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Williams, Sauber, Toro Rosso struggle in the midfield

15 March 2013

While Red Bull was flying high at the front in the first F1 track sessions of the 2013 world championship at Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia, some of the midfield teams were finding the start of the new season more problematic than hoped for.

"Overall it was a challenging day," admitted Sauber's new driver signing Nico Hulkenberg. "On the first day there are always a few things you need to work on and improve. I think we still have some homework to do."

His new team mate, rookie F1 driver Esteban Gutierrez, said he'd enjoyed a productive day but admitted that it barely scratched the surface of what he needed to achieve in 2013.

"As a team we need to find more speed, and that means me as a driver as well. I've improved from free practice one to free practice two, now I will focus on improving for qualifying tomorrow."

Gutierrez had a lesson of a different sort of life in the F1 paddock when he was handed a 800-euro fine for speeding in the pit lane by the race stewards at the end of the day. He wasn't the only one - Williams' Valtteri Bottas also got a 2,800-euro penalty for the same offence.

"It's a new circuit for me so it took a few laps in the first practice to get to know it a little better," said the Finn. "I felt like the car could still improve further."

Williams F1 made no secret of the fact that they weren't going for top times on Friday, and instead stated that their objectives for the first F1 practice sessions of the 2013 season were aero evaluations, tyre testing, and long distance race simulations.

"We ran some different tests today on the car and the tyres, so we haven't got the maximum pace out of the car yet, said Pastor Maldonado. "We have a lot of work to do before tomorrow, but we have another practice session to focus on the set-up needed for qualifying and we'll be analysing all today's data this evening."

There will be a lot of work going on in the Toro Rosso garage as well, as they struggle to get on top of their own performance issues in time for Saturday's qualifying session.

"In FP1 it was soon clear that in terms of balance and set-up we were not where we wanted to be," said Daniel Ricciardo, who'd wanted to put in a better showing for his home crowd in Australia. "We made some changes and they helped. I definitely feel we made progress from morning to afternoon, but not enough, so there is more to do overnight to find more pace.

"It's nice to be racing at home in Australia again, which is an added incentive to work really hard to get the car to go quicker and give the fans something to cheer about on Sunday," he added.

His team mate Jean-Eric Vergne was also scratching his head over why the TR8 was currently under-performing in terms of pace in Melbourne.

"We have quite a bit of work to do to get closer to those ahead and I feel we currently lack some speed," he said. "However, our long runs looked pretty good and the balance of the car was okay."

"As expected, the competition is very tight in our part of the grid," added Laurent Mekies, Toro Rosso's head of vehicle performance. "Our work is therefore aimed not only at finding the best possible set-up for the rest of the weekend, but also to start moving it forward for the season.

"In Melbourne, we can usually expect the unexpected and there is a chance of a wet qualifying, while the race here always throws up some surprises," he pointed out. "We must ensure we are ready for whatever circumstances we encounter!"


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