Granted, at 55 seconds, it is a short lap and therefore the gaps are smaller, but Magnussen himself thought Fittipaldi was going to be no threat this weekend. He will now know he can’t relax fully if he wants to keep his temporary team-mate at arm’s length.
“With all the procedural stuff, that was my main focus so I don’t make any mistakes and I felt really good with that – with the starts, the pit stops,” said Fittipaldi. “The only setback was in FP1 we had a lock-up which damaged my tyre so I couldn’t do any more running. But I kept my cool, went into FP2 and we did all the running, we closed the gap which was really good. Tomorrow I’ll make another step and just slowly raise the volume and push with everything when it counts in qualifying and the race.
“It depends obviously on my driving style – every driver drives differently so we need different things – but me and Kevin had similar feedback. I was making steps, I felt competitive and had a couple of moments with the car. There was one in the beginning of FP2, coming out of Turn Two I had a really big moment that was like a whiplash on the rear but it’s good. Tomorrow we’ll make those adjustments with the car to suit myself, I’ll make my driving adjustments as well, come back tomorrow and put everything together.”
Fittipaldi wasn’t alone in making a costly FP1 error either, as Jack Aitken did similar. Turn Two caught him out and he slid sideways into the gravel, wrecking the hard set he was going to use for the rest of the session and limiting himself to a spell of practice starts instead.
“I was more just busy trying to keep it out of the wall!” Aitken admits. “I got a little bit too confident at the wrong time with the tyres, lucky didn’t do any damage or anything, but just cost us a few laps.”
Turn Two was tricky for all drivers – Alex Albon spun there not long after Aitken and then Sebastian Vettel matched the feat in FP2 – but when it’s your first race weekend you don’t have experience to fall back on in such situations. The delicate balance is leaving enough in reserve to avoid such a moment, and finding your own limits in a new car to be able to get the most out of it.
“The first few laps in FP1 was just sort of remembering things from when I did in FP1 in Austria,” said Aitken. “It was all pretty familiar, got up to speed fairly okay, there’s a little bit of work to be done on one lap pace especially because it seems to be a really peaky tyre, one lap and it’s gone, race run was pretty encouraging so pretty happy.