What the teams said – Friday in Abu Dhabi
On the timing sheets it looked like business as usual for the Silver Arrows, but in reality it was anything but. The team pride themselves on their reliability record, and yet today little gremlins seemed to be creeping in. Hamilton struggled with a brake issue in FP1, before stopping in the pit lane in the evening session with a clutch problem. Bottas had a throttle issue to contend with, and added to some messy runs on the soft compound tyres from both drivers, it really wasn’t the Friday the team would have hoped for in Abu Dhabi.
Lewis Hamilton – FP1: 1:38.744, P5; FP2: 1:36.479, P2
"I'm grateful to be back with the team and back in the car. I missed doing what I love last week, so I was very happy to arrive at the circuit this morning. It's taken a good session and a half to get back into the flow even though it's been such a short amount of time that I wasn't in the car. The car didn't quite feel the same as I had left it, so I'm now working my way back to feeling more comfortable balance-wise. We had an issue with the pedals and the brakes in FP1 which cost us around 40 minutes of track time, but the team did a great job to change everything so quickly; they have been flat out for three weeks now and still keep pushing. Otherwise the sessions all went ok, the last one felt a bit better, although we didn't get to do the long run at the end. We'll get our heads down and work hard tonight, to be in the best shape possible for qualifying and the race."
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:37.412, P2; FP2: 1:36.276, P1
"It was a decent Friday. The car felt good from the get-go, but there's still a lot of work for us to do. The main focus will be to get the balance right throughout the entire lap, as I was struggling with the front end in some corners and with the rear end in the others. I also couldn't really get the Soft tyres into the window; I didn't have any grip on my first lap, so I think they were too cold, but in the following lap they were already overheating, so there's clearly some work to do. The Medium actually felt like a better tyre for me, but that's because we weren't able to extract everything from the Soft today. It's been a decent first day on track, but I'll take it lap by lap and my targets are clear for the weekend ahead. I'm happy Lewis is back with us again this weekend, it's nice to see him back with the team and in the car."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"We've had quite a tricky day overall. Lewis had an issue with his brake pedal assembly this morning that meant we lost the first bit of FP1 and he couldn't run the Soft tyre. We also had a problem with Valtteri's throttle pedal that we changed as a precaution during the second session. Both those issues cost us a few laps and the red flag towards the end meant we didn't get to do a long run on the Medium tyre. In terms of pace we looked ok on a single lap. We didn't get the best out of the Soft; it's a difficult tyre to optimise and we'll have a few more stabs at that tomorrow ahead of qualifying. We didn't get a great picture of where we are on long runs as we only had a short stint on the Hard in the first session and the prototype tyre in the second session. However, I think everyone is in a similar boat, so I don't think we're necessarily at a disadvantage, but we'll be going into the race without the normal amount of information on the tyres and the balance."
Verstappen topped FP1 and already looks to be a force to be reckoned with here, even though he is downplaying his chances as it stands with respect to Mercedes. He was left frustrated by some timing issues in FP2 that led to him being held up by traffic and missing out on a representative lap on the soft tyres. As for Albon, a spin in FP1 blotted his copybook but he bounced back well under the lights, pushing his team mate much closer than he managed in the earlier session.
Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:37.378, P1; FP2: 1:37.046, P3
“Today was ok and there is still a bit of work to do to close the gap to Mercedes who seem strong again but I didn’t get a lap time on the soft compound as I came up behind Perez on a long run so it’s hard to tell exactly what the gap is. We will see what the other drivers say about track limits in the briefing tonight but it’s Friday Practice which is always about exploring the limits and getting a better understanding of how wide you can go with the car. In qualifying we know we can’t go so wide and will pay more attention, but I don’t think it’s a big issue. The soft tyre seemed to hold on ok so I think that will be ok for qualifying and we will see whether I can sit in a different Press Conference chair tomorrow.”
Alex Albon - FP1: 1:38.547, P4; FP2: 1:37.263, P4
“Today was a pretty standard practice day where you’re just working through the usual items and working the tyres to find out where that sweet spot is, but I was pretty happy and overall it was a good day. I think we need to look at the softs and how to work them better to get them into the right window, and also to stay in that window, but the mediums felt ok. It’s practice after all so I’m not really sure where Mercedes are based on today’s running but we’ll focus on ourselves, look at everything in more detail tonight ahead of qualifying tomorrow and see where we are.”
