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Friday practice - selected team and driver quotes

21 Nov 2014

Lewis Hamilton on a good start to a crucial weekend; Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg on having more performance up his sleeve; Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa on a fairly frustrating day; and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat on the changeable conditions. All of the drivers and senior team personnel report back on the opening sessions from Yas Marina…

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, P1 - 1:43.476, 1st; P2 - 1:42.113, 1st

“It's been a good Friday. We've run the same programme as we run every race weekend but this time we had the whole of both sessions to work with the tyres, look at long runs, analyse setup and the countless other things you need to assess in practice which was great. We made good steps forward with the setup but, as always, there is still more time to be found. We'll keep chipping away at it and look to improve in every area possible but the car feels great - the best I've ever driven here without doubt. The team have done an amazing job. Coming into the weekend I was already excited and couldn't wait to get out on track. When you know you have a package as competitive as ours it's like being a kid at Christmas. I don't feel any particular pressure this weekend. I'll just drive the way I always drive and what will be, will be. So far it's all moving in the right direction so I just have to keep working away at it.”

Nico Rosberg, P1 - 1:43.609, 2nd; P2 - 1:42.196, 2nd

“It's been a good day today but I really haven't got my best lap together yet, so there is still a lot of work to do over the rest of the weekend. In general the car felt great out there today. I just need to fine-tune it so that the set-up is exactly to my liking, then go for it and get the job done. This track really is amazing. It's always a highlight when darkness falls and the lights come up - just spectacular! It will be a great show here, so I hope the fans at the circuit and everyone watching at home enjoy it.”

Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

“That was a positive Friday and we are pleased to have started off this title-deciding weekend with both cars running smoothly throughout. We completed our programme with plenty of laps on the board and our long runs shaping up as expected. Without doubt the tension and pressure are on - which is normal when the Championship comes down to the final Grand Prix of the season - but actually it doesn't feel any greater than at any other race. There is a good spirit in the garage and we are all looking forward to seeing what the rest of the weekend holds.”

Paddy Lowe, Mercedes team executive director (technical)

“The final and most important Friday of this incredible season and, thankfully, all went to plan! We managed to complete our homework in the first and second sessions on the different tyres with no issues to report and both drivers were happy with the performance of the car. Our pace looks strong and we've got good data from the tyres that will help us plan for Sunday. We will be working hard overnight to optimise both qualifying and race setup with the objective of locking out the front-row and giving a clear competition between Lewis and Nico on Sunday. There are a few other cars that are quicker than they seem, so we are not taking anything for granted.”

Williams

Valtteri Bottas, P1 - 1:45.913, 8th; P2 - 1:43.070, 5th

“After some issues in FP1 we managed to make up some lost time in FP2. In the second session everything worked well, but there is still some work to do tomorrow with regards to the balance of the car. In some corners I lose the front and in others, the rear, so I want to get that sorted early. There is time, so we are under no pressure, and we still have some tuning to go which will add performance.”

Felipe Massa, P1 - 1:46.549, 13th; P2 - 1:43.558, 10th

“I wouldn’t say I had a perfect day, but I know the areas that I need to improve and how I will do this, so I am not worried. The first session wasn’t too much of an issue, luckily I saw the problem early, and so the bodywork didn’t come off. The afternoon was better, we made some progress but I still struggled on the new tyres. The Mercedes are still looking quick, but we will keep working to close the gap.”

Rob Smedley, head of vehicle performance

“We had some issues with the bodywork during first practice, but the team did a really good job to correct that and fix the problem ready for FP2. It was a fairly standard second session and the car had some good pace. We are looking for a little more consistency on the long runs, but other than that we are happy with the progress we have made. The second session was a lot more representative of the race and qualifying in terms of the weather and time of day, so it is pleasing that we completed our programme then.”

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat, P1 - 1:45.835, 7th; P2 - 1:43.546, 9th

Conditions were changing quite fast here, because obviously we started when it was hot, in the middle of the day, and we ended in cooler temperatures, almost at night. It was interesting to experience this change of conditions and I think we learned something today, which is always very important for a Friday. Overall, I have to say my feeling was quite good in both sessions, so I'm positive that tomorrow we'll put everything together, to get the best out of the car.

