The drivers and teams report back on all the action from Friday practice at the Formula 1 2018 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix...
What the teams said – Friday in Abu Dhabi
A mixed day for the champions. Hamilton called his car “unhappy” as he ran wide and struggled for pace. But Bottas pushed Red Bull close in FP1 and went fastest in second practice, showing his skill around Yas Marina once again. Even better news was that the Silver Arrows were kinder to their tyres on long runs than they've tended to be of late, meaning they are well set up ahead of the weekend.
Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:39.543, P4; FP2: 1:37.443, P4
"Overall, it's been a good day; even though the first session was not great. The track was very green in the beginning, so there was a lot of sliding around and - just like everyone else - we were struggling with the tyres. There's a big difference in track temperature between the two sessions; the conditions in FP2 are much more representative of qualifying and the race, so in that respect FP1 and FP3 don't really tell you a whole lot. We made some really good changes over the break and I was much happier with the car in FP2, but there's still a lot of work to do. Red Bull looked quick today, they're usually fast in practice and in the race, so I have no doubts it will be the same this weekend."
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:39.452, P3; FP2: 1:37.236, P1
"FP2 was really good, the car felt like I could trust it and drive it the way I want. FP1 was less good, but I think that's pretty usual here. The track is very green when we first go out and it's much hotter during the day than it is in the evening session. So I'm glad we got the car to work well in the evening session as it is very difficult to try out set-up changes in FP3 because it is so hot. We definitely learned a lot from the runs we did today, especially in the evening, and there are plenty of things we can adjust overnight to find a good set-up for qualifying and the race. It's nice to be on top of the timesheets, but we now need to build on that, we need to try and make the right set-up changes and I also need to find more performance from myself. My goal for the weekend is to repeat last year's result, but there's still plenty of work to do."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"We had a lot of 2019 test and development items on both cars in FP1 so that was a very busy session although we were still able to do a reasonable amount of the normal race preparation. We also ran through a number of checks on Lewis's power unit and so far it all looks normal which is good news. You always struggle a bit more with overheating in FP1 but other than that, the car seemed to be working ok. In FP2 we had a more normal programme, the car seemed a bit more competitive, especially on a long run and it feels like we've got a decent platform to work with. It's nice coming here and not having to worry about the championships but the team and both drivers are wanting to finish the season in style, so we'll be attacking the weekend with our normal focus and determination. This is a race where qualifying is very important and from the times today, it looks like it's going to be quite tight between Ferrari, Red Bull and us. We've definitely not got everything out of the package today so we will work hard overnight as we'll need every last bit if we want to get the cars on the front row for the race on Sunday."
Ferrari returned to their early season form of not showing their true hand on Fridays. The Scuderia spent much of FP1 gathering data for next season and then ran their hypersoft qualifying simulations earlier than their rivals in FP2, when the track had yet to evolve. It will be interesting to see if they can turn the wick up tomorrow and get on the pace of their rivals.
Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:40.453, P8; FP2: 1:37.569, P6
“I think today has been ok; obviously we are not quick enough yet, but we did improve between the two sessions, track conditions came towards us and hopefully tomorrow we will be better placed and we’ll try to do our best. I think on Sunday a lot will depend on the tyres. We tried to work a bit on the car today and we still have some margin in terms of performance, but we need to find another extra bit of pace. However, I think we should be able to improve for the race. I was surprised by the fact that the tyres allow you a second attempt on a fast lap today. This is the last race of the season and I remain focused on this year. There’s still a few months to the beginning of a new championship, so I think we can still learn something from the car we have now”.
Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:40.417, P7; FP2: 1:37.461, P5
“Today, the first session of free practice was a bit tricky in the hotter conditions. However, in the second session after sunset, we were able to improve our pace and the feeling with the car was pretty OK. Twilight conditions do not affect driving at all, only the tyres get a little bit cooler. If you look at the time sheet, you will see that everybody is pretty close, with six drivers within three tenths of a second, so we see where we can end up tomorrow”
A good day for the Bulls. Having said that they didn't expect to be too sharp here, in many ways they looked the pick of the bunch. Kind to their tyres on long runs, the Bulls also proved quick on qualifying simulations, with Verstappen shading his team mate in both sessions.
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:38.945, P2; FP2: 1:37.428, P3
“It was a pretty good Friday and it went well for both cars. Hopefully it will stay the same tomorrow as it’s all very close at the moment. The tyres are certainly degrading in the heat which I think will help us. The hypersoft shows a bit more wear on the fronts and the ultra and super has more on the rears. We’re normally in as good a shape as anyone, if not better, with the tyres so it will be important to stay on top of that and take advantage during the race. We looked strong on the long runs today and although there is still a bit to find on the short runs, the exciting thing is that there’s more to come from the car. Since Monaco I’ve been hoping for a strong weekend and now this is my last chance with the Team, I want it even more. It’s only Friday so I don’t know what’s possible in the race yet, but hopefully we can be somewhere on the podium if we perform well in qualifying.”
Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:38.491, P1; FP2: 1:37.280, P2
“The car seems to be working really well again, better than expected just like we experienced in Brazil. I felt positive right from the start which usually results in a good Friday performance. It was mostly smooth apart from a little moment I had and bottomed out on the long kerb. Luckily there wasn’t too much damage so we carried on as usual. I don’t expect these kerbs to be an issue during the race as we should not be going that wide with our line. As we have seen already this season we are good at managing the tyres. I would expect this to be another circuit where tyre management is key to a good result, hopefully it plays into our hands again. Both long runs and short runs look good for the tyres so I’m pleased with how it has gone so far. A good final Friday of 2018, now time to focus on qualifying.”
Ocon looked on top form, finishing in the top 10 in both sessions as he looked to put Brazil’s controversial incident behind him. Perez was uncharacteristically off the pace of his team mate, although he did raise a few eyebrows after nearly tangling with Verstappen in the pits after being released into his path.
Sergio Perez – FP1: 1:41.075, P13; FP2: 1:38.806, P14
“It wasn’t the easiest day for me. The car had some issues this morning and I couldn’t get comfortable with the balance. We think there could have been some damage. The afternoon was a bit better, but we had to work really hard to get on top of the balance issues I had with the car. I still think we can be in the top ten tomorrow because we normally pick up some speed between Friday and Saturday when we’ve gone through all the data. ”
Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:40.102, P5; FP2: 1:38.402, P10
“It was a solid day and being fifth in the first session shows that we are in good shape. The car was strong this evening too. We know where we can improve and I think we can find some more performance tonight before qualifying. The midfield is really close, but I think we can target Q3. The race pace looks competitive as well and I think we can end the season on a high note.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“It was a bit of a mixed day. We had two routine sessions on Esteban’s side of the garage, where everything ran to plan, gathering set-up information and understanding the tyre compounds. We struggled a little more with the balance on Sergio’s car at first, but we were able to improve it for FP2. There is plenty of work to do ahead of qualifying. The conditions varied significantly between FP1 and FP2 here, with the track 15 degrees cooler in the evening. FP2 focused our minds on understanding the conditions for qualifying and the race, but we’ll need to offset all our data for FP3 when the track will be hot again. That’s the same for everyone and we’ll need to do our best to be ahead of a very tight midfield.”
Both Hulkenberg and Sainz had moments – Hulkenberg locking up and running wide in FP2, while Sainz half spun in first practice but fortunately kept his car mostly in one piece. Having focussed on long run pace on the ultrasoft rubber in FP1, the team looked reassuringly quick in FP2 which shows a change of fortunes after lacking one-lap pace in recent months.
Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:41.023, P12; FP2: 1:38.230, P8
“It’s been a relatively good Friday as we were able to get our work completed. It is a little bit hard to judge where we stand as the track, and therefore the car, felt quite different between FP1 and FP2. It’s always the case in Abu Dhabi as the conditions change a lot between the afternoon and evening. There’s still some work to do on the speed, but overall I think we are in good shape for the rest of the weekend.”
Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:40.588, P9; FP2: 1:38.511, P12
“The conditions between FP1 and FP2 were very different as always. The first session wasn’t very representative with poor car balance and grip, but when night fell we were able to pick up more grip and improve the balance. We have some work to do as it looks like it won’t be a straightforward race strategy, so preparing for good tyre management is very important. We are positive going into tomorrow.”
Marcin Budkowski, Executive Director
“Yas Marina is a great place to hold a race, but it’s not an easy circuit by any means. There are several tight sections but the long back straight requires some trade-offs in set-up. Added into the mix are very different track and ambient conditions between the afternoon and evening sessions, which makes FP1 somehow unrepresentative. We were however able to have a straightforward day, with no major issues, apart from a small off-track excursion for Carlos. We did however manage to repair the car in time for FP2. We improved the balance of the cars over the day and both drivers felt we went in the right direction. We collected valuable data on the tyres, which will be helpful in finalising our strategy for the race.”
Grosjean complained about “light” steering and hit traffic but still managed to be ‘best of the rest’ in FP2, putting in some impressive long runs to boot. Magnussen backed his team mate up admirably, in what could be a strong weekend for Haas. They might have kissed goodbye to P4 in the constructors’, but look to be finishing the season on a high.
Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:40.663, P10; FP2: 1:38.060, P7
“It was a pretty good Friday. I think it was a good improvement from the afternoon into the evening. I was pretty happy with the way the evening session went, which is most important for the weekend, so that was quite positive. FP1 and FP3 aren’t representative, whereas FP2 is, so I’m glad the car worked well there. We have a few things to look into to make sure we get the best of the car tomorrow and prepare for the race the best way we can. Generally, we’re happy with where we are.”
Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:40.235, P6; FP2: 1:38.318, P9
“I guess it was a pretty good Friday. It’s always tricky here with FP1 in bright daylight and the track being so hot, then for FP2 it cools down a lot in the evening. It’s not that easy to learn too much between the two sessions because of the temperature difference. The car seemed to be OK in both sessions, so that’s good news. It’s more the long run on the hypersoft tyre, which was the tricky one. It’s difficult to make those tyres last more than five laps. The front tyres take a big hit. Overall though, I’m happy about how today went.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“Practice went pretty well today. We didn’t have any big issues. We successfully ran through all of our programs. Let’s hope we continue on that path in qualifying tomorrow and have a good final race on Sunday.”
The last race weekend at McLaren for both drivers – for now – but it didn’t get off to a flying start. Alonso had one big moment in FP2, running straight on at Turn 20 before he settled down and put in a few decent laps to wind up solidly in the midfield. Vandoorne though spent most of FP2 in the pits and failed to set a representative time on the hypersofts as a result.
Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:42.313, P19; FP2: 1:38.725, P13
“In such hot conditions FP1 wasn’t very representative, so it gave us a little time to experiment with some stuff for next year’s concept in terms of car development. In FP2 we concentrated more on this weekend, testing two types of tyres and got some useful information. We’ll be more ready for tomorrow and we’ll see where we are.
“If the track is going to be that hot again tomorrow for FP3, we’ll do some more tests for next year, and hopefully gather some good information for the team.
“This weekend is going to be tough for us. We need to be realistic. Friday is normally a little bit better as people are hiding, and we expect qualifying to be difficult.”
Stoffel Vandoorne - FP1: 1:42.114, P18; FP2: 1:39.938, P18
“It wasn’t a great final Friday for me! We had quite a few problems to go through and lost a lot of time in FP2 in the garage, so I didn’t really get a feel for the high-fuel running.
“It wasn’t the optimal day, but I hope tomorrow we can put all the bits together and have a clean day, which would be nice to finish off with.
“I’ve had a pretty good run of races over the past few weeks, so hopefully if we manage to put everything together we can do that again. It looks like the tyres are a little bit tricky again, so there’s going to be a bit of a question mark for me going into the race, but I’m here to enjoy it, have fun and make the best of it.
“There’s always a bit of pressure to maximise everything, and even though it’s my last race I still want to do the best I can.”
Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director
“We have mixed feelings about today.
“Unfortunately, we had a small issue on Stoffel’s car in FP2, which curtailed his run-plan. On Fernando’s side of the garage, we had a trouble-free day and made consistent progress from free practice one to the end of the day.
“It’s obviously hard to make predictions about tomorrow, since the midfield is very tight. Nevertheless, we feel encouraged by our performance today on both high and low fuel.”
Ericsson ran wide in FP1, hit the artificial grass and kept his foot in. The result was a half slide across the track into the barriers and a new front wing for his troubles. Giovinazzi was his sidekick in FP1 and had a quiet session, before handing the car back to Leclerc for the evening. The youngster looked keen to get into the action – rather too keen, as he ran wide and rejoined the track via the sausage kerb at full tilt, and was fortunate not to damage his C37 in his eagerness.
Marcus Ericsson - FP1: 1:41.928, P17; FP2: 1:39.503, P17
“The sessions today were quite tricky, and I am still not completely satisfied with the feeling in the car. We have some work ahead of us to understand what is missing for us to unlock our full potential as we have done in the past weekends. We will work hard tonight and come back stronger tomorrow.”
Antonio Giovinazzi - FP1: 1:41.662, P16
“I am pleased to have concluded my final free practice session for the team in a positive way. We completed the planned programme and I gave my feedback for the team to be able to make some good steps forward for the upcoming sessions this weekend. It has been a great opportunity to get to know the team better, and I look forward to continuing on this path.”
Charles Leclerc - FP2: 1:38.831, P15
“We have some work ahead of us to understand why we are so competitive in certain conditions and a bit less in others. We have an idea of how we can maximise our potential for the weekend, so we will work on this with the goal of being up to speed for qualifying tomorrow.”
Gasly looked competent once more, finishing P11 in both sessions, which wouldn’t be a bad result come qualifying. His car did overheat and catch alight in FP1, fortunately nice and close to the mechanics who could deal with the situation swiftly. Hartley struggled to nail down a perfect lap, complaining about cooling tyres. But with plenty of laps under his belt, he should feel more confident around Yas Marina tomorrow.
Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:40.671, P11; FP2: 1:38.506, P11
“It was a positive Friday for us as I finished P11 in both sessions. The first feeling with the car is pretty good, but we need to put everything together because we are still lacking some performance to make it inside the top 10. It makes it a great challenge ahead of tomorrow, so we need to work hard tonight to find the best compromise to get our best performance for qualifying and have a good race on Sunday.”
