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What the teams said - practice in Abu Dhabi

24 Nov 2017

A round-up of the opening day's action from the 2017 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit...

Ferrari

Another solid day for Ferrari began relatively gently in FP1 but gathered pace as both Vettel and Raikkonen improved their speed to go first and fourth quickest. Both drivers said they’d made a good start to their weekends, and like Mercedes, the reds are expecting it to be a close contest.

Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:39.006, P1; FP2: 1:38.026, P2

“This was a good day. The car and the balance were good and I think we were all very close. If we can do the usual step forward on Saturday and improve the car a little bit, then it should be a good day, but I don’t think we need to do too much. We also tried something aimed at the next season today. I think we are ready for next year, but right now it is important to finish this season in the right way, because the better the result, the better the mood within the team. Saturday is always particular and different, but we’ll see what happens. We need to get everything right. This is not the worst track at which to overtake, but usually it depends on where you are and who you want to overtake.”

Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:39.518, P4; FP2: 1:38.352, P4

“On Friday, we always try to make progress in the set-up of the car. For sure there are things we have to improve; there is some work to be done, but that’s the normal story. Today, it was not easy to put a good lap together; the car felt very good in some places, while in some others it could have been better. It’s too early to have a clear idea; later this evening we’ll analyze all the data that we gathered in both sessions and we’ll try to do our best over the weekend.”

Mercedes

Mercedes spent all of FP1 with both cars running development parts for 2018, then reverted to basic set-ups in the afternoon. Hamilton said that they improved the balance then as he narrowly reversed the FP1 result to head Vettel, while Bottas said he still wasn’t quite comfortable with his F1 W08 yet. The team have several avenues of further improvement to explore overnight but expect qualifying to be close.

Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:39.126, P2; FP2: 1:37.877, P1

"It's been a good Friday, but I'm happy that it's the last one of the season. We got lots of laps in today and made good progress with the balance of the car. We have a bit of work to do, but I feel like we're quite competitive here. It's relatively close still, but I like that. Especially for this weekend, I've got a helmet with gold leaf for the World Championship, which I'm really grateful for."

Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:39.741, P5; FP2: 1:38.537, P5

"We dedicated the first practice session to testing for next year. We ran different kinds of mechanical and especially aero tests. So we didn't learn that much for this weekend in FP1, but definitely a lot for next year. The second session was more straightforward. I was missing a bit of time in the last sector, so as a team we need to work on that. The temperatures here are ok; it's definitely warm in the cockpit, but we've been to worse places. Overall, it's been a pretty good day, we just need to find some more pace from my side for tomorrow."

Andrew Shovlin, Chief Race Engineer

"A busy day for the drivers and everyone in the garage. We had a large development programme focused on 2018, this required both cars to devote the entire P1 session towards this work but despite the ambitious programme, we managed to get through it all successfully. The track cools significantly into the evening session and our focus shifted towards qualifying and race preparation. The car seems to be working reasonably well although we've got plenty of areas we can look to improve overnight. Valtteri in particular was not comfortable with how the car was handling on a single lap so we have a bit of work to do there. Lewis found the car more predictable on low fuel but there are still some areas that we can find a bit of time. The long run balance was quite consistent but it's difficult to know where everyone is as there seemed to be a lot of traffic out there today and many cars were struggling to string clear laps together. We are expecting another tough battle for pole tomorrow, having seen strong times posted by both Red Bull and Ferrari through the sessions, but we are determined to finish the season on a high and will make sure we give it our best shot."

Red Bull

Ricciardo tried some pre-test work in FP1 and was happier with his car’s set-up in FP2. Verstappen looked strong in FP1, despite a tired engine which will be changed routinely for FP3, but said minor set-up changes prevented his RB13 from turning in as crisply. Both are quite optimistic of being competitive in the race, but they are likely to be out-qualified by both Mercedes and both Ferraris.

Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:40.773, P10; FP2: 1:38.180, P3

“A pretty good Friday. This morning we couldn’t really look at the lap times as we tried a little bit of testing for next week. However this afternoon we put everything in the car that we needed and it was solid. On low fuel we looked quite strong but I thought we would be a bit quicker with high fuel, so we still need to find a bit there. Nothing in particular, just the general grip wasn’t quite there and I was sliding around so we’ll try and find a way to keep the tyres working a bit better in the night conditions. I think it’s still Friday numbers unfortunately, as we were ahead of one Ferrari and one Mercedes today. We expect them to be quick tomorrow, so if we have the same pace tomorrow as we had today I expect them to jump us. We still need to find a bit more speed.”

Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:39.154, P3; FP2: 1:38.894, P6

“We tried a few different things today to see what suited the conditions. I was pretty happy in the first practice but not so much in the second one. We know what was changed which resulted in me not being able to turn as well as I would have liked so we should be able to fix that for tomorrow. This track especially has a lot of corner sequences so we need to be able to get the turning of the car spot on to be able to compete. We need to improve the set-up but we still don’t look too far away so this is a positive to take from the day’s work. The track is pretty slippery, if you run off-line, clip some kerb or find a sandy patch it is easy to lose grip, I think that is why we have seen a few mistakes. The engine we had today was an old one, it is definitely not 100% so we will change that tomorrow to improve the power. With a new engine and an improvement in the setup I am confident we will be in a good position. Mercedes are still looking like the team to beat, as they have been all year so we will try to get as close as we can.”

McLaren

Alonso lost time with technical problems in FP1 which kept him in the garage until the final 25 minutes, but bounced straight up to seventh place with Vandoorne right behind him. That was the story in FP2 too, though Massa split them; Vandoorne had an early spin in Turn 20, and an off there later on, but there’s optimism for getting through to Q3 as the problematic McLaren-Honda alliance heads for its last rodeo.

Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:40.522, P7; FP2: 1:39.559, P10

“We had a productive day today. No matter how many points we might take on Sunday, the Constructors’ Championship positions seem to already be decided, so for the last couple of races our main priority on Fridays has been testing new items.

“We had a lot on our plate today, but everything went smoothly and the team did an amazing job to fit everything into the programme.

“For tomorrow, making it into Q3 and scoring points on Sunday remain the target, but it’s going to be challenging. We saw today that we’re in a very tight group in the middle of the pack with two Williams, two Renaults and two Force Indias.”

Stoffel Vandoorne - FP1: 1:40.569, P8; FP2: 1:39.671, P12

“A pretty good day for us. Obviously FP1 is not the most important session here as it takes place in very hot conditions, so the focus is always more on FP2 because we see the same conditions and temperatures that we will face in qualifying and the race.

“It’s been quite a productive day. We felt quite comfortable in the car and as usual it looks very close in the midfield – we’re in a very tight battle with Force India, Renault and Williams.

“We tried a lot of stuff today and if we can put everything together tomorrow and pull out some good, clean laps, hopefully we should be in a reasonably strong position.”

Eric Boullier, Racing Director

“Today was a solid day of testing for us and I applaud the hard work of the whole team to pull everything together. We managed to condense a huge amount of work into today’s two sessions, and both were very valuable not only in aiding our preparation for this race, but also informing our end-of-season development work as we look ahead to next year.

“Both drivers worked hard to refine the balance of the car while the conditions changed significantly over the course of the day. While neither is particularly confident that they’ve found the ‘sweet-spot’ around the Yas Marina circuit yet, we’ve gathered a lot of valuable data which will be processed overnight as we head into qualifying day.

“On-track sessions at this grand prix are always a unique challenge as the more representative running ahead of the race is done in the early-evening twilight. Therefore, we’ve elected to maximise the earlier sessions each day by performing a useful general test programme, albeit juggling this with all-important race preparation, which is a tricky balance to strike.

“Today both cars completed full run plans and we’re pleased to report no major issues. Fernando and Stoffel will work with their engineers to get a handle on the data gathered and make the decisions required to see us through to qualifying. I don’t think we’ve seen the maximum potential of our package yet, but today in Abu Dhabi was certainly a good start.”

Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer

“So, the last race of the 2017 season has begun.

“Today was a relatively good day for the team as we were able to complete our programme in accordance with the practice schedule. Both drivers showed a consistent performance and they were satisfied with the set-up.

“Because of the high temperatures in Abu Dhabi, especially during the daytime, it is not easy conditions for the PU, but we were able to have a trouble-free day thanks to our team paying extra attention to the parameters.

“Everyone is fully focused on this race and motivated to finish the season on a high, and I think there is a possibility that we will have both cars into Q3 in tomorrow's qualifying.”

Force India

Both race drivers said they feel confident from their FP2 running that they can fight for top 10 starts in Q3 and for points in the race, when they are likely to be unrestrained by team orders. Russell once again did a smooth and very satisfactory job in FP1, this time in Ocon’s car.

Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:40.293, P6; FP2: 1:39.323, P7

“We had a lot of test items to try on the car today on top of the usual preparations for the weekend. First practice was not very representative of the conditions we will experience in qualifying and the race, but what we saw during second practice makes me feel optimistic. The balance of the car is where I need it and the long run pace is competitive. There is still a little bit of work to do, but we’re starting from a good baseline and if we can improve overnight we should be in a good position tomorrow.”

Esteban Ocon - FP2: 1:39.333, P8

“It’s fantastic to come here and drive under the lights again. I’m feeling pretty happy with my session in the car this evening. The performance is solid and the car feels good, but there is still room for improvement. If we do our homework well tonight I think we have the speed to be up in our usual position tomorrow.”

George Russell - FP1: 1:41.131, P11

“Another very enjoyable experience working with this team. It’s always nice to have the opportunity to be in the car because your confidence improves with every run and you get more and more comfortable with the car. Today’s session was an important part of the team’s preparations for next year with some different specification parts being tried on my car. It was not about lap times but simply collecting the data and giving accurate feedback to the team.”

Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal

“Once again we spent a big part of today’s practice sessions preparing for 2018 with a high volume of test items to evaluate. George ran a different spec car this morning to give us some aero data and did a great job with very accurate feedback. We adjusted Esteban’s programme to help him get up to speed quickly and he’s feeling comfortable with the car already. Sergio’s saw to his busy programme efficiently, and he’s happy with the car balance too. What we saw today is that the midfield pack is very tight once again, so we need to work hard tonight to extract even more performance to be in good shape for qualifying.”

Renault

This is an important weekend for Renault as they try to catch Toro Rosso for sixth place overall. FP1 was a relatively quiet affair as they stayed on the supersoft Pirellis and Hulkenberg unusually spun in Turn 14, but they turned up the wick for FP2, as the German jumped to ninth on ultras. Sainz didn’t fare so well in that second session, finishing it 13th, so there is still a lot of work to be done overnight to give the yellow cars their best chance.

Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:41.864, P17; FP2: 1:39.529, P9

“Quite a standard Friday to be honest. This morning we looked after the engine a bit more than usual and then reverted to a more normal programme in the afternoon. We do look quite competitive – I would say there is not much between us and the Force Indias and McLaren. I think it will be touch and go tomorrow and hopefully we can squeeze a bit more out of the car to get where we want to be and give us the best chance for Sunday’s race.”

Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:41.748, P15; FP2: 1:40.201, P13

“Today’s sessions were quite positive. Our FP1 programme was focussed on evaluating some aero parts on the car. In the afternoon I was able to get up to speed and start pushing a lot more. Looking at our long and short run pace we are more competitive than we were in the last few races, even if the short run was disrupted by yellow flags. We are looking good for tomorrow and to score the points we need on Sunday.”

Bob Bell, Chief Technical Officer

“Today our programme followed reasonably normal form. With Abu Dhabi being the last race we had fewer test requirements, as we know more or less where we are with everything. Instead, our day was geared towards preparing for qualifying and the race. We went through qualifying simulations and long runs, starts and practice pit stops and all seemed to go as expected. We’ll continue to work overnight and tomorrow to give ourselves the best possible chance to score points on Sunday."