Jean-Eric Vergne, P1 - 1:45.718, 6th; P2 - 1:44.157, 14th

Overall it was a good Friday. The car is not exactly to my liking yet, especially this afternoon, when we didn't have the optimum engine set up, which explains why I wasn't so fast in FP2. I also suffered some understeer, but I'm confident everything will be solved for tomorrow. We have some work to do tonight but we'll find the right solution to get a better car and be quicker for the remainder of the weekend.

Phil Charles, Toro Rosso chief race engineer

It was a very interesting Friday for us. When we came here we were expecting big track temperature change from the middle of the day, FP1, to the twilight, FP2, and we actually saw a big shift. Today it was predictably a matter to find out how to tackle that in the best possible way with the car set up and to be honest, we still have some work to do as both the drivers are not really happy with their cars. Having said that, we worked through most of our programme, and this is a positive factor. Our long runs are relatively better than the short ones, the option tyres do not last that long, so it will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow and on Sunday.

Ricardo Penteado, Renault Sport F1 track support leader

We've carried out a lot of data acquisition work today and the car looks fundamentally strong here. Certainly Daniil achieved a lot of mileage, which will help confirm our pre-event simulations. That's important given that fuel consumption tends to be quite high at Yas Marina. We had a problem with JEV's ERS-H this morning, but the part was old and it hasn't especially impacted on our weekend's work. I think we've got a good base set-up to work from in final practice tomorrow which, come Sunday, will help us to fight for a double points finish.

Pirelli

Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director

“We’ve got off to the start we expected in Abu Dhabi: the race that will decide the world championship. Wear and degradation is low on the soft tyre, which we expect to be the main race tyre. With a gap of just over a second between the two compounds, we think that the supersoft will be the best choice for qualifying, but this time difference leaves plenty of strategy options open: with perhaps some interesting gains to be made by running the reverse strategy and using the soft tyre first at the start of the race.”

Caterham

Kamui Kobayashi, P1 - 1:47.971, 18th; P2 - 1:45.505, 18th

"It was great to be able to drive the car again. I'm really glad to be here and I'd like to thank all the fans out there who made this possible. It was a trouble-free Friday where we managed to complete plenty of laps - something that is always useful in order to prepare for the weekend ahead. There's still some work to be done and we need to work on the set-up for tomorrow, but it's been a useful Friday and I look forward to the rest of the weekend here in Abu Dhabi. I'd also like to add that the team is doing a great job, it's clearly a big team effort and I'm very impressed."

Will Stevens, P1 - 1:50.684, 20th; P2 - 1:47.057, 19th

"I had been waiting for this day to arrive for a very long time - it didn't start as well as I had hoped for, as a small technical issue meant I had to jump out of the car after only competing my installation lap. Luckily, the team did a great job and it got sorted out rapidly, meaning I could spend the rest of the day focusing on getting to grips with the car and completing as many laps as possible. In this afternoon's session I already felt much more comfortable. We now need to work hard tonight and go through all the data gathered so that we drive out tomorrow well prepared. I'm happy with my race weekend so far, it's definitely a steep learning curve, but I'm ready for the challenge and I want to thank all the fans out there that believed in the team and got us here to race."

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, P1 - 1:45.361, 5th; P2 - 1:43.183, 6th

"Nice and warm today! We got all the laps in, which was important and we got to run both compounds on the long runs, so I think we achieved all we could in terms of a run plan. Mercedes are … yeah I won't even mention them! But anyway, they're fighting for the title so we'll let them go, but as for the rest it looks pretty tight as always for third place. We'll definitely try and do something (with strategy). Anything can happen and it's the final race, so hopefully the strategy can work to our advantage someway. Sebastian looked competitive today and hopefully we're fighting for that spot on the podium, it would be nice to have a battle with him and end the season like that, it could be a good farewell for him and the team."

Sebastian Vettel, P1 - 1:45.334, 4th; P2 - 1:42.959, 4th

"I think we have improved the car today, but we can still improve more. The super soft tyre seems pretty good for one lap, but I don't think they lasted very long, for everyone, and then we focused mainly on the harder compound. McLaren has made a step forward the last couple of races and the nature of the track here maybe suits them a bit better than other tracks, but it's Friday so I guess we will find out tomorrow. I don't really want to interfere with Mercedes in the race. It would be nice to race them and beat them, but I think realistically they are a bit far away. I want to get everything out of myself and the car and make sure I finish fourth in the championship."

Lotus

Pastor Maldonado, P1 - 1:46.711, 15th; P2 - 1:44.005, 12th

"It was a good day with a lot of work completed. I'm happy with the way my car feels and there is good potential for the car tomorrow and in the race too. We still can find some more improvements but for sure I am looking forward to making some improvements in FP3 then pushing to the maximum in qualifying."

