picture, so we’ll need to wait and see what happens tomorrow.
“Last but far from least, Jules [Bianchi] is very much in our minds, and we’re all still thinking about him and hoping for the best.”
Team-mate Button was also quick, finishing third in the morning practice before falling to sixth in the afternoon, but felt his low-fuel balance was not as it should have been. He was happier with the track than he expected to be, with the Briton finding it more enjoyable than he did in the simulator.
“Things went okay today from the word ‘go’,” insisted Button. “We were quick on the Primes [tyres], and the Options on high fuel seemed pretty good, too. On low fuel I couldn’t quite get a balance, but hopefully we can improve that tomorrow.
“It’s a circuit that seems to suit us reasonably well at the moment, but it will inevitably evolve tomorrow and we’ll have to be very careful of that. In the simulator, however, it wasn’t much fun to drive at all, but here it’s nice to drive, so I can say with confidence that I’m happy with the job the designers and organisers have done.
“There are a few places that are a bit bumpy, but that adds to the challenge. Turn 13 is particularly bumpy on the entry, and your left front wheel is un-weighted, so it’s very easy to lock that wheel under braking; it’s pretty tricky there so we’ll have to make sure we get the brake balance right.
“Also, a few of the corners are quite difficult to get right on the exit, because they’re negative-camber, so it’s easy to get a big snap of oversteer.
“Finally, as Kevin says, our thoughts and prayers are with Jules, whom all of us are missing greatly.”