What the teams said – Friday in Abu Dhabi

Special Contributor

Becky Hart


Hamilton lost his fastest lap time in FP1 to track limits, but on the whole it was a decent opening salvo from the team. Roll on FP2 and things got interesting under the lights, with Hamilton looking very quick as he topped the timing sheets. His longer run pace wasn’t as fast – but it didn’t look like his engine was turned up to the max. As for Bottas, he ran wide on a number of occasions and even clipped the wall with his rear tyre as he pushed the racing line, but when he nailed his lap, he too was right up there.

READ MORE: Defending champion Hamilton says he 'feels great' after dominating FP2 in Abu Dhabi ahead of title showdown

Lewis Hamilton – FP1: 1:25.355, P3; FP2: 1:23.691, P1

"It's been a decent day, I like the changes they've made to the track - it's made it free-flowing and more enjoyable. It's obviously close between us all and a little unknown in terms of relative pace but I'm sure it's going to be super close, as it has been in the previous races. The car doesn't feel too bad, it started off in a good place and then got a bit worse in FP1. In FP2, it was little better with some of the changes we made. Now we just need to crunch through the data and try to figure out how we can improve, the target is always moving. On my long run, I was trying to follow the car ahead and it still wasn't easy here but it should be better than in the past. Overall I feel good, I feel great in my body and we made some positive steps setup-wise so we'll try to perfect it tonight and come back hard tomorrow."

Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:25.205, P2; FP2: 1:24.083, P3

"It was nice to get a feel of the modified layout, the track feels better than before with more flow and some increased overtaking opportunities. When I had a little moment on track, I went off-line where it's very dusty and I was a little too wide on the kerbs before that corner and paid for it in the next one - a nice drift!

"We changed the car quite a bit from FP1 to FP2 and it felt like a step forward so I'm comfortable overall with the car, but none of the laps today were amazing so there should still be more to come. We had a decent long run with the Medium tyre and the car was pretty consistent, you could feel the new faster corners stressing the rear axle a little more than before. We'll do important work overnight and be ready for tomorrow."

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director

"It's been an interesting day and we've covered quite a lot of ground as far as the setup work goes. In the morning we weren't particularly happy with the single lap work but the long run was well balanced. In the afternoon, the single lap was coming quite easily but the long run wasn't great and neither driver was particularly happy with the car. The challenge tonight is to understand the effect of the changes we've been making and to find the right compromise between the low and the high fuel running. We're warming up the simulator in Brackley for a busy night of setup work but we've got a good read on the issues today, so hopefully between the work here at the track, and the work back there, we can make some good progress overnight."

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ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 10: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP prepares to drive during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 10, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Red Bull

It was a dream start to the weekend for Red Bull, with Verstappen comfortably fastest despite struggling with his steering wheel in the opening stages, and Perez right up there from word go too. The two team mates were reasonably evenly matched in FP2 as well, although they dropped behind their Mercedes rivals. They looked quick on long run pace, which bodes well for a tight race come Sunday.

READ MORE: Mercedes looking 'very competitive' warn Red Bull as they look to improve ahead of crucial qualifying

Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:25.009, P1; FP2: 1:24.332, P4

“I like the new track layout, it’s more fun to drive with the faster corners, especially in the last sector. We made a few changes to the set up across the two sessions and I do think they are positive. We are still learning and understanding a few things. The short runs didn’t go to plan, we are lacking a bit of pace but I think the long runs were more competitive so that’s important. I’m looking forward to qualifying tomorrow to put it all together.”

Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:25.363, P4; FP2: 1:24.400, P5

“I don’t know how much the track has improved since last year. It’s still nice to drive but there are question marks for me on whether it has improved the racing. I think we have some work to do overnight after today’s sessions. We ran very different set-ups across the two cars, so we've got plenty of information that we need to go through in detail and pick out the best parts for qualifying. There will be learnings to take forward into our final practice session so we can look to qualify strongly on Saturday.”

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ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 10:Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 10, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)


It was a good start to the weekend for the team, with both drivers looking quick from the off. Tsunoda impressed the most, finishing half a second up on his team mate and clearly revelling in driving around a track he actually knows for a change. The Japanese rookie got the beating of Gasly in FP2 as well in a confidence-boosting display, and it certainly looks like getting both cars into Q3 should be the minimum aim for tomorrow.

Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:25.822, P7; FP2: 1:24.940, P10

“The layout is really different, it feels like a new track with a lot more high-speed corners, so it’s really cool. We tried some different things with the car today, but I still haven’t felt that great, so we’ve got some work to do for tomorrow.”

Yuki Tsunoda - FP1: 1:25.378, P5; FP2: 1:24.532, P7

“I’ve already driven here for the Young Driver Test last year and of course knowing the track beforehand always helps with my approach to the weekend, which hasn’t always been the case this season. I’m really enjoying the new layout of this circuit, we’ve still got some things to work on but I think the pace so far is quite good. We’ve got a lot of data across the two cars, so we’re in a good position to continue to improve tomorrow. My aim is to get through to Q3 in Quali again, as we’re looking quite strong here and then our race pace is looking good also, so we just need to put it altogether when it counts.”

Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer

“There have been a number of changes made to the circuit since 2020, so we spent the majority of FP1 understanding how these affect the circuit characterisation, with fewer low-speed corners and now more medium speed left handers. We were concerned that graining could be an issue with the softest tyre choice, especially in FP2 with cooler track temperatures, but they held up better than expected, so we will need to see how that impacts Qualifying and the race. We tested some alternative setup directions across the two sessions with both cars and focused more on the long run pace. This meant our short run competitiveness wasn’t quite where we typically are for a Friday, but we expect to make an improvement tomorrow, once we have analysed all of the data and put the optimum car setup together.”

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ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 10: Pierre Gasly of Scuderia AlphaTauri and France during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 10, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)


Ocon had two moments in FP1, the first when he judged his racing line spot on to narrowly avoid clipping the wall at Turn 14, before struggling with a gear syncing issue that briefly derailed his running. But once the sun set and the lights came on he was electrically quick, topping the timing sheets for a period before winding up second only to Hamilton. Alonso wasn’t too far back as Alpine once again look to have a very decent car here, especially over one lap.

READ MORE: Alonso believes Verstappen 'driving one step ahead of everyone' as he says Dutchman ‘deserves’ 2021 title

Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:26.025, P11; FP2: 1:24.034, P2

“It’s been quite a productive Friday learning the new Abu Dhabi layout, which proved to be quite challenging in many aspects. I had a close call in FP1, similar to where Kimi went off in FP2, so you have to be careful pushing the limits there. Some of the new parts are quite tricky, so it’s important to keep getting dialled into these corners. Some of the areas on the track with new tarmac are interesting and learning the changes there will be important in understanding how the tyres behave. So far, we have both cars in the top ten, which is decent and that is the aim for tomorrow. It always looks cool to be in the higher positions and we ended in second place today, which has a nice sound to it. We’ll remain realistic, though, and keep up our hard work.”

Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:25.625, P6; FP2: 1:24.495, P6

“It was a good Friday for us and I liked the track changes out there. It’s the third consecutive weekend that we discovered a new circuit on Friday, so it means we get to play around a little out on track and try different lines to find the lap time. We maximised our time on track today in both sessions and my fastest time was deleted in Free Practice 2, so there was a little bit more than what was shown on the final timings. While we still need to fine tune a few things on the setup, I think we can look back on a good day for us and we have more to come tomorrow.”

Alan Permane, Sporting Director

“Both sessions have been good today. The first one was about learning the new parts of the track and trying to understand the tyres here around the new layout, which looks to flow a bit nicer and might be better in the race with possibly some more overtaking opportunities in Turn 9 and possibly Turn 5. The drivers were pretty happy with the car. There was a bit of understeer in the first session, and we made some changes between both practice sessions and saw improvements on both cars for the afternoon. We look fairly happy on low fuel and high fuel and so we are looking forward to the rest of the weekend.”

