What the teams said – Friday in Saudi Arabia
Hamilton topped both session at Jeddah on Friday, and was ably backed up by his team mate. That’s the good news. The slightly less positive thing is that the W12 wasn’t nearly as happy under the lights as it had been in the hotter afternoon session, and that will cause some head scratching over night. But with their rivals also struggling as the sun went down, all is not lost yet – but equally, despite the results, Mercedes won’t be feeling overly comfortable heading into qualifying.
READ MORE: Hamilton wary of Red Bull one-lap pace despite topping both Friday sessions at ‘incredibly fast’ Jeddah circuit
Lewis Hamilton – FP1: 1:29.786, P1; FP2: 1:29.018, P1
"The track was rapid - unbelievably quick and with a lot of grip as well. Once you get in the rhythm, it's beautiful to drive. The grip was very high from the moment we went out and was similar in both sessions. Traffic can be a problem here, it's Monaco-esque and the closing distances to other cars was definitely getting dangerous. We tried a couple of things with our setup, and although we aren't rapid on single run pace compared to the others, our long run pace seemed pretty good.
"The medium and hard tyre both performed well, the Soft is probably a little too soft for the high-speed sections, it feels like the tyre is giving up slightly. I'm generally happy with the setup, we changed a few things in between sessions, and we'll work with the guys in the factory back home to make sure we have the correct set up for tomorrow."
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:30.009, P3; FP2: 1:29.079, P2
"The track is really cool, it's full-gas and close to the walls at high-speed which is exactly what you want and enjoy - it's an adrenaline rush. In FP1 the track was better than I expected, a little bit dusty but thanks to the other racing categories running here this weekend, it was improving step by step. They have done a nice job with the tarmac here, it was very grippy even though it's new and with no real bumps, nice and smooth.
"It was good to get confirmation of the grip level here, you base your starting setup on the simulations and estimated grip level, and we started in a good place. The biggest surprise today was the tyres - they lasted well and I'm not sure we'll see many stops on Sunday. All the compounds seemed to work well here, even though you could feel the Softs giving up slightly in the high-speed corners."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"As with any new track, a significant part of the first session is about understanding whether you've made the correct assumptions on grip and tyre behaviour, and in the warmer conditions of FP1 we had the car working well. The second session was more of a challenge in terms of single lap pace, we've got some ideas on how to tackle that and we'll be running our simulator in Brackley overnight exploring a few directions. The long run pace seemed competitive, Lewis was a little happier than Valtteri, and we finished the day with quite different setups on the cars so there are some interesting comparisons to draw out of that data. It does seem like the car has good potential around this circuit but we've clearly got a bit of fine-tuning to do which will keep us busy overnight."
Verstappen looked strong from the off when running the hard compound tyre, and likewise was very happy on the medium in FP2. But he didn’t improve on the times set on those tyres in either session once he bolted on the softs – although traffic in FP2 played a part. As for Perez, he was well off the pace of the front runners in FP1, but has been known to take his time to get up to speed. Some moderate progress in FP2 was a welcome sight, and he needs to continue in that direction tomorrow.
READ MORE: Horner calls Red Bull’s pace ‘really encouraging’ as they prepare for decisive battle in Jeddah
Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:29.842, P2; FP2: 1:29.213, P4
“Overall, it’s a really cool track, there are a lot of fast corners and it’s fun to drive. We struggled to get heat into the tyres in FP2, which we will of course look into. Then we made a few changes from FP1 to FP2 which didn’t quite work but hopefully we can find the right balance come qualifying tomorrow. There are of course a lot of things to work on and improve so we’ll see what we can do to get more pace out of the car overnight. Looking ahead to qualifying, I think it might be quite difficult with the traffic but in general it’s hard to tell how Saturday is going to go as anything can happen but we’ll push hard and give it everything.”
Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:30.960, P11; FP2: 1:29.768, P9
"It was a lot of fun out there today, it’s a really nice circuit, it is very fast and enjoyable to drive. It is going to be tricky in qualifying with traffic management, we saw that a bit when everyone was on the soft tyre at the end of FP2. I think it will be an interesting race because this track is challenging, if you make a mistake it can be extremely costly. In qualifying it will all be about trying to be in the right place at the right time. On the long runs we didn’t have enough laps to get a real read on how we will perform so I don’t think my time on the soft tyres was reflective on where we actually are. I think there is plenty more to come from the car, so hopefully we can find the right balance and pace to be in contention in qualifying. It is going to be hard to achieve the perfect lap out there but we also have a long race ahead of us on Sunday and anything can happen. We just have to stay up there and be on it as much as possible.”
It was a solid day for Ferrari until Leclerc brought out the red flags late on in FP2. The Monegasque lost the rear through Turn 23, and with a limited run off area hit the barriers at pace. He got out of the car unaided, confirming he was okay on the radio – but the team will have quite the job to repair his SF21 overnight. As for Sainz, he looked comfortable here and was solidly in the top 10 in both sessions, and ahead of the McLarens to boot.
WATCH: Massive Leclerc crash brings out red flags in FP2 in Saudi Arabia
Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:30.600, P7; FP2: 1:29.772, P10
"A day that unfortunately did not end up the way we would have wanted. On the upside, we ran through out planned programme and completed all the tests we wanted to in our two sessions. The potential is there and if we can put it all together tomorrow, we should have a good day. I am sorry for the team who will have to put in a lot of work to have the car ready tomorrow and I will do everything I can to bring home the best possible result to thank them. I really liked the track itself and I’d say that the best part to drive is around the high speed section. It is however unforgiving and there is no room for any mistakes. The most challenging part is getting into the right rhythm with all the blind corners there are. But, as soon as you do, it’s even more exciting to drive. The grip was better than I expected, and everyone working at the track did a great job in cleaning it up and making it significantly less dusty than it was yesterday. What was peculiar was the track evolution, which was different to what we usually see at city circuits. Tomorrow, it will be key to go out at the right time in qualifying and get a clean lap by avoiding traffic, as the track is very narrow."
Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:30.564, P6; FP2: 1:29.589, P7
"Very exciting day in general, just getting to know the track and getting used to such a different kind of circuit. Going at these speeds between walls is really intense and gives you a big rush of adrenaline. The car felt quite good today so now it’s all about fine tuning, understanding the tyres, the setup of the car and what is the right strategy for the rest of the weekend. Blind corners are obviously an issue whenever someone is cooling down and you are on a push lap because of the huge speed difference so we all need to be super focused even when we are not pushing. The track leaves very little margin for mistakes and Charles was unfortunate today. I’m sure the team can fix his car for tomorrow and we can both push hard come quali."
Norris ran the soft tyres first up in FP2, setting his lap times before the track was fully evolved which explains his slightly lowly position. But with traffic a big factor in that second session, Ricciardo wasn’t too much further ahead as the Aussie struggled to get a clean lap in. There is clearly more to come from the team, but whether they can catch up to Ferrari remains to be seen.
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:30.608, P8; FP2: 1:29.968, P11
“I think the track’s good fun. It’s a challenging circuit but that does make it really exciting. It’s got good flow, good grip, so I’m happy with the layout. I think it’s quite different to what we’ve already been to, as well, so that’s always fun.
“I think we’ve still got a bit more to show from a pace point of view, and I’m confident we can do it. I look at our competitors and they look pretty quick today, but I do think we can match that. So, I’m optimistic ahead of tomorrow and, of course, because it’s a new track, I’m sure there’ll be a bit of improvement. There are still some corners where I can find a bit of time. So, we’ll keep at it.”
Lando Norris - FP1: 1:31.029, P13; FP2: 1:30.004, P12
"A fun but difficult first day! Fun because it’s a new circuit, a new challenge, and exciting to get out there and feel the circuit. Definitely one of the trickier ones to put everything together and get the accuracy needed to be close to the walls – but not too close, obviously. It was a difficult day because it's been a bit of a challenge to find a good balance with the car, so far. So, we have some work to do tonight to try to be a bit better for tomorrow. The confidence is there – at least, I feel confident to push the car, but we just have to get it in a better window. Let's see what we can do tomorrow."
