An update from Free Practice at the Australian Grand Prix as the Bulls get the season underway at Albert Park, Melbourne.

After 15 weeks of no races, we're back on track at last in the beautiful city of Melbourne. And we're very happy to be kicking things off down under. 

The Albert Park Circuit is… difficult. Made up primarily from service roads through the park, and not used as a race track for the rest of the year, it starts off very dusty (aka ‘green’) and with very low grip. That changes over the course of the weekend as the passage of cars sweeps a racing line clean, and the track ‘rubbers-in’ – ie a layer of rubber is laid down by successive braking events, providing lots of grip.

It’s a headache for race engineers who, essentially, have a moving target to hit: preparing the car not for the grip they experience today but the grip they’re expecting to see on Sunday. Not easy at any time but doubly difficult with a car that is still a new acquaintance.

In Free Practice One the new-look line up hit the track, with Max leading Pierre out of the garage. Both drivers set an encourgaing pace, as Max took P4 with a 1:23.792 after 22 laps. Pierre was P8 as he set a best time of 1:24.932 after his 23 laps.

Friday afternoon's Free Practice Two saw the Bulls continue where they'd left off this morning. Max finished the session P3 with a 1:23.400 after 33 laps. Pierre wasn't far behind in P4 posting a 1:23.442 after his 31 laps.

Saturday's final practice session saw Pierre finish the session in P6 with a 1:23.367 after 17 laps. Meanwhile Max completed 19 laps with a fastest time of 1:23.481, which saw the Dutchman in P9.

Following on from Friday's sessions, Max said:

“I’m quite happy about today and the feeling so far is pretty good. Of course, there are always areas to improve and we are not fast enough yet but it’s only the first day of the season and there is a long way to go. It looks like Mercedes are very quick and they seem to be a little happier with the overall balance. In general, the car felt alright with medium and soft tyres but we still need to fully understand the compounds. My running was also a little different to the others in terms of preparation and there is definitely some lap time in that. We will look at the data tonight and see what we can improve but from the engine side there were no problems and it all ran very smoothly. We had no expectations going into today and it’s just good to get started.”

Summarising his day, Pierre added:

“It was great to be back on track for the first Free Practice of the season, and my first Friday at the track with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing was a special moment for me. It was a positive day, we tested a lot of things and my feeling in the car is getting better lap after lap. There’s still work to be done but we’re pretty happy with the package. We didn’t have any expectations today, as after testing it’s difficult to have a real idea of the pace of others. We managed to find some good direction for FP2 and I felt better in the car than I did in FP1. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow. On the engine side, we had a small loss of power on the last lap and after some checks, it turned out to be a minor sensor issue.”