Feature

What the teams said – Friday in Portugal

Special Contributor

Becky Hart
Share
PORTIMAO, PORTUGAL - APRIL 30: Lando Norris of McLaren and Great Britain  during practice ahead of

Mercedes

A rocky opening to FP1 that saw Hamilton label the car as “undriveable” morphed into a pretty solid day in the end for the Silver Arrows. The reigning world champion struggled to get his soft tyres into a good working window in the first session, but nailed his preparation lap in FP2 to grab the top spot. As for Bottas, he looked the happier of the two in the morning before dropping back marginally as the day wore on. Top in both sessions as a team – but can they stay there tomorrow, with Red Bull hot on their heels?

Lewis Hamilton – FP1: 1:19.967, P5; FP2: 1:19.837, P1

"It's a little grippier here this year but it was very windy today so I think everybody was struggling with balance and sliding around. Not a massive amount of track evolution between the sessions - as it got hotter, the track got slower. This morning seemed to be a little bit better, then this afternoon it got warmer and windier so it seemed to make it harder for people to find time and work on their balance.

"I think it'll be a close one this weekend. I don't know what Max's lap was like in FP2 but mine wasn't perfect so we definitely have some time to come from the car and improvements to make. But I'm sure Red Bull have too. It was close, as it has been the last couple of races, so I'm sure it'll be an exciting qualifying and race in store."

Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:19.648, P1; FP2: 1:20.181, P3

"In terms of pace, it was not a bad start - I think we are there or thereabouts. It's going to be close, no doubt. Quite similar feelings to last year here, it's a slippery tarmac and the rear of the car is pretty loose in places, so it's not easy to get clean laps. For me, the softer we went with the compounds, the more tricky the car became, and the Medium tyre looks to be working best.

"The track has improved from last year, slightly more grip and definitely a step in the right direction. Tomorrow it is going to be important to get the heat in the tyres in the right way - it's going to make a big difference. It will be close between us and Red Bull and could swing either way. Whoever finds more lap time overnight gets pole."

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director

"It's been an interesting day. The first session was quite tricky in the cold conditions and in the afternoon it was warmer but the wind had picked up strength and was pushing the car around, affecting the balance. Valtteri seemed quite comfortable with the car, he was on the pace from the start and able to generate good grip from the tyres which allowed him to get into some useful setup investigations. Lewis struggled more with the rear end and whilst he topped the timesheets, we've got some work to do to improve the balance for him tomorrow.

"We'd found some damage on both cars at the end of the day that will have been costing some performance and will certainly explain some of Lewis's issues on the long run but even with that corrected, we could do with finding a bit more pace. The single lap looks really close with Red Bull but Ferrari were also consistently around our pace so we'll prepare ourselves for another close fight tomorrow. Likewise, the long runs all seem to overlay pretty closely so hopefully that's a sign we'll be in for an exciting race on Sunday."

1 / 2

PORTIMAO, PORTUGAL - APRIL 30: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 in the Pitlane during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Portugal at Autodromo Internacional Do Algarve on April 30, 2021 in Portimao, Portugal. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Red Bull

Verstappen had a mixed day, an early brake-by-wire issue costing him some running in FP2. He also locked up and flat spotted his tyres, which hampered his quick runs in FP1. Those moments aside, he looked quick, and certainly seems to have more to come in terms of both race pace and over one lap. As for Perez, he extracted a great lap from aging tyres in the morning session, but struggled for grip and couldn’t keep up with his team mate in the afternoon.

Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:19.673, P2; FP2: 1:19.980, P2

"It feels great to be back on track in Portimao, the circuit is amazing but the conditions are very similar to last year and the tarmac is super slippery. The tyres have of course changed and we all lost a bit of grip from the cars compared to last year. It’s very tricky out there and not easy to switch the tyres on which is a shame because it seems to be all about tyre preparation and temperature. It’s the same situation for everyone so we just need to make sure we are on top of the car so we can make the best out of it. It seems tight with Mercedes this weekend again and the car felt alright but we still have some work to do ahead of tomorrow, that’s for sure.”

Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:19.846, P3; FP2: 1:20.516, P10

"Today we had very similar track surface conditions to last year with limited grip on the new tarmac so it’s really hard to get the tyres to work. It’s not easy so the main focus is to understand what’s going on with the tyres. I think the pace on the mediums was good but when we went on to the soft compound we didn’t find any lap time so we’ll need to look into that and hopefully sort it out in time for qualifying. It’s hard to compare with the last round in Imola as it’s a very different track here and everywhere just has less grip overall due to the tarmac but I think we have pretty good pace in the car so hopefully we will be in the mix to fight for pole tomorrow."