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ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 10: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) Alpine A521 Renault during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 10, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)


Leclerc was sporting aero rakes in the initial stages in FP1, while his team mate was reporting that his SF21 was just not to his liking. Things improved considerably as the sun went down, with both Scuderia drivers solidly in the top 10. Once again they look to lack one-lap pace when compared to the AlphaTauri cars, and look to have slipped behind Alpine in the pecking order as well – but with a comfortable lead in the fight for P3 in the constructors’, won’t be too concerned going into the weekend.

Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:25.846, P8; FP2: 1:24.557, P8

"I quite like the new layout and it was fun to drive. The modifications seem to make it easier to follow the cars ahead, so it appears to be a positive track update.

"The track evolution was quite big over the course of the day, but that’s more down to the temperature as it becomes much cooler here in the evenings. This helps us to gain grip. Tyre degradation is quite high but I think our car is reacting well to this circuit so far.

"In terms of pace, we did a good job with the race simulation and still have a little work to do to prepare for qualifying. We are lacking a bit there compared to some of our closest competitors and I hope we can put it all together for tomorrow."

Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:25.886, P9; FP2: 1:24.844, P9

"It’s been a challenging day here in Abu Dhabi with the new track layout and surface, making it very different to any other year we’ve driven here in the past.

"It’s been a very difficult Friday because since FP1 I wasn’t feeling at home in the car and I’ve been chasing the balance the whole day. That’s quite unusual because we’ve been starting on the right foot pretty much every weekend and today, I feel we have a lot of homework to do, going into Saturday. We will now sit down with the engineers, see where we can improve the car and hopefully find more performance for tomorrow."

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ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 10: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) Scuderia Ferrari SF21 during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 10, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)


Another Friday where they kept their cards close to their chest, it is hard to know what to make of McLaren’s form. Norris looked slightly more settled in the first session as he ran two sets of softs, leaving him on the mediums for FP2. Ricciardo ran the reverse strategy and thus had plenty of time on the soft rubber under the lights, which could leave him short of hard tyre experience in the cooler conditions come race day.

ONBOARD: Check out the Abu Dhabi track changes for 2021 with Lando Norris

Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:26.676, P16; FP2: 1:24.959, P11

"Today was fun, a new layout and some new corners to learn, which I enjoyed. We made some progress in the second session, but we’ve still got a bit to find. Overall, the day was positive, so we’ll chip away at it and make some improvements heading into Saturday."

Lando Norris - FP1: 1:26.123, P12; FP2: 1:25.153, P13

"A decent day. I think we learned a lot. We maybe weren’t so quick, but the car felt relatively decent so I’m hoping tomorrow things will just click a little bit more and we’ll find some pace. So, a positive day I think. It’s also nice to drive the new circuit, there are quite a few differences – both in the layout but also how the tyres behave as well. It’s something else to get used to and we’ll have our guys and girls look at how to maximise everything, including the tyres and the set-up, going into qualifying tomorrow."

James Key, Executive Director, Technical

“Abu Dhabi has become a well-established end-of-season venue, but the track has changed this year. There’s been lots to learn about the new layout, but also the grip levels on the new asphalt. With very few test items on the car we’ve been able to spend all of our time focusing on set-up and tyre work. High track evolution meant lap-times were a bit hit or miss, but we made some good progress. There’s a bit more to come from the car, and we must do some hard work tonight to refine our set-up, but we’re comfortable with where we are.”

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ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 10:Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren F1 Team MCL35M Mercedes during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 10, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Aston Martin

A late spin for Vettel as the chequered flag fell in FP1 blotted his copybook in what had been an otherwise decent opening, with his longer run pace on a par with that of McLaren. But under the lights, neither Aston Martin could make much of a dent in the standings, as their rivals look to have surged ahead. With McLaren likely having plenty in hand, the top 10 looks to be out of reach heading into qualifying – unless Aston Martin have been sandbagging.

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Sebastian Vettel – FP1: 1:26.007, P10; FP2: 1:25.195, P14

“It is a good challenge to have the new circuit layout and it is faster and more exciting to drive. I think some of the weaker turns have been replaced with stronger corners – the highlight being the new banked Turn Nine. We are still learning the circuit, but it is a positive first impression. The goal now is to extract more from the car and finish qualifying for the year on a high tomorrow.”

Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:26.608, P15; FP2: 1:25.385, P15

“It was good to experience the new Yas Marina Circuit layout today. It is definitely faster and has more flow to it, which makes it cool and fun to drive. We were able to complete our programme today and put in some good laps. We have learned a lot across the two sessions, so now it is about reviewing the data and trying to extract some more performance ahead of qualifying tomorrow.”

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ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 10: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Aston Martin AMR21 Mercedes during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 10, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Alfa Romeo

Raikkonen might be in his final race weekend, but he was still pushing the limits, with a half-spin early doors and a number of frustrated radio messages after not being warned of approaching traffic – the team perhaps taking their ‘Dear Kimi, we’ll leave you alone now’ livery message a bit too literally. He was certainly pushing in the closing stages of FP2 when he lost it through Turn 14, clattering into the wall to bring out the red flags. Giovinazzi had a much quieter day by comparison, improving under the lights to leave Q3 a slim possibility in his final qualifying for the team tomorrow.

WATCH: Raikkonen and Giovinazzi try to scare each other on their Jeddah hot laps

Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:26.189, P13; FP2: 1:25.440, P16

“It had been a normal Friday until the last lap. We have been trying things, seeing what happens and what works, as we always do: we had finished nearly all our work when I had my accident. I just lost the rear in a place where there wasn’t any run-off and went into the wall: these things happen. It was interesting to try the track after the modifications. Making changes is good and I can see why they were done, but I am not sure whether overtaking will be any easier. In the end, it is what it is, it’s different and we’ll have to adapt.”

Antonio Giovinazzi - FP1: 1:26.409, P14; FP2: 1:25.108, P12

“We had a good start to our weekend and, overall, it was a good day. We made a decent improvement from FP1 to FP2 and if we can repeat it tonight, we should be in a good place for qualifying. The new track layout is quite cool, it’s more fun to drive as they replaced slow chicanes, which weren’t much fun in these cars, with some fast corners. I am not sure if this will help much with overtaking, but it’s a lot faster. Tomorrow will be interesting: we want to build on the strong result from Jeddah, the fight in the midfield will be close and everything will hinge on hundredths of a second, but I am confident we can have a good day.”

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Alfa Romeo's Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen stands by is car after he crashed at the Yas Marina Circuit during the second free practice session of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix on December 10, 2021. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP) (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images)


Aitken ran in place of Russell in the first session, the first time he has graced a Friday since suffering a horror crash in Spa back in August. He had a good day of it, pipping his more experienced team mate, albeit by just 0.006s. In FP2, Latifi was an early casualty as he slid into the barriers, fortunately only lightly damaging his rear wing and not losing too much time. Russell had a steady session, and will want to produce one more stellar performance tomorrow to remind the team why he earned his ‘Mr Saturday’ nickname.

George Russell – FP2: 1:25.549, P17

"It was interesting trying out the circuit changes and I have to say I liked them. The track is now faster and flowing and therefore nicer to drive. Ultimately though, it all comes down to lap time. I was a little bit off the pace today, but I still felt that my laps were pretty decent nevertheless. We've got a bit of work to do to close the gap to Alfa Romeo and the midfield cars ahead tonight, but I think there is more lap time to come from me and it's only natural that you find more lap time throughout the weekend. The aim is to qualify well tomorrow; we will be working hard tonight to do that and end the season on a high."

Jack Aitken - FP1: 1:27.481, P17

"It was really nice to be back in the car after such a long break and to feel the progress that’s been made across the last year. I spent a lot of time making sure I was on top of the car’s set-up and various procedures, but everything went very smoothly and I was happy that we collected some valuable data. The car felt good to drive around the updated track layout and I was pleased with the pace today. I think the team will make some good progress over the next few sessions, so hopefully it’ll be a good race to finish off the season on Sunday.

"Most importantly, I kept the car in one piece so that George could jump back in for FP2!"

Nicholas Latifi - FP1: 1:27.487, P18; FP2: 1:25.687, P18

"It’s good to be back at Yas Marina Circuit. I think the updated track does suit our car slightly more; it’s definitely better fun to drive and has a nicer flow to it. I believe that it will help with the racing too, so hopefully we’re in a position to take advantage of that on Sunday.