With last week’s race winner Perez set to start from the back of the field after taking a raft of grid penalties, his focus today was on race runs and so he concentrated his efforts on the harder compound tyres. That left the quick qualifying simulation runs to his team mate, who was there or thereabouts in the top 10 in both sessions.
Sergio Perez – FP1: 1:38.956, P7; FP2: 1:37.506, P7
“I’m happy with the balance of the car and the progress we’ve made today – it’s just a shame we’ll be starting near the back [due to a change of Power Unit components] because I think we have the package for another good result. But it is what it is, and so our focus today has been on the long runs. We’ve been working hard to understand how the race is likely to play out and how the Pirelli tyre compounds will behave. Obviously, FP2 is a really important session for this because it’s much more representative than FP1. Despite the interruption in FP2, I think we’re in a strong place and we have a good idea of what to expect. There’s a lot on the line this weekend with the battle for P3 in the Constructors’ Championship, but we can go into qualifying with the pressure off and focus on the race. The goal is to fight our way into good points and see how high we can finish on Sunday.”
Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:38.831, P6; FP2: 1:37.560, P10
“It’s great to enter a new weekend off the back of a strong result last time out, it gives everyone a bit of a lift heading into another race. The car feels good out on track and we were able to make improvements across both sessions. We completed our programme as planned and we managed to do both short and long runs, so I think we’re in a good place heading into Saturday. We’re in a really close fight for P3 in the Constructors’ Championship and the goal is to score some good points and make sure we’re still in P3 at the end of the race. It’s up to us to extract everything from the package and execute a good race. I’m excited about the challenge ahead.”
Ricciardo only managed a couple of laps in FP1 before a fuel pressure issue ended his session very early. He did get plenty of running in under the lights, but his team mate has rather stolen a march on him as it stands. Ocon, full of confidence after that podium last Sunday, is looking the pick of the two at the moment.
Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:38.515, P3; FP2: 1:37.505, P6
“It was a pretty good Friday in terms of our short runs. We still have some work to do overall because our long runs aren’t where we want them to be, especially as that has been among our strengths this year. That does, however, give us something to work out over the weekend and I’m sure we’ll get there. Otherwise it’s promising on the timesheets and it’s going to be very tight once again. Whether it’s a long track or a short track, it’s very close! I think qualifying will be interesting tomorrow and we need to extract the best from the car. I’m ready for it.”
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: No time set, P20; FP2: 1:37.508, P9
“If you’re going to miss a session in Abu Dhabi it’s probably better that it’s the first one as it isn’t representative for qualifying tomorrow and the race on Sunday because of the later start times for those sessions. I think the evening session today was pretty good for us and we hit the ground running straight away. We did plenty of laps and the car felt good for most of the session. With a couple of tweaks, I think we’ll be in a good place tomorrow. Qualifying is going to be really important here and, of course, it’s my last one with the team, so I’m looking forward to putting on a good show.”
Ciaron Pilbeam, Chief Race Engineer
“We’ve had a fairly decent day. Esteban had a fairly smooth run all day, however Daniel missed most of the morning. He had a problem that was easily fixable, but the car was stranded out on the circuit, so we missed nearly all of FP1. The later session ran better for him. In terms of short run pace, it’s very close, as expected, with probably eight cars within two tenths on the low fuel runs on the softs. We are right in amongst it and we can expect a close fight tomorrow night in qualifying. The long runs were broken up for everyone by a red flag so it’s a bit hard to see the race pace so far, but we will do our usual Friday night homework ready for tomorrow.”
McLaren don’t always show their true hand on Fridays and certainly didn’t in FP1, choosing to work on aero data for 2021. But Norris certainly showed that they have some pace here, winding up an impressive ‘best of the rest’ in FP2 and pushing Albon in the Red Bull pretty close. With a newer power unit in the back of his MCL35, he could be one to watch tomorrow.
Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:39.330, P11; FP2: 1:37.616, P12
“It’s been a bit of a better start than last weekend. The car immediately felt more in the window. Unfortunately, every time we put the Soft tyre on today we didn't have the cleanest of laps due to traffic, or we simply didn't nail the set-up, so still a lot of homework to do regarding that tyre and how can we extract a bit more from it. The Soft compound is obviously going to be the qualifying tyre and looking at the standings today, with seven drivers in just two tenths, it's crucial to find some lap-time on that compound. Time to analyse and get ready for tomorrow.”
