Heikki Kovalainen may have had the best day in practice.
Of course, when that “best day” means you’re saying the following, you do have to keep things in perspective:
â€œBoth sessions were pretty good today. The circuit obviously has not been used for a little while and it was quite dirty to start with, and even at the end of the second session the grip level was still quite low, but itâ€™s definitely improving though! It felt a bit like a Rally Finland stage first thing this morning, so it could only get better from there! I think the team did a really good job today, improving the balance and keeping us going in the right direction all the time. The low downforce package seems to be working really well, which is very encouraging, and again, weâ€™re not far away from the Toro Rossos. Maybe tomorrow in qualifying, Iâ€™ll be able to have a go at challenging them, and see what happens. Weâ€™re going to focus on keeping the rear of the car under control, and I think we are getting there with that, so, from my side of the garage, things are working out really well.”
That’s right. Heikki Kovalainen has just served notice on Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi (more likely Buemi, right, although it has to be said that Beumi was faster than Jaime today).
We’re still talking about Heikki being some seven-tenths of a second behind the Toro Rossos, but from there the rest of the new teams — this is second practice, now — are another seven-tenths back from the Finn.
One thing that might work against Heikki: By qualifying, both Toro Rosso drivers will have that much more time on a circuit they’d never driven before today. Both were quick to make note of that in post-practice statements:
Sebastien Buemi, P1 – 1:20.320, 16th; P2 – 1:19.168, 17th
â€œI have never driven here before and it takes some time to learn the track, dealing with the lack of grip from the surface and being careful of the walls that are so close to you. Therefore, it is hard to find the limit as the car is moving around a lot. You need to know the circuit really well before you can push hard. At least we had a clean day with no technical issues which is important for the rest of the weekend. Now, having learned my way round, I can expect a better day tomorrow, although we donâ€™t seem very competitive at the moment.â€
Jaime Alguersuari, P1 – 1:20.823, 18th; P2 – 1:19.274, 18th
â€œAnother new track for me and it is a difficult one to learn because there was very little grip today and the walls are very close. I need to do more laps and tomorrow I will be in a position to push harder, with what I have learned so far. I think the lap times will come and the important thing now is to stay calm. We have seen quite a bit of degradation, which will be a factor in the race. For qualifying, I think we have the potential to do well in Q2. In terms of brakes, which are important here, it was quite good and I know we can learn a bit more now by studying the data regarding the braking points and the retardation rates on the pedal. As long as it doesnâ€™t rain tomorrow, I expect to improve a lot before Sunday.â€
Nonetheless, Lotus is trying to get there. Your View: Will Heikki make it?