"I had an incident at Turn 13 in FP2 and damaged the end plates of the rear wing, but the guys and girls in the garage did a great job to get me back out there so I could continue with the session. I was struggling a bit with the balance of the car in FP1; we made some slight adjustments going into FP2 which did help a bit, but there was a problem with a rear damper that we weren’t able to resolve during the session. We’ll get that fixed tonight and continue to work through the data, so we should be in a stronger position heading into Saturday."

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance

"The changes to the circuit have injected some renewed interest to the circuit. The combination of reprofiled corners and new tarmac has changed the nature of the circuit significantly. We had a good FP1 with Jack doing an excellent job and providing some excellent feedback in his return to F1 duties. Nicholas too came to terms with the circuit revisions quickly and was able to do some good running at low and high fuel.

"George had a solid FP2 session but clearly missed some of the early learning from FP1 and there is more to come from him tomorrow, especially at low fuel. Nicholas made a small mistake early in FP2, but we were able to repair the car quickly and get him back out to complete most of his original programme. Separate to his minor contact with the wall, we identified a developing problem with one of his rear dampers, which we were unable to change during FP2. We will rectify this overnight, which should help improve the handling of his car. Despite this issue, his high fuel pace was decent, and we were able to learn quite a lot about the likely behaviour of the tyres on Sunday.

"As always, there is a lot to look at tonight and there are definitely further improvements to come from the car and the drivers as we complete the finetuning for the new circuit layout here at Yas Marina."

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ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 10: George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Williams Racing FW43B Mercedes during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 10, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)


It was a steady day for the American outfit, although Mazepin did explore the extremes of the track limits as he ran wide on several occasions. But both drivers kept well clear of the walls and while they don’t appear to have the pace to challenge the Williams of Russell, Schumacher was in touching distance of Latifi which could lead to an interesting fight tomorrow.

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Mick Schumacher – FP1: 1:27.698, P19; FP2: 1:25.784, P19

“Overall, it went well – I got to learn the new track which is a bit different to before but in general it hasn’t changed much. It has the same philosophy in terms of approach to some of the corners although obviously the corner itself is very different. It’s dark, we have all the lights on, so it’s different and I enjoy driving here. There are different lines you can take, especially at T9, so I think there will be variations over the lap and overtaking should become easier. I think we’re closer than we were at the beginning of the year with those ahead.”

Nikita Mazepin – FP1: 1:28.305, P20; FP2: 1:26.336, P20

“I like Abu Dhabi – I like this track and obviously it’s got a slightly modified layout this season. It was interesting to get a few laps in and it was quite smooth with no issues, just working on the set-up as a standard first-time Friday. I loved Abu Dhabi the way it was – it had 21 corners from what I believe, and now it has 16 so it’s a slightly shorter track that I love but nevertheless I think it’s a good one.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“It was really the Friday practice we needed with a pair of relatively uneventful sessions, but that’s a good thing. FP1 isn’t usually that representative here but we got plenty of laps in at least. FP2 in the evening was really a case of more of the same. We completed our run plans with Nikita and Mick with both getting their first real-world taste of the revised layout. It’s our final qualifying of the season tomorrow – I’m not expecting any change to our pace, but we’ll be pushing hard as we have done all year long.”

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ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 10:Nikita Mazepin of Russia driving the (9) Haas F1 Team VF-21 Ferrari during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 10, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)


Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing

"The FP1 session was all about familiarisation with the new circuit layout and the fresh asphalt on the new sections using the soft tyres, while the more representative conditions of FP2 allowed the teams to concentrate more on realistic race and qualifying simulations using both soft and medium compounds for a direct comparison. There was some abrasion on the softest compound in the morning with higher temperatures, which as usual improved with more running and a high degree of track evolution – thanks also to the support races. The track is obviously faster than last year, putting more energy through the tyres. Of some concern here are the kerbs, especially at exit of turns 5 and 9, as they are quite high and pointed. We are talking with the FIA about this, in order to avoid anything unexpected over the weekend."

HIGHLIGHTS: Watch all the best action from FP2, as Raikkonen ends the session in the barriers


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Coming Up


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