The 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship, one of the most eagerly anticipated seasons in recent memory, finally got underway today with two 90 minute sessions at a sun-drenched Sakhir circuit in the heart of the Kingdom of Bahrain.
Adrian Sutil and Tonio Liuzzi put the Force India's new challenger, the VJM03, through its paces at the extended 6.299km track and initial findings were encouraging. The morning's programme focussed on shorter runs, prime tyre evaluation and establishing a baseline set-up in the hot conditions expected this weekend. Adrian Sutil put in a strong performance to secure the fastest time of the 90 minute precursor to Sunday's race, 0.183secs quicker than Ferrari's Fernando Alonso. Tonio Liuzzi also demonstrated the pace of the VJM03 with the seventh quickest time.
In the afternoon the pair concentrated on longer runs and comparisons of the two tyre compounds available this weekend. Again the pace was promising, and at the close of the session Adrian held the 12th quickest time while Tonio was just behind in 14th.
Adrian Sutil (car 14): "It's time to race now after so long out of the car! This morning we were checking all the systems and set-up we learnt over testing but nobody really knew where we were going to be. It's our goal to get two cars through to Q3 for this weekend and I think we now have a very good baseline with the car and good downforce compared to last year. We can be a top ten runner with this car this year and myself and Tonio are working well together. If we can qualify in the top ten now it can lead to decent points, which is, at the end of the day, what we want to do consistently this season. I would say it's a promising start to get there, for sure."
Tonio Liuzzi (car 15): "Overall it was a positive day and we got through all the programme. We learnt quite a lot about the car with these kind of hot conditions, which we weren't able to do in the cool of the winter testing. The car is reacting well to different fuel loads and to different tyres and overall we can be pretty happy with the results at the end of this first Friday. I think we are in a good way for tomorrow. For sure we could improve our single lap time, but the race pace looks good. A positive start to the weekend."
Dominic Harlow, chief race engineer: "Our objectives today were to assess cooling, brakes and tyres for this event whilst working a little on set-up, downforce level and ratio selection and testing a couple of new items on the car in FP1. We're pleased with the results and I think that our tyre management in the hot conditions looks good. The circuit changes for this year's race are a definite positive for the event and should make for a good race on Sunday."
Adrian Sutil (car 14, VJM03/03):
FP1: 1st 1:56.583 (18 laps)
FP2: 12th 1:57.361 (29 laps)
Tonio Liuzzi (car 15, VJM03/01):
FP1: 7th 1:57.194 (19 laps)
FP2: 14th 1:57.833 (29 laps)