Friday 26 August
Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
Pascal MRT05-03 FP1 P19 23 laps 1:51.787 / FP2 P11 31 laps 1:49.716
Esteban MRT05-02 FP1 P16 26 laps 1:52.837 / FP2 P21 25 laps 1:50.659
A day that saw steady improvement through both sessions and ending with a very positive 11th place, the team’s highest finish in practice. Good to be back?
“It feels amazing to be back in the car after four weeks away from the cockpit. Spa is a great track to be starting the second part of the season and I’m really enjoying being back here for the first time in four years. We have a few new developments for here, so we’ve had a really close look at those, plus everyone has been running the development tyres today. This afternoon we had a better balance with the Supersoft and the Soft, so I’m happy with that. Other than that, this was a pretty straightforward Friday. Everything looks positive, but we’ll see how things even out tomorrow when it’s a little clearer where we are.”
What are your expectations for the weekend?
“It’s early in the weekend but it looks promising so far and the high temperatures are going to help us, for sure. Let’s see what tomorrow brings but our pace is good versus our competitors and I’m happy with how we finished the day. I hope we can build on that tomorrow.”
Esteban, a cracking start to your opening day of track action. Are you happy with that?
“Everything worked out perfectly. It was nice to let my driving do the talking after so many interviews and such a busy build-up to this weekend. And I was really happy with how the day went.”
So today it was mainly about getting you acquainted with the car, the tyres and the track. You seemed pretty comfortable out there?
“I was. The car felt good and I felt good in it, so after so much preparation, everything came pretty naturally. I got the chance to try out the Supersoft tyre early in the session, which gave me a feel for where the car is versus the competition. It looked pretty positive and because it’s only Friday, there’s something to build on as I get better acquainted with everything. I lost a bit of time this afternoon, but we’ve done what we set out to achieve. I’m looking forward to talking through the data tonight and coming back even stronger tomorrow.”
A word with Dave Ryan, Racing Director:
“How good was that? An incredibly impressive debut by Esteban and a mega performance by Pascal with his 1:49.716 lap for 11th fastest overall. Great stuff, and a really good way to kick the weekend off.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of work for the guys to get through tonight but that’s pretty much par for the course these days, so nothing different there. What is unusual though is the incredible weather we are experiencing here at the moment, it doesn’t seem to be hurting us in terms of performance so let’s hope it stays this way for the rest of the event.
“It’s great to come back from the break and really hit the ground running, with a really good opening day of Free Practice. Esteban made an impressive start to the weekend, so credit to him for managing what has been a fairly big build-up to his debut, with a lot of attention on him; certainly a calm, mature head on young shoulders. Pascal has done his usual solid job with his programme, evaluating the developments we’ve introduced here and making steady progress to get the car into a good position for the rest of the weekend. He should be very pleased with P11 at the end of it; that’s our team’s best ever practice position.”