Lando Norris - FP1: 1:39.352, P13; FP2: 1:37.438, P5
“A positive final Friday of the year. We made some good improvements, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do overnight. I think we can be happy with what we did, but we saw how close it was, so if we don’t maximise everything tomorrow we can easily be a long way off where we want to be. So, heads down tonight to try to get that little bit more out of the car and we’ll go again tomorrow.”
Andrea Stella, Racing Director
“Overall, it’s been a positive Friday in Abu Dhabi. This afternoon, we worked on aerodynamic items, with an eye on next year. This evening we had another opportunity to evaluate the 2021 tyres, as well as quite a bit of work to do understanding the tyres for this weekend. We have the C5 here – which is always an interesting compound to understand. Compared to FP1, we made some progress in FP2 and, overall, the car seems to have potential, even if it’s not easy to extract it all, but there are still plenty of opportunities for improvement. We’ll analyse the data overnight and make sure we’re ready for our final qualifying and race of the season.”
Ferrari gathered some aero data in FP1 to help their cause next year, with Vettel running large aero rakes attached to his rear wing. Other than that it was business as usual for the Scuderia, with Leclerc the pick of the two drivers. The Monegasque looks to be in contention for Q3 but such is the tightness of the midfield, that P4 from last week is looking mightily difficult to emulate.
Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:39.670, P14; FP2: 1:38.198, P15
"We did quite a lot of work today but we have more to do, as we have still not managed to get the tyres into the right operating window, especially when it comes to the Softs.
"For qualifying I think we will more or less find ourselves in the same position as last weekend. If we are able to put together a very good lap, maybe we can get to Q3, which would be positive for my last race with the team.
"I appreciated Charles’ nice touch in running today with a helmet dedicated to me. I hope we can give the fans something to cheer about this weekend."
Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:39.344, P12; FP2: 1:37.508, P8
"On a track like this, we expected to struggle a bit more, but in fact we seem to be in the mix with the guys we usually fight with. This is probably not going to be as good a weekend as the last one in terms of performance, but it’s definitely better than we had expected.
"The balance of the car evolves over the course of the lap, as you have little grip in the first corner and then you gain more and more throughout the lap. Let’s work tonight and hopefully we can make a step up for tomorrow. I will also work on my driving as I am lacking a bit of speed here and there, but in the end it’s tomorrow that counts."
The two AlphaTauri drivers seem well-matched here, as Kvyat continues his upturn in form. But they do seem to have dropped back slightly in the midfield pecking order after their strong run in Sakhir. Can they fight their way into the top 10 tomorrow? It could well be the Russian’s last F1 qualifying so he’ll want to go out on a high, while Gasly will want to atone for his messy spin in FP2.
Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:39.160, P9; FP2: 1:37.900, P13
“Looking at the gaps today, I think it’s going to be really tight this weekend, with six or seven positions separated by one and a half tenths. The battle in the midfield is quite intense so it’s going to be very exciting for Quali and the race. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the car, we did our Option runs in the final laps of the session and we showed our pace, which makes me feel confident for tomorrow as I think we are going to be right in the mix. There are still a few things we’ll need to sort out, so we’ll work tonight to find those extra tenths to make sure we are ahead of the midfield rather than behind.”
Daniil Kvyat - FP1: 1:39.150, P8; FP2: 1:37.596, P11
“We managed to learn something about the car today and did a good number of laps, but I didn’t feel like we’ve got everything right, so we’ll do our homework tonight and understand what we can do to improve for tomorrow. The conditions between FP1 and FP2 were quite different and, as usual, the second practice session is much more representative for Quali and the race, so hopefully we can find these extra tenths tonight to get it completely right for tomorrow.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer
“It wasn’t quite as smooth of a Friday as we’ve become accustomed to as a team. Unfortunately for Daniil, he didn’t get to complete his FP140 run due to a small issue, so we had to abort his run. That put him on the back foot to start the weekend, because it’s a difficult track to get into a rhythm with so many corners and high track evolution, so the setback wasn’t ideal. In FP1, we gave both cars two sets of Prime tyres so they could do some setup work to try and find the best compromise around this track. We found some good directions to take, so we made some bigger changes from FP1 to FP2. At the start of FP2, like all teams, we ran the 2021 tyre which was the Prime specification and gathered some information for Pirelli for next year. We then moved onto our short runs, although, due to our tyre allocation, both cars fitted the Base which is obviously a big step away compared to the Option from a grip perspective. When we switched to the C5 Option runs, it’s fair to say we didn’t extract the maximum potential from those, so there’s something for us to understand in terms of out-lap tyre preparation to get the tyres in the correct window for the first lap. We haven’t shown the performance we normally do on a Friday, but we have a good group of engineers and we’ll analyse the data thoroughly tonight and come up with a plan to improve the performance tomorrow. The midfield is extremely tight, around six cars are within a tenth of a second, so we’re not looking for much, but every last little detail can make a big difference.”
