Toro Rosso Honda completed a productive Friday that saw both Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly in the top ten in both practice sessions on Friday for the Mexican Grand Prix.
Kvyat was ninth fastest in the first session, one and a half seconds off the pace. The Russian ended the afternoon three places higher on a 1:17.747, nearly three tenths quicker than his team-mate.
The twenty-five year old accumulated a combined total of sixty-seven laps throughout the day, which is four less than a full race distance of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
The Hockenheim podium-finisher of this year had felt the STR14 was as good to drive as what the timing sheets showed.
“It was a positive Friday. We completed our programme for both the sessions so now we have plenty of data to analyse to be ready for Qualifying and the Race,” Kvyat shared.
“Today the feeling with the car was good but we need to keep on working to understand the track better and maximise our performance for the rest of the weekend.”
Pierre Gasly had an equally strong day, with the Frenchman eighth fastest in Free Practice 1 before going one position higher in Free Practice 2. The former Red Bull Racing driver completed a total of sixty-two laps in the process.
Gasly was in a cheerful mood following his running and is convinced that Toro Rosso will be in the mix to challenge for Q3 on Saturday.
“It was a really good Friday! From the very beginning I felt pretty comfortable in the car and I think we made quite a step from FP1 to FP2, especially on the Medium tyres where we were fast throughout the whole session,” Gasly said.
“Unfortunately, we were not able to improve on the Softs because of small drive ability issues, but we know that the pace is there and I’m confident we still have margin for improvement.
“Overall, it looks really promising here and we’ll work hard tonight to keep the pace and show an even better performance tomorrow.”
Chief Race Engineer Jonathan Eddolls established the high altitude taking its toll on the cooling of the car, hence new parts being brought to Mexico. The amount of graining on the tyres in Free Practice 1 meant changes were required for the afternoon session, which he felt proved to be the right decision.
“The altitude of the Mexican circuit and the lack of air put a huge strain on the cooling of the car, so we brought a number of new parts here to cope with these particular conditions and they seemed to perform well,” Eddolls added.
“The track started damp after the overnight rain so the run on dry tyres in the first 40 mins was difficult for the drivers, compounded by the lack of downforce from the low ambient pressure. We had a few aero and mechanical tests planned for FP1 but, due to the long red flag for barrier repairs at the last corner, we didn’t get to complete the entire plan.
“Instead, we focused on giving the drivers as many laps as possible and tuning the balance of the cars. The Prime tyre performed well in those track conditions, while we could see the Option graining heavily on other cars. Low speed rear support was the main issue, so we made a number of changes for FP2 to address this limitation.
“The changes worked well and both drivers felt confident with the car, which was reflected in the lap times. There is still more to come on the short run – the balance was a good improvement over FP1, but it was still not perfect.
“Graining was the main limitation on the long runs and it was evident on all three compounds. There is a lot for us to look at tonight in order to decide what’s the best strategy for the Race.
“In summary, it was a very positive day for the team – operationally everything was smooth and the performance is maybe higher than we expected, so we will aim to maintain this level forwards to Quali and the Race.”
Honda F1 Technical Director Toyoharu Tanabe was fascinated to see all of his Honda-powered cars have the pace to be in the top ten. He says that it is an “encouraging” sign going into qualifying.
“In today’s two sessions, we focussed on settings based on the fact this circuit is at high altitude,” Tanabe quoted.
“Overall, things went smoothly on the PU side but there is still some fine tuning needed to be at our best, so we will work on that overnight. Although it’s only Friday, it’s encouraging to see all four cars in the top ten in FP1 and three of them in excellent positions in FP2. We hope to keep this momentum going over the next two days.”