Williams

There was nothing untoward n Williams’ day, save that it was Massa’s last FP1 session in his lengthy career, and that he did some 2018 development work. Stroll took a while to find the FW40’s sweet spot, but was helped by the team ‘borrowing’ some tyres from his FP3 allocation. That enabled them to let him do more running in the sort of conditions he will encounter in qualifying, to help the aim of getting both cars through to Q3.

Felipe Massa - FP1: 1:40.723, P9; FP2: 1:39.635, P11

"I think it was a normal Friday to be honest, I was trying to get a feel for the car and tyres. I did some good lap times too. I didn’t feel that anything was different or strange today compared with any other Friday, but maybe when we get to the first race of next season I will miss this, the competition, and everything else. I’m ready for that and I think it’s the right time. The only thing I can say is that I’m grateful for everything so let’s see how it’s going to be Saturday and Sunday. Hopefully we can have a good one and finish well."

Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:41.581, P13; FP2: 1:40.329, P14

"It was a productive day with a lot of running and a good amount of laps, so in general it was good. Tomorrow is when it counts and we want to score points on Sunday. Tonight, we have to look at a few things, but so far it has been a positive day with no big issues. I have a good feel for the car and we are heading in the right direction so everything is positive. I shall work on a few things tonight, especially the last sector, and we need to try and get into Q3, as it has been more difficult with the competitors gaining on us lately. As for the track, it is quite forgiving and I think it is pretty cool driving into the sunset and the night."

Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer

"It was the final practice of the year and the final Formula One practice for Felipe. We had a good day and we got everything done that we wanted to achieve. Starting with Felipe, we ran a fairly normal programme. We did some special tests in FP1 aimed at 2018, and his pace seemed reasonably competitive, on both high and low fuel. For Lance, he ran a more unusual programme, putting on an extra set of tyres that we borrowed from FP3, to give him a bit more practice particularly aimed at qualifying, which will be in the cooler evening slot that we have for FP2 as opposed to FP3 tomorrow. It’s also the final evening of the year where the mechanics will rebuild the FW40 before it’s put away. It’s not something the public get to see, that last build and the last time on the FIA measuring patch, but that will happen somewhere around 2am. I think that’s actually quite a special moment that no one gets to hear about."

Toro Rosso

Hartley began his day with yet another grid penalty – 10 places for a replacement of MGU-H. The New Zealander also had an odd spin in Turn 1 in FP2. It remains to be seen how reliable their power unit components are in the race, as they battle to keep the Faenza team in sixth overall in the constructors’ championship. So far it’s been so good, but the pace needs a boost.

Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:41.646, P14; FP2: 1:40.694, P15

“Overall, it’s been a positive and productive day. We managed to have two trouble-free practice sessions and did plenty of laps, which meant we were able to complete the program as we wanted, which is great. During this afternoon’s FP2, I felt good on the supersofts, but then on the ultra we didn’t manage to improve, which means we need to work on the tyres and try and improve this. Having said that, there are also many positive aspects to take from today so, all in all, a good start to the weekend and hopefully we can make a step forward tomorrow for qualifying.”

Brendon Hartley - FP1: 1:42.585, P20; FP2: 1:41.496, P19

“Nice to be back driving the Toro Rosso car after a couple of weeks’ off F1 duty, changing cars once again in between F1 race weekends… It’s been a busy few weeks for me and I’m really enjoying it! It took me a little while to get back up to speed today, but we’re working hard and I’m optimistic for tomorrow – we will keep pushing!”

Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer

“It was great to have a trouble free Friday session and cover the entire test plan! This morning we carried out some aero tests to help our understanding of the car for next year, so as part of that we did a front wing compare with Brendon. This gathered an awful lot of useful information that we can now feed back to the aero department and help drive the aero development over the winter for next year’s car. Pierre was on the pace straight away, which was great to see. Brendon was driving LMP1 in Bahrain last weekend so jumping back into the F1 car it took time to familiarize himself again with the TR12 and Pirelli tyres, so his lap times are not a true reflection of his pace. Obviously, from FP1 to FP2 the track temperatures changed dramatically, so the balance and the handling therefore changed too, but we anticipated that and made setup changed to the car to compensate. We had a few issues in the morning with tyres overheating, but then they were in the working range in the afternoon. We were competitive on the supersoft in FP2, but we struggled on the ultrasoft – we didn’t find the lap time that we expected and that the others found, so we need to go through all of the data tonight to understand and make sure we’re operating the tyres correctly and not missing anything in terms of the aero or mechanical setup of the car. It was a similar story in the long-run – our pace was not where we expected to be so there’s quite a lot of work for us tonight, but we remain positive for the rest of the weekend.”

Haas

Haas had an up and down day. Grosjean looked competitive in FP2, but both he and Giovinazzi had spins during the session. In the Frenchman’s case, he backed into the wall in Turn 19, doing light wing damage. In FP2 he was further hampered by electrical gremlins. Haas are in the fight for sixth, but have the most to do to catch Toro Rosso.

Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:41.306, P12; FP2: 1:41.560, P20

“The morning was good, the afternoon wasn’t. We struggled to get everything to work when night fell. We then had an electrical issue which stopped our day. That clearly wasn’t ideal as FP2 is the only representative session for qualifying and the race. We’re going to put everything we can together to find a solution for tomorrow.”

Kevin Magnussen - FP2: 1:41.128, P16

“It was a decent session with plenty of laps. We do still have a few things we need to work on overnight so we’re better prepared for tomorrow. Hopefully, we can find some more pace and get a better result in our qualifying run.”

Antonio Giovinazzi - FP1: 1:42.065, P18

“First of all, thanks to Haas and, of course, Ferrari, for these Friday practice experiences. It’s been really great for me to be in the car and try to help the team. It was a good last session for me. I hope the team is really happy with the job that I did. That was always my first target when I started these FP1 sessions. Now the season is done. We’ll see what we can do next year.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“A mixed day. FP1 was not so bad. FP2 we had one problem with Romain’s car – an electrical problem. We then struggled to get the ultrasoft tyre to work, so we didn’t get a good lap time – not helped with Kevin only being in the car for the first time today in FP2. Otherwise, in the morning the car wasn’t performing too bad. So, for tomorrow, everything is possible. I’m sure the guys will work hard tonight to find a solution for not having the tyre working.”

Sauber

There was nothing major of note for either Sauber driver in what proved a fairly routine Friday for the Swiss team.

Marcus Ericsson - FP1: 1:42.344, P19; FP2: 1:41.302, P18

“It was quite a productive day. We completed a good number of laps with different amounts of fuel and on different tyre compounds, so we were able to collect a lot of interesting data. FP1 was not great for me, and I was struggling with the feel of the car. For FP2, we made some changes and the car felt a lot better. That progess is quite promising for the rest of the weekend, and we will build on that.”

Pascal Wehrlein - FP1: 1:41.752, P16; FP2: 1:41.270, P17

“Today’s practice session were decent. Generally, I was able to run a good number of laps, which is positive. The second free practice session was more relevant with regard to qualifying and the race, as the track conditions will be similar tomorrow and on Sunday. All in all, it was a productive day. We collected a lot of data, which we will analyse in order to make improvements for the rest of the weekend.”

Pirelli

Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing

“From what we can see so far, wear and degradation seems very low here, like we expected. As is virtually always the case, the FP1 and FP3 sessions are less representative when it comes to data collection, so most of the useful work here was concentrated into FP2 starting at 5pm – like qualifying and the race. The initial data from the sessions suggests that the three top teams are closely matched in terms of race and qualifying pace. Race strategy looks like it’s going towards a one-stop but with a comparatively wide pit stop window, which opens up a number of tactical possibilities.”