1 / 2

PORTIMAO, PORTUGAL - APRIL 30: Sergio Perez of Mexico and Red Bull Racing prepares to drive in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Portugal at Autodromo Internacional Do Algarve on April 30, 2021 in Portimao, Portugal. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Ferrari

Embroiled in a tight fight at the front of the midfield, today Ferrari appeared to take a step forwards compared to their rivals. Fourth in both sessions courtesy of Leclerc in the morning and Sainz in the afternoon, can the Scuderia get in the mix for second row slots tomorrow? It certainly looks likely, and out-qualifying a Red Bull would be another positive step as the team continues to bounce back from their lacklustre 2020 season.

Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:19.884, P4; FP2: 1:20.360, P7

“It was quite a good start to the weekend. It was fun to drive, the track was very slippery and especially with the wind it was tricky. It’s a real pleasure to drive in these conditions. You are always on the limit with the car and I really enjoy that.

“FP2 was a lot of fun, there were a lot of gusts of wind all around the track. We completed the whole programme we had planned and it looks like we are quite competitive. The short runs were good, the long-runs a little bit less so and I think that is the main weakness for me today so I still have to work on that. We are all very close and I think it will come down to who makes the least mistakes in qualifying and the race.

“I hope it will be a good weekend for us and that we can build on this positive first day.”

Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:20.680, P9; FP2: 1:20.197, P4

“Another positive Friday, another day of building experience with the car. We are maintaining our positive learning curve, as this weekend the conditions and the tarmac are very different to the previous venues. Bahrain and Imola were high-grip tracks, while here in Portimao it was quite slippery and really windy today. I like the challenge of having to find the grip where there isn’t any! Last year, I really enjoyed racing here a lot.

“We are fully focused on tomorrow. We saw in Imola that Friday may be misleading when comparing our one lap pace to our competitors, so we are wary of that. I think the key to the weekend is going to be understanding the tyres, as we set similar times on Soft and Mediums. We need to master the car’s behaviour with the different compounds, understand how to warm up the tyres properly and then identify when is the right time to try and set the fastest lap. Looking forward to tomorrow. Vamos!”

1 / 2

PORTIMAO, PORTUGAL - APRIL 30: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) Scuderia Ferrari SF21 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Portugal at Autodromo Internacional Do Algarve on April 30, 2021 in Portimao, Portugal. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

McLaren

McLaren don’t always show their full hand on Friday, often opting to test set-ups and focus on longer runs. The good news is that Ricciardo appeared more comfortable in the MCL35M than he has so far this season, sneaking into the top 10 in the second session. Norris normally saves his best for Saturdays and so on that front, they could well be back in the mix tomorrow.

Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:20.995, P12; FP2: 1:20.418, P8

“It was a pretty good day in terms of my personal feeling in the car. I felt pretty comfortable from lap one this morning. The more laps I do, the better I feel, but it certainly felt like everything was more familiar when I hopped in the car today. I was ready to get on with it. I think we’re getting there.

“We were eighth this afternoon, so we’re definitely in the ballpark. I’ve still got a bit to find but we did make a small step forward for the afternoon session. We’ll try to make another step tonight and we should be right in the mix tomorrow.”

Lando Norris - FP1: 1:20.635, P8; FP2: 1:20.757, P12

"Not a perfect day, a couple of issues here and there which interrupted some of our running. It wasn't too bad, it just meant we didn't quite get through the run plan as easily as we wanted to. We definitely have some work to do overnight on some things. I think there’s some quite clear areas we can focus on that, if we improve them a little bit overnight, we can definitely find some performance. So, that’s our aim tonight, we’ll see if we can come back stronger tomorrow."

Andrea Stella, Racing Director

“Today, both practice sessions were very busy – the shortened 60-minute duration makes it quite challenging to get through the programme. In addition, here in Portugal, the conditions are quite testing because of the low-grip tarmac, the slow warm-up of the tyres and because of the wind, which make driving the car at the limit difficult. We had a very useful Friday and gathered good information on where we would like to improve the car overnight, and also on the likely behaviour of the tyres for the race. We’ll put it all together tonight, make some adjustments, and do our best tomorrow.”

1 / 2

PORTIMAO, PORTUGAL - APRIL 30: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren F1 Team MCL35M Mercedes on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Portugal at Autodromo Internacional Do Algarve on April 30, 2021 in Portimao, Portugal. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Alpine

Alpine turned a few heads in FP2 after setting quick enough lap times on the red-marked soft tyres for fifth and sixth overall. Even more surprising was that no one else managed to knock them off their perch, for what is comfortably their best result in practice of the year so far. Have they managed to find some extra pace from their package, or were they running light on fuel? Either way, it was a big positive for the team ahead of qualifying tomorrow.

Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:20.800, P10; FP2: 1:20.235, P6

“It was a pretty solid day for us, especially in terms of mileage. We completed a lot of laps and that was quite nice. We tested all the tyre compounds and we have a good read on that ahead of the race on Sunday. This circuit is certainly a tricky track in terms of grip, but I would say it has improved since last season. It’s still a challenge for us and we’re working hard to get a little bit more grip from the car for tomorrow.”

Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:21.303, P14; FP2: 1:20.220, P5

“It was a good practice day for me and the most comfortable I’ve had this season compared to Bahrain and Imola. I was happy with the setup of the car quite early in the day, so I concentrated mostly on becoming more acclimatised to the circuit and then evaluating the tyres over the two sessions. There is still lots of data for us to analyse, but it’s a good start to the weekend. I enjoyed driving the circuit for the first time in a Formula 1 session, but I think traffic could be a challenge tomorrow in qualifying. It’s an exciting track to drive, that’s for sure.”

Davide Brivio, Racing Director

“I think it was a good day for the team today. It is just Friday, though, and we won’t be looking too much into the timesheets. We were able to test a few things on each car in the morning, and then we completed our usual long runs in the second session on each tyre to collect data and information for the race. The drivers did a good job; it’s Fernando’s first time here in a Formula 1 car, so he was getting used to the track a little bit and Esteban ran very consistently in both sessions. It’s a positive start to the weekend, we’ll keep working hard and see how the next two days unfold.”

1 / 2

Esteban Ocon (FRA) Alpine F1 Team A521. Portuguese Grand Prix, Thursday 29th April 2021. Portimao, Portugal. FIA Pool Image for Editorial Use Only

AlphaTauri

FP2 was the first time this season that Gasly hasn’t finished in the top 10 in practice, the Frenchman having been incredibly consistent so far in 2021. His flying lap wasn’t top drawer and he couldn’t get the tyres back in a working window afterwards. But a solid FP1 and the knowledge that his car is quick should carry him through into final practice. As for Tsunoda, having never raced here, he took his time to get to know the track. It will be interesting to see how much he is willing to push tomorrow, after that big mistake in qualifying last time out.

Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:20.444, P6; FP2: 1:20.558, P11

“It’s been quite a difficult day, the car doesn’t feel that good so tonight we need to analyse everything and see what we need to do to improve, as we’re not currently utilising our full potential. Compared to the last few races, we’re really struggling on braking in the low-speed areas, so we need to look at what we’ve changed. Obviously, the conditions and layout are very different here – it’s quite slippery – so we might need to make some different adjustments to usual. The midfield is so tight at the moment that we have to work on this a lot tonight to find the extra time for tomorrow – two or three tenths at the moment can lose you six or seven places, come qualifying, so it really is crucial. I think I’ve been in Q3 for the last five or six races so I really want to continue that train and I’m confident we can make some changes tonight so that can happen again tomorrow.”

Yuki Tsunoda - FP1: 1:21.090, P13; FP2: 1:21.053, P14

“Today was the first time that I’ve driven the track here in Portugal and I really enjoyed it – especially the up-and-down areas of the circuit – and I’ve learnt quite a bit in the two sessions today. There’s a lot of new elements to understand, there’s really low grip levels compared to Bahrain and Imola, so at first I struggled to adapt to that but I think I managed to learn fairly quickly and my progression through the day has been good. I’m continuing to build the pace in the car and tonight I’ll look through the data with my engineers, analysing the set up of the car, and then tomorrow I hope to put it altogether for qualifying.”

Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer

“It wasn’t quite as successful a Friday as we were hoping for, or that we’ve become accustomed to maybe. For FP1, our focus was on the medium and hard compounds, alongside some aero testing on Pierre’s car. Yuki spent the morning session learning the track, as he’s never driven here before, and we came out of that session relatively happy with the car and the performance. Likewise, going into the start of FP2 on the mediums, we were quite comfortable with the pace of the car. We then moved to the soft tyre, which has been an issue for us as we weren’t able to extract the pace from the car that we would’ve liked. The conditions here are very challenging with the wind – there was a tailwind on most of the corners and then a headwind on the start/finish straight, which doesn’t make it easy for the drivers. Tonight, there will be quite a lot of work for us to do to understand why we’ve struggled on the softs – I think that’s going to be the key for us going into tomorrow.”