Andrea Stella, Racing Director
“The Jeddah Corniche Circuit is a really interesting track. According to Lando and Daniel, it’s a lot of fun to drive – but it also offers some real challenges for car set-up. We had a good day, with clean sessions and were able to explore our set-up options, while also learning about the tyres on this unusually high-grip surface for a street circuit.
“Looking at the timesheets, we can see that, as has been the case throughout the second half of the season, the midfield is very compact. Some of our rivals look very quick and we’ll have to be at our very best to understand what we’ve learnt in practice, put it all together and get ourselves into a strong position to qualify well and race for good points.”
Gasly looked quick in both sessions, eye-catchingly so. But having admitted on Thursday than his car is far better over one lap then with race pace, will that speed be present on Sunday? As for Tsunoda, he struggled to get to grips with the track in the first session, but found a better rhythm under the lights which bodes very well for tomorrow's evening qualifying session.
READ MORE: Gasly thrilled with AlphaTauri’s short-run performance as Tsunoda hails 'special’ Jeddah track
Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:30.263, P4; FP2: 1:29.099, P3
“I really like driving this track, the corners are amazing and there’s a big rush of adrenalin when you’re out there. The whole day has been really good for us and I’m pretty happy with the pace so far. We know that on Saturday we usually do quite well, so I’m fairly confident for tomorrow, as I think we can still improve. I don’t feel quite as positive about the long runs though, so we still have some work to do to prepare for the race on Sunday.”
Yuki Tsunoda - FP1: 1:31.099, P15; FP2: 1:29.597, P8
“I’ve enjoyed today a lot as it’s a really fun track, especially the first sector, I’ve never driven a circuit with corners like this before, so it’s been pretty special. I think the pace today has been quite good. The hard tyre already works well here and then I think we need to adapt the car a bit to the other compounds, so we’ve got some work to do. Overall, I think we’re looking quite strong so far. I didn’t manage to complete any long runs yet, but today’s performance makes me positive.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer
“As always, coming to a new track we have to spend some more time initially optimising the setup for the track characteristics and learning about the tyres. Predominately in FP1 the key was to work on the setup requirements to allow us to maximise the car’s potential for the rest of the weekend. The tyres look quite robust here, so we were able to take our learnings from the earlier session and modify our tyre allocation for FP2. The purpose of the second session was to continue our short runs, but also to start understanding the performance of the car on the longer runs, particularly after the challenges of last week. The track has developed a lot between the two sessions, meaning it was quite a struggle to stay on top of the balance of the car. We’ve gathered plenty of data today and for sure there is more lap time to find, so we’ll work hard tonight to get the car in the best place for Qualifying tomorrow.”
Alonso was one of very few drivers to get a clean lap in on the softs in FP2, which propelled him up the timing sheets. Ocon also looked comfortable here from the off, with the team carrying the momentum from their great result in Qatar last time out. But the pace of rivals AlphaTauri may worry them, despite Alpine having a decent buffer in the constructors' championship…
Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:31.023, P12; FP2: 1:29.555, P6
“It was a good Friday for us today. We gained a good understanding of the new track, which was the main aim for the day. It’s certainly not an easy circuit to master as it’s very fast and very demanding physically. Above all, I’d say it’s tough for mental efficiency and remaining focused for the whole lap, even on the straights where you have to keep an eye on slower cars ahead. You have to be absolutely on it here in every aspect. The grip was good from the start and I was quite impressed with that. We’ve seen new tracks in the past with poor grip, so it was a nice surprise here to be able to push straight away. Overall, it’s a fun place and the car seemed to go quite well. It is only Friday, but I expect qualifying to be fast and exciting to watch.”
Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:30.842, P9; FP2: 1:29.441, P5
“It was a fun day today, and I like the track. Every new track requires a lot of work to go into it and I think we got through quite a lot today. The circuit feels fast as expected, but it seems to have quite high grip as well, which was a nice surprise, especially coming to a street circuit. Formula 2 helped today by cleaning the tarmac before we drove in the afternoon. There are still quite a few unknowns for everybody in terms of setup and we will have to fine tune the cars tonight. I’m optimistic for tomorrow and it should be a good show for everyone.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“It’s been a very productive day. We came here well prepared from our simulation work and hit the ground running. We have worked with all the available tyre compounds today to understand what is best for Saturday and Sunday. There are no real complaints with the cars and both drivers are pretty happy – the circuit looks fun to drive. One comment, which you don’t often hear in F1, is that it needs a lot of mental concentration. It’s a very demanding track, physically and mentally, so I think the race is going to be long and hard and keeping concentration is going to be key.”