Brendon Hartley - FP1: 1:41.137, P14; FP2: 1:38.957, P16
“Overall it was a positive start to the weekend, a pretty good day for us! We’ve put a lot of focus on the long run high fuel tyre-life, which is an area we struggled with at the last race. I didn’t really have a clean low fuel run on the hypersoft and I had a little issue with the car, but the real positive was the high fuel running. The race pace looked really strong for us and we’ll keep working overnight.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer
“After the last event, where we qualified well and our race pace wasn’t as expected, we put in a lot of effort into understanding our delta pace between short and long runs. The majority of the work today was to understand that further, based on the analysis from last week in order to gear the car up for race pace, but at the same time not compromise the short run pace.
"We were quite aggressive with our tyre choice here and we’ve predominately run on hypersofts, with both cars running two hypersofts in FP1. Brendon had a fairly productive session where we confirmed much of our analysis. Unfortunately for Pierre, he had an issue with the gearbox on his final run. We understood what the problem was, but to ensure there was no risk in FP2 we elected to change the gearbox.
"FP2 is probably one of the most important sessions of the weekend because it’s the only session prior to qualifying and the race where track conditions are relevant. The focus was then on trying to optimise the car over the short run but with the car setup for a high fuel run. The car is working well for Pierre, but Brendon didn’t quite get the lap together, so there’s definitely more to come from his side of the garage. The competitiveness over the short run is looking where we expect, and over the long runs I think it’s fair to say that it’s improved compared to recent events. We still need to complete a more detailed analysis tonight to make sure that is the case.
"The big issue that all teams are facing is the graining on the hypersoft, it’s a particularly weak tyre on high fuel and it looks like there’s not much that can be done to manage it. This will make a big difference in the race between the drivers starting in P10 and P11 – the tyres will make for an interesting race for those at the tail end of the top 10.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“On the PU front, we had a trouble-free day and night, in the first two sessions of the final race of the season. The team opted to change the gearbox on Gasly’s car after the first session, following the incident in FP1, but fortunately this did not affect the PU in any way.”
Kubica took over Sirotkin’s cockpit in FP1, collecting data for use in 2019. Come FP2, the Russian had his car back but failed to find any form and propped up the leaderboard. Stroll didn’t fare much better in P19, which rather sums up Williams’ season.
Robert Kubica – FP1: 1.41.992, P20
"We completed a productive FP1. The programme was orientated at evaluating next year and we collected some valuable data during the session. It was not easy as I hadn’t driven the car for nearly four months but from a test point of view it was good. I am looking forward to Tuesday and Wednesday as it’ll be an important test for everybody. It will be nice to be back in the car and working towards the goal of Australia."
Sergey Sirotkin - FP2: 1:40.935, P20
"It was a tough session, probably the most difficult FP2 in the season. It is a demanding track for the tyre and it’s difficult to put the car balance all together throughout the lap. We must analyse the data tonight, so we have a lot of work to do. Tomorrow is a new day, it’s the last race and I am looking forward to it."
Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:41.493, P15; FP2: 1:40.046, P19
"We have nothing too different this weekend and we are still more or less in the same positions. We will see what tomorrow brings and we will try and break it down tonight and look for some more lap time. I don't want to come to conclusions today, as tomorrow is a new day, anything is possible in qualifying and maybe there will be a surprise or two. It is great to be here in Abu Dhabi, I enjoy the track, which is unique, the infrastructure is great, it is a great destination to wrap up the season and it is certainly a party scene."
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer
"It’s great to be back in Abu Dhabi and to be reaching the end of a very long season. Practice in Abu Dhabi is tricky because FP1 is in very hot, sunny conditions at 1pm whereas FP2 in the evening is far more representative of qualifying and the race. As usual, we did a lot of experimental work in FP1 with both Robert and Lance. Robert was in the car for his third FP1 of the season, which was planned from the outset, but is clearly beneficial given his confirmed drive for next year. Our performance in FP1 was unfortunately better than it ended up in FP2, which is the one that matters more. We have a lot of homework to do tonight to understand that issue and to be stronger for qualifying tomorrow."
Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing
“With the considerable performance gap of more than a second between the hypersoft and ultrasoft, we’re likely to see most drivers go through Q2 on the pink tyre tomorrow, as it’s a viable race tyre as well. This is a slightly bigger gap than we expected, while the gap of around 0.3 seconds between ultrasoft and supersoft is more in line with our expectations. Beyond that, there were no real surprises today, with the teams concentrating their work on the representative conditions of FP2. The gaps seem really close, so the teams will be studying the data carefully in order to see how strategy can make a difference. Overtaking is never especially easy here, so qualifying will be particularly important.”