Kubica had an outing in the C39 in the first session, before Giovinazzi jumped back in later on. The Italian had a good evening, but on the other side of the garage Raikkonen’s day ended in flames. His car caught fire out on track, and he fortunately was able to clamber out uninjured before helping the marshals extinguish the fire. His evening involved a slower means of transport back to the pits than planned, but his mechanics’ evening is only just beginning…
Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:39.199, P10; FP2: 1:38.068, P14
“The car felt good, at least keeping into account the different conditions in FP1 and the part of FP2 we could complete. As always, there is a margin for improvement and that’s what we are going to work on tonight. We couldn’t do too many laps on high fuel given the issue we had: of course that’s not ideal, but at least it happened to an engine and gearbox we were going to change in any case. It’s obviously a lot of work for the guys in the garage but we should be ok for tomorrow.”
Robert Kubica – FP1: 1:39.905, P15
“It has been an interesting day for us and a pretty positive one, at least until Kimi’s technical issue later in the evening. We had quite a few things to test in FP1, mostly for evaluation and for the long-term development of the car. It was a very challenging day for the guys in the garage, with quite a few things to change in a short time, but they did great. The conditions, with a green track and a lot more warmth than we’ll have in qualifying and the race, were not the easiest but I am pleased about our work. It’s always a good experience to drive an F1 car, especially after getting the feeling for it back in Bahrain.”
Antonio Giovinazzi - FP2: 1:38.564, P17
“It’s been a relatively straightforward Friday, although our long runs were cut short by the red flag. I jumped back in the car after sitting out of FP1 and I got up to speed quickly in the first part of the session. We have some things to improve, as always on a Friday, but if we make the step forward we expect we should be in a better position. Let’s see what qualifying has in store and how we are going to do tomorrow.”
Schumacher finally got a full F1 session under his belt, taking over the reins from Magnussen for FP1. He acquitted himself well too, no incidents marring his day’s work. He finished ahead of Fittipaldi but the Brazilian was running a spec designed for the sole purpose of analysing the data gathered with the 2021 car in mind. In FP2, the Dane jumped back in his cockpit and had a decent session until he was summoned to see the stewards. He was handed a reprimand for completing an additional lap after the chequered flag had been out.
Pietro Fittipaldi - FP1: 1:44.069, P19; FP2: 1:39.027, P19
“In FP1 we were trying things for 2021, so it was interesting to see how the car handled. For FP2 we went back to our standard car for this weekend focusing on more performance running, as FP1 we had prioritised long runs. So that’s when I got my first feel for the car this weekend. It was a bit of a crazy session. I had a yellow flag on my push lap on the softs on low fuel. I had to back off and push again. Then when we were going to start our long run, I saw the car of Kimi (Raikkonen) going on fire, so that meant we couldn’t get all the laps we had wanted in. It was still a good session and I was able to understand a lot of things. We have to focus now and hopefully we can make a step forward tomorrow. Overall, I’ve arrived a lot more confident into this race weekend, whether I’m in traffic or running around other cars, even with my procedures – my driving in general I’m a lot more confident with. All that definitely helps.”
Mick Schumacher – FP1: 1:41.235, P18
“I would say things went pretty smoothly today in FP1. I was getting used to the car – it’s such a big step from Formula 2 up into Formula 1, but I’m happy everything went well. I felt comfortable with every switch and then every switch change in the car. I started off on the hardest compound and got to do a few consecutive laps which was really good, every lap really counts as you’re building up the pace and learning where you can push into each corner. It was really just a matter of time and getting the laps in. We then went onto the softer tyre, which was a huge jump - the difference in compound is something you really feel strongly. It was cool, really nice. I’m really looking forward to getting back into the car on Tuesday at the test.”
