Valtteri Bottas said that there is still plenty of time to find this weekend at the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello despite the Finn ending both free practice sessions on Friday quickest of anyone.
The Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team racer edged out Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen in the morning session and improved his time in the afternoon to beat team-mate Lewis Hamilton to top spot.
All twenty drivers were using Friday’s running at Mugello to learn about the track, and Bottas said he enjoyed every single lap he completed on Friday, even though it is amongst the most physically demanding venues on the calendar.
“It’s been a lot of fun today and I’ve enjoyed every single lap,” said Bottas. “The whole opening section with the high-speed chicanes and the second sector is just amazing and the car felt pretty good out there.
“I struggled with quite a lot of understeer in the first session and still in places in the second session, but it felt better. I think there’s still quite a bit of lap time to unlock, both in the car and also as a driver.
“This track is definitely one of the most physically demanding. We’ll only properly get to see the effects of that in the race distance, but even today, I could feel it and it’s going to be tough for everyone on Sunday. It’s also quite unforgiving, with little margin for error and that’s how it should be.”
“There’s definitely more to come in the first and second sectors” – Lewis Hamilton
Team-mate Hamilton was another driver to herald the Mugello circuit, with the six-time World Champion calling the whole experience of it ‘amazing’.
The Briton finishing fourth in the morning before improving to second in the afternoon, although he was two-tenths of a second behind Bottas’ session-topping time. He pinpoints the opening two sectors of the lap to where he needs to improve, something he will be working on overnight with his engineers.
“I have to say, this track is pretty intense – so fast and challenging, it’s amazing to experience,” said Hamilton. “I love it! There’s no time to play around here and it’s one of the most physically demanding that I’ve driven for a while.
“I’ve been trying to push it to the limit today, but I think there are a few sections where I can improve. I’ve got the last sector pretty sorted, but there’s definitely more to come in the first and second sectors as Valtteri and Max were very quick through there. So, we’ve got some changes that need to be made and studying to do tonight.
“Hopefully we’ll improve it for tomorrow. The tyres have felt quite strong and have been behaving well, but it’s going to be difficult to look after them through those fast sections, particularly through 6, 7, 8 and 9.”
“We’ll work hard overnight to make sure we’ve not missed anything” – Andrew Shovlin
Andrew Shovlin, the Trackside Engineering Director at Mercedes, was pleased with how the opening days running materialised at Mugello, although there were some issues with balance that still have not been completed solved going into the weekend.
Shovlin admits the team are still not the strongest in a straight-line but the corners are were they are making up the time on their rivals, and they have not suffered too badly with tyre wear on a track that was expected to be harsh on the tyres.
“It’s great that F1 has created the opportunity to run here, it’s such a unique track and so well suited to the current cars,” said Shovlin. “Our morning was fairly smooth, we’ve had to adjust the car a fair bit to get the balance right and the drivers were finding a lot of time in themselves, but everything seems to be working well.
“The second session was interrupted a bit by the red flag, so our long runs weren’t as long as we wanted. However, the tyres do seem to be holding up better than we expected. We seem a bit slow on the straights compared to some, but in terms of pace we look OK and degradation seemed competitive.
“There’s a lot to learn with a new track, so we’ll work hard overnight to make sure we’ve not missed anything. But it does look like we’ve had a solid start to the weekend.”