Zhou Guanyu says he was instantly able to feel a “step forward” from the upgrade Alfa Romeo has brought for the Australian Grand Prix during Friday practice.
After a mixed opening batch of races, the Hinwil-based outfit has introduced the first update to its C43 package this weekend, intending to reduce the margin to the teams ahead.
Although rain cut short running in FP2, Zhou says he was still able to utilise the slippery conditions to notice the positive impact the revised front wing has already had on car performance.
“It’s good,” he answered when asked for a summary of the new parts. “Obviously I didn’t really try it in the first session and this session [FP2] I just tried it for a few laps.
“I feel the difference, the gains in terms of the downforce and I feel like it is a good step forward.”
But the Chinese driver has elected to wait until clearer weather arrives before estimating where the upgraded Alfa Romeo package can expect to land later on in the weekend.
“In terms of where we are we need to see a bit more in the fully dry conditions,” he continued.
“Overall I think at least the feeling to start with is a positive change so hopefully that can bring us [to be] a bit more competitive.”
While the opening session of the day remained dry in its entirety, two red flag delays – including the first for a GPS issue – meant that clear running was at a premium during the first hour.
Consequently, Zhou was one of the prominent individuals to suffer as the Alfa Romeo racer’s best lap time – good enough only for 19th – was set while being sandwiched between Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll through the final corner.
The arrival of rain early on in proceedings in FP2 then scuppered Zhou’s Friday run plan further, leaving him with minimal optimal dry running experience ahead of qualifying.
But he remained pleased with the mileage he was able to accrue on a damp track surface, even if conditions are set to improve in time for the remainder of the weekend.
He said: “Yeah it definitely changed a bit the run plan, especially from my session you see what happened in FP1.
“I never had a clean lap; my best lap was done going through a sandwich into the last sector.
“Overall today not much running in the dry but got some good running on the intermediates at the end so it’s always good preparation for [what is] ahead tomorrow.”
Alfa Romeo team-mate Valtteri Bottas, meanwhile, was similarly encouraged by the aerodynamic upgrades he also ran on his car around the Albert Park Circuit.
“FP1 I was not entirely happy with the car balance, but we tried the new nose, the new front wing, which was positive,” he admitted.
“Then just based on the learnings in practice one we changed quite a bit the set-up for FP2 and it was better.
But the Finnish driver has issued that the team requires further improvement overnight to challenge for a place in Q3 tomorrow and points in Sunday’s race.
“Yeah, I’m feeling good. We still need to find a bit of time but we’re there or thereabouts,” the 2019 Australian GP winner added.
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