Kevin Magnussen - FP2: 1:38.504, P16
“I’d say it was a decent FP2. I actually thought the car felt better than it has in recent weekends, so that was nice to see. Hopefully we can build on that and find a bit more performance on the soft tyres. I think we were very strong on the mediums. We’ll see if there’s anything special we can do for the race on Sunday. First, we have to see how our pace is, we need to see if we’re in line with the pace of Alfa Romeo and quicker than Williams. I think it’s been a good day though, now we have to try and build on that.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“It was quite an abnormal Friday for us with three different drivers – one doing his first FP1 and the other taking part in just his second grand prix. Let’s start with Mick (Schumacher), he did a good job this morning for his first time in our car. I think it’s fantastic to have Mick Schumacher participating in his first grand prix weekend in our car – that’s great for everyone at Haas F1. He did a solid job, he did what he was supposed to do, and he kept his nose clean. I think he learned a lot over the 90-minutes. We’re looking forward to Tuesday’s test with him. Pietro (Fittipaldi) started his second weekend with us. He worked on some testing in FP1 for 2021, so his lap times were not of any importance to us, we were working to get data. He had a lock-up in FP2, lost a few laps, but otherwise it was a solid performance. Finally, Kevin (Magnussen) – it was just as normal. He came back and did his job; it was pretty good considering he missed out in FP1. He surprised us and put in an extra lap at the end after the chequered to make sure he got as many laps in as he could."
Russell resumed driving duties for his old team and soon settled back in down at Williams. He beat his team mate in both sessions which was job number one, but did come back to the pits with a smoking car, the MGU-K likely to blame, which could mean a long night for his pit crew. Latifi had a quieter day of things, and will hope to build on this performance tomorrow as he seeks to finally out-qualify Russell on a Saturday.
George Russell – FP1: 1:40.446, P16; FP2: 1:38.817, P18
"It was nice to be back, to see all of the team as this is where I have been for the last 18 months. We are all working hard to try and end the season strong. Throughout the sessions we struggled on pace, and Kimi (Räikkönen) and Kevin (Magnussen) looked really fast out there. We still have a lot of work to do for tomorrow to improve the car to fight for Q2, especially after having FP2 cut short. Our focus is to set the car up for Sunday so that we can go out there and give it our all."
Nicholas Latifi - FP1: 1:41.063, P17; FP2: 1:39.132, P20
"It was quite a busy last FP1 of the year with a lot of important data for us to gather. Our programme today was focused on next year, rather than optimising performance for this weekend. However, we were expecting a bit of a challenge coming into this weekend from the nature of this track. We know the kind of corners that it has, and the layout is not ideal for our cars’ characteristics. We can make it better as we have an idea on the things that we need to improve, it’s just about getting them into place and seeing what we can achieve tomorrow."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"An interesting day during which we got a final chance to look at next year’s Pirelli tyres. It was good to welcome George back and he was able to spend some time in FP1 refamiliarising himself with the FW43. We spent the warmer afternoon session conducting some background work before we moved on to the weekend preparation work in FP2. As usual our main focus was on tyres as we worked on preparing the C5 compound for a qualifying lap and then managing the degradation on the harder compounds at high fuel. Finding a car balance to achieve both will not be easy, but we will work on it tonight.
"George’s FP2 session finished early with a suspected MGU-K issue, which we are currently investigating."
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"Together with the teams we had another chance to collect some useful data during FP2 about our 2021 tyres in the C4 compound. We will now analyse this data before the tyres for next year are seen again in pre-season testing. As is normal with the schedule here in Abu Dhabi, FP2 was also the key chance for the teams to learn about the tyres ahead of the race, when the sun will be setting and the temperatures will gradually fall until the chequered flag. Track temperatures in FP1 were 12-14°C higher in comparison to FP2, making it not so relevant for qualifying and the race. We have seen gaps closer than expected between the hard and medium, making them valuable for different strategies during the race. We did notice some graining on the soft, especially on the front, but we expect this to improve over the weekend as the teams fine-tune their setups. The medium compound might play a key role for qualifying tomorrow: it will be interesting to see who will try to get through Q2 on the Yellow tyre."