A steady if unspectacular day for Aston Martin, with both drivers keeping their sessions clean but not making too much of a dent on the leader board. Stroll wasn’t too happy with his car in FP1, but in the cooler evening conditions seemed to find a balance more to his liking. As for Vettel, he dropped back in the evening, but was one of a number of drivers to suffer the effects of traffic out there, which explained why he was off the pace.
Sebastian Vettel – FP1: 1:30.886, P10; FP2: 1:30.502, P16
“It is a fast and fun track to drive, but it is difficult to hook up a lap. I was able to get into a rhythm this afternoon and felt confident in the car, but it became more tricky in the night-time conditions. We were exploring the limits more and trying a few things, so we need to review tonight and find a good direction for the rest of the weekend. Tomorrow will be an interesting challenge because it is a long circuit with a lot of corners taken flat, so there is little time to breathe and no room for errors. The timing of the laps in qualifying will also be crucial and I am excited to take on the challenge.”
Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:31.044, P14; FP2: 1:30.442, P15
“It was cool to experience the circuit for the first time today and it is a very fast track. I think we can see that overtaking will be challenging on Sunday, so qualifying will be very important. We do not have a big braking zone to help overtaking, but that means the track has a real flow to it. Getting comfortable across the lap will be key to a good lap time because there are a few areas where, if you really push, you can find time. We have a decent starting point with the car, but we will work overnight to make progress and ensure we head into qualifying in a good place.”
Giovinazzi wound up a very impressive fifth in FP1, but fell back to what seemed a more realistic position in FP2 when most teams ran similar fuel loads. Nonetheless, that Alfa looked comfortably quicker than the likes of Williams and Haas, so the Italian and his wily team mate could find themselves battling the likes of Aston Martin tomorrow.
Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:31.296, P16; FP2: 1:30.276, P14
“It was an interesting first day on this track. It’s a very fast circuit, lots of fast corners which means it will not be easy to overtake without a big speed differential. I say a lot of fast corners, but there’s a lot more of them on the map than what it feels in the car. Only about half of them are actual corners, most of them are flat out and may as well be straights! Sure enough, at least this circuit feels different from many others and it was quite ok to drive. Dealing with traffic in qualifying will be tricky, especially in the fast parts, but we’ll manage.”
Antonio Giovinazzi - FP1: 1:30.318, P5; FP2: 1:30.110, P13
“I really hit the ground running with this track, I had a great feeling and I am really happy about the day. I was a bit worried that, coming from a Formula E test, I’d be struggling to regain the feeling with this car and the pace, but that wasn’t the case. The car felt great from the start in FP1 and we can build on this for tomorrow. I had a good feeling in the quali runs in FP2 and we can make another step forward tonight. The track is really fast and fun and we were surprised by the amount of grip. When you have good grip on a street track, it’s really enjoyable – but we need to be focused as any small mistake can cost you a lot. I am looking forward to qualifying tomorrow, hopefully it’s going to be a strong day for us.”
Russell had a brief moment when his brake-by-wire failed, but fortunately it didn’t derail his progress and he was able to get a good haul of laps in. Latifi likewise had a quiet but productive day, although he won’t be happy to have lost out to Schumacher in both sessions. He needs to find a few tenths overnight if he wants to challenge for Q2 tomorrow.
READ MORE: 'Without Frank, I wouldn’t be here' – Bottas, Russell, Stroll and Latifi remember former boss Sir Frank Williams in Jeddah
George Russell – FP1: 1:31.343, P17; FP2: 1:30.506, P17
"It was very fun out there today. It is an incredibly fast track and it punishes you heavily if you make a mistake. You must be very precise with where you are positioning the car and tomorrow in Qualifying it will be very tricky. It will require lots of commitment on those one or two flying laps, particularly through the high-speed corners, so I am excited for that as I am sure it will be very exhilarating. The car was feeling nice to drive today and it was quite close in the midfield with other teams such as Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo. I think a lot of people were struggling to get the tyres working on the first timed lap, particularly on the soft Pirelli compound, as preparation doesn’t seem so straightforward. If you get the tyres in the right window, I think there will be plenty of opportunity so we will be putting a lot of emphasis on trying to get that right overnight."