1 / 2

PORTIMAO, PORTUGAL - APRIL 30: Pierre Gasly of France driving the (10) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT02 Honda on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Portugal at Autodromo Internacional Do Algarve on April 30, 2021 in Portimao, Portugal. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Aston Martin

Once again Stroll was able to extract more from his car than his team mate could, winding up at the tail end of the top 10 in both sessions. The Canadian was also seen sporting flow-vis paint as the team looked for rear wing performance data in the closing stages of FP2. As for Vettel, he couldn’t nail his racing line and looked unusually tentative today.

Sebastian Vettel – FP1: 1:21.405, P16; FP2: 1:21.074, P15

"It was not easy to get the laps together out there because although the track surface has more grip than it did in last year's race, it is still quite tricky. The windy conditions were also challenging, but it did not stop us completing plenty of laps and working through the programme. Every lap is important for understanding the car and making improvements, so it was positive in that sense. Getting the balance right for qualifying and making sure we hook up the laps tomorrow is the focus tonight.”

Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:20.894, P11; FP2: 1:20.427, P9

“It is great to be back in Portugal. The track is a lot of fun and the elevation changes are a real challenge inside the car. The conditions were not ideal today, which made it quite tricky to find the best balance – but I think everyone would say the same after today’s running. We will all be looking to make gains tomorrow. With just six tenths separating the top 10 cars, qualifying should be unpredictable and a great watch for the fans back home. I am excited to get going tomorrow.”

1 / 2

PORTIMAO, PORTUGAL - APRIL 30: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Aston Martin AMR21 Mercedes on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Portugal at Autodromo Internacional Do Algarve on April 30, 2021 in Portimao, Portugal. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Williams

Russell bounced straight back from his race-ending crash last time out, to come home solidly in the top 10 in the first session. He backed that up with P13 in the afternoon, and certainly looks to have made a positive step forward. Latifi couldn’t quite match that in either session, running wide through the gravel in FP2 to boot. The Canadian will need as much running as possible in FP3 tomorrow if he wants to catch up to his team mate come qualifying.

George Russell – FP1: 1:20.529, P7; FP2: 1:20.976, P13

"Naturally the car has moved forward and the team is looking in great shape. I think we are getting the most out of our package and I’m pleased with that. The wind really picked up in the afternoon and it is no secret that we struggle in those conditions. I don’t want to overpromise and underdeliver, but if the wind dies down we will improve and I think P2 was the worst of it this weekend. This circuit is incredibly exposed and undulating, so if you do get a gust of wind you really do feel it. Looking ahead to tomorrow, I think Q2 is the minimum for us and I hope we will be fighting for points on Sunday."

Nicholas Latifi - FP1: 1:22.293, P19; FP2: 1:21.855, P19

"Overall I’m not very pleased with the day. We definitely have our work cut out for us tonight to try and claw back some of the pace that’s missing. Straight away in FP1 there was quite a contrast to how the car felt in Imola. There’s a lot of flat-out kinks on this track, corners that should be easy flat-out, that were borderline flat-out for me, especially in FP1. So it’s just really a lack of confidence in the car. We did try some things going into FP2 which made it marginally better, but still pretty much the exact same struggles as in FP1. So not how you want a Friday to go, but we’ll do some homework tonight, try to reset and find some pace tomorrow."

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance

"It has been a good day overall and it has been enjoyable being back here in Portugal. The track surface has changed a bit since we were here last autumn, and we have spent a good deal of today understanding how this has influenced the tyre behaviour; we have collected some good data across the compound and fuel ranges and we will use this to finalise our plans for tomorrow.

"In the calm conditions this morning, the car was performing well, especially for George. Nicholas was testing a few items and was generally less happy with his car this morning. With the tyres on the edge in the cool conditions of FP1, anything that prevented the drivers from pushing hard quickly led to a large loss of laptime, and this is what Nicholas suffered with.

"In FP2 the wind was stronger and gustier, and this harmed our performance a little. However, Nicholas was happier with his car following some changes during the break and although there is still a lot to do overnight to get him fully happy, we have a direction to work with.

"As always, there is a lot to do overnight, but we’re pleased with our start to the weekend and we look forward to pushing hard again in qualifying tomorrow."

1 / 2

PORTIMAO, PORTUGAL - APRIL 30: George Russell of Great Britain and Williams walks in the Paddock before practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Portugal at Autodromo Internacional Do Algarve on April 30, 2021 in Portimao, Portugal. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Alfa Romeo

Ilott took over Giovinazzi’s cockpit down at Alfa in FP1, and gave a good account of himself with a handful of steady laps and no mistakes. In the afternoon, the Italian returned but struggled for pace as he slid around on the low grip circuit. Raikkonen lost some running midway through the session, and he too couldn’t extract much more from the Alfa. They could have a long day ahead of them tomorrow.

Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:21.381, P15; FP2: 1:21.225, P16

“It was not the easiest of Fridays and we have some work to do before we are where we want to be for qualifying. The track was quite green and the wind, especially in the second session, made it difficult to find proper reference points. We tried some things to improve the balance of the car in FP2, hopefully that gave us enough data to make a step forward overnight. We’ll see if it’s enough tomorrow.”

Callum Ilott – FP1: 1:21.806, P17

“I really enjoyed being in the car today. The team made it as easy as possible for me to hit the ground running and it was an excellent opportunity to gain experience, make the most of this hour and help the team gather data for the weekend. This is not an easy track, but I was able to build confidence with every run. The first run on hard tyres was good and I was able to get comfortable with the car; when I made the jump to softs I was a bit caught out at first as there was a big grip increase, but I was able to get more of a feeling for where to exploit the grip towards the end of the session. Having worked with the team in the past really helped: all in all, it was a successful day, running consistently and learning a lot.”

Antonio Giovinazzi - FP2: 1:21.238, P17

“Jumping in the car for the first time in the difficult conditions we had in FP2 is always hard: the wind gave a very inconsistent feeling, especially when the car is light, but we still have one night to look at the data and find something to improve. We’ll see tomorrow where we stand in qualifying, our aim remains the same – to get to Q2 and play it from there – and we know we can make the step forward needed.”

1 / 3

PORTIMAO, PORTUGAL - APRIL 30: Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Alfa Romeo Racing C41 Ferrari on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Portugal at Autodromo Internacional Do Algarve on April 30, 2021 in Portimao, Portugal. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Haas

Mazepin had a tricky day, running wide on several occasions before experimenting with the tow to see if that would gain him some valuable tenths. As for Schumacher, he too struggled with the low levels of grip here but did manage more clean laps than his team mate, to set a representative time. But with Haas off the pace of their rivals, escaping Q1 tomorrow is looking difficult.

Mick Schumacher – FP1: 1:21.939, P18; FP2: 1:21.537, P18

“It was definitely a lot more slippery than I’m used to but it was fun. We had a very lively car out there, it brought back memories from F3 and go-karting. It was interesting. The track is quite impressive and quite intense. It wasn’t difficult to build confidence here, it’s just about getting a clean lap and that’s very difficult if the car is difficult to drive. I think we’re getting into a window where it’s more and more resilient. I’m also getting more comfortable with a lively car. If we do our jobs, which we always do, we should be in a good window tomorrow for qualifying.”

Nikita Mazepin – FP1: 1:24.224, P20; FP2: 1:22.638, P20

“On average, if you take all the circuits that we go to in F1 and F2, this is one of the least grippy tracks – which is a bit of a shame as the layout is really cool. If you could go a bit faster, and with a bit more confidence through it, it would be nice. We have what we have. The grip is building up with all the laps we’re doing so that’s good. There are fine lines here and, in that respect, I think we had a good Friday. There’s a lot still to be extracted and it’s tomorrow that matters.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“For us it was a good FP1 and FP2 as we did a lot of laps – 115 in total I believe. That’s good as it meant the drivers got to drive a lot. We learned that the conditions were not easy, the track was a little bit slippery, and the wind picked up quite a bit in FP2. But that was the same for everybody, I know that. Overall though it was a good session. Hopefully we can take what we learn into tomorrow and make progress from there. I’m pretty happy with the day.”

1 / 2

PORTIMAO, PORTUGAL - APRIL 30: Nikita Mazepin of Russia driving the (9) Haas F1 Team VF-21 Ferrari on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Portugal at Autodromo Internacional Do Algarve on April 30, 2021 in Portimao, Portugal. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Pirelli

Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing

"It was a reasonably straightforward pair of free practice sessions in Portugal with no big surprises, apart from a bit more wind in the afternoon that affected the times slightly, making the track slower. The tyre performance exceeded expectations, with just a little bit of graining on the front left of the softer compounds in the morning on a 'green' track. This improved in the warmer conditions of the afternoon. The track surface is still smooth making it sometimes challenging for the drivers to find the right level of grip. With a big pit stop time penalty, it should be a one-stop race on Sunday for the majority of drivers and we can already see that all three compounds could play an important role in this – which is why all the compounds were run extensively throughout the day."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Coming Up

Coming Up

News

‘We took every single wrong decision’ – Ocon says ‘there’s nothing to learn’ from difficult Silverstone weekend for Alpine