Nicholas Latifi - FP1: 1:31.821, P19; FP2: 1:31.039, P19
"It is always nice to discover a new track, especially when it is a street circuit as you have to gauge the risk versus reward and find your marks, which means you really have to build it up lap-by-lap. There are some things to improve and clean up overnight, on both the driving side and with the car, to give me a bit more confidence heading into Qualifying tomorrow. Overall, however, we had two good sessions today and I think we can make some good steps for the race on Sunday."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"It’s still too early in the weekend to assess exactly how we are doing, but we feel we’ve had a decent day. The track has lived up to expectation and is fast and challenging. Unfortunately, there were some different tyre strategies amongst drivers today, which meant that there was heavy traffic at times, and therefore completing representative laps wasn’t always easy. However, we have made some good progress and can see opportunity for further improvement overnight. With all the sessions being late in the day, FP3 should be a useful session for working on the car set up ahead of qualifying.
"It will be interesting to see how easy overtaking is on Sunday and how this will play into people’s view on strategy. The track is already in a good state and the tyres are working well, which should make for an interesting weekend."
Schumacher was the first to glance the barriers, clipping them by such a fine margin that he was able to continue his lap unscathed. The same couldn’t quite be said for Mazepin, who spun late on in FP2 and nearly collected Hamilton, who was first onto the scene. Those incidents notwithstanding, the two rookies had a solid opening day as they try and take the fight to Williams tomorrow.
WATCH: Saudi Arabian GP FP2 - Hamilton avoids spinning Mazepin
Mick Schumacher – FP1: 1:31.525, P18; FP2: 1:30.652, P18
“It’s very quick and quite intense. I think we got to learn the track and understand it and now I’m looking forward to tomorrow. We were as close to the Williams as it looks but we know they’ll be able to turn up their engines more for qualifying so we’ll just have to wait and see – hopefully we’ll have a better car around the corners and catch up a bit. Track conditions are improving a lot as it was very dirty to begin with, so I expect there to be a lot of track evolution in general.”
Nikita Mazepin – FP1: 1:33.464, P20; FP2: 1:31.629, P20
“It’s a very different track to what we’ve experienced this year – and not only this year for me – but in my career. It’s a track that requires a lot of confidence and knowledge of where it’s going because a lot of the corners look the same. I was fortunate to be able to do laps this week in comparison to the week before last and I enjoyed it – I think there’s still a lot of pace to be found out there.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“First off, it’s always exciting to see a new track come to life – the Jeddah Corniche Circuit is no different, it looked good under the lights tonight. To finally get out there today and to get 87 laps in between the two sessions with our rookies is a positive. Track time is obviously at a premium, as is grip on such a new surface, but I think we used the day wisely to prepare ourselves for tomorrow’s qualifying session. There’s no doubt a lot of key learnings Mick and Nikita will take from today’s running, and together with the engineers we’ll see what we can do to further improve. A solid first day in Saudi Arabia.”
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"Free practice today was especially important at this brand new venue with such high speeds, but most of the drivers were surprised by how much grip there was right from the start of the day, although the track continued to evolve. With an emphasis on data collection, the teams ran all three compounds in both sessions today. In FP1, we noticed some graining, especially on the soft, and some blistering on all compounds, which was reduced in FP2 as the teams improved their knowledge of the circuit and optimised car setup. This trend is set to continue over the rest of the weekend. The drivers seemed particularly confident on the hard and medium tyres, which enabled them to push hard, whereas the soft tyre requires a bit more management and was less favoured, probably due to tread movement. The first read that the teams have on the tyres confirms the reasonably small performance gap here between the soft and the medium tyre, which will definitely have an effect on qualifying strategy tomorrow."
READ MORE: Pirelli share initial findings from Qatar Grand Prix tyre issue investigations