Romain Grosjean, P2 - 1:44.986, 17th

"We still have some work to do to get the E22 where we want it to be. I did miss some track time in FP1, and you notice this a little, even if the temperature conditions are different from what we see when it matters this weekend. There's still pace to be found in the car and I'm sure we'll unlock more speed for qualifying tomorrow."

Esteban Ocon, P1 - 1:47.066, 16th

"It felt great to be out on track today. I didn't push too hard too soon, but everything felt good. Certainly the car is pretty different to drive from the previous generation F1 cars I've driven before, it's definitely more complicated in terms of all the settings and the driving style required is a change too. I'm quite happy with the pace show, but I was driving with margin so there's more speed to come in next week's test."

Alan Permane, Lotus trackside operations director

"It was a solid Friday for us with all of our assessment programmes completed. All three drivers delivered what we wanted so we have plenty of information to assess ahead of tomorrow's qualifying session. We ran fewer laps in the first session as the conditions are far less representative of what we'll see in qualifying and the race. Esteban did a thoroughly respectable job in the car today, giving us everything we wanted from him. He's definitely a great talent for the future."

Sauber

Esteban Gutierrez, P1 - 1:46.556, 14th; P2 - 1:44.316, 15th

"It was a positive day. Finally we were able to do both practice sessions. I think it was quite productive, although we do not have the pace we would like to have. It looks pretty tough for the long runs. We need to find the best way to improve our lap times."

Adrian Sutil, P2 - 1:44.763, 16th

"Unfortunately, I missed the first early afternoon free practice session. At the beginning of FP2 we had to replace the front brake disks. These are obviously not ideal preparations. That's the way it is at the moment, and we have to make the best out of it. We have a lot of work ahead of us and, furthermore, I did not have an optimal feeling in the car."

Adderly Fong, P1 - 1:48.269, 19th

"It was a good session. This car is totally different to the C31 I had driven in Valencia. As it was quite hot today the track temperatures were high, so it was very tricky to get the tyres to work. I think for my first FP1 I was pushing too much. I was trying to get onto the power as quickly as possible, but that driving style cost me time, especially in most of the slow corners such as in sector three. Then I had a cool down and was actually quicker on that lap on some of the corner exits. But I guess this is what FP1 is for, for learning a new car and also the operation procedures of the team. It was a bit overwhelming at the beginning with all the buttons I had to press. But having done the first run, you start to cool down. It was very nice to see drivers I normally watch on TV right in front of me. It is a privilege to be here, and it was a fantastic experience for me."

Giampaolo Dall'Ara , Sauber head of track engineering

"As expected today, the second session was a lot more significant than the first one, due to the temperature difference which we always have here. In the first session we tried to get the balance of the car in a certain window, particularly with Esteban. Adderly did a solid job in FP1, but had to focus mainly on becoming familiar with car and the procedures. In the second session we concentrated mainly on race preparation with temperatures we can expect in qualifying and the race. Overall the day was okay. We have to work on a number of things tonight in order to make further progress."

Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, P1 - 1:45.184, 3rd; P2 - No time

"It was a real shame losing the opportunity to take part in the second free practice session here at Yas Marina, as it's the only chance to get an idea of how things will really go this weekend. On my second lap, the car just stopped unexpectedly and even though the marshals did their best to push the car back to the pits in time to get it back out on track, the work took the mechanics longer than expected. In the first session, we managed to complete our programme and the car behaved as expected, but the temperature, much hotter than it will be in qualifying and the race, means the data we acquired is not that relevant. For the same reason, tomorrow's third session won't be that useful and that means the first lap to match conditions in qualifying and the race, in the dark in the afternoon, will be the first lap in Q1. We definitely won't be that well prepared but all the same, we will try our best as usual."

Kimi Raikkonen, P1 - 1:46.131, 12th; P2 - 1:43.489, 7th

"It was a very busy day and, particularly in the first session, we struggled a bit to find the right balance on the car. The programme included various set-up tests and, probably partly because of the high temperatures, my car felt rather nervous. Between the two sessions, we decided to make a few changes and in FP2, with lower temperatures, things improved, also in terms of how we compared to our competitors. My best lap wasn't perfect, I made a small mistake. Overall, the work we did today produced positive results and this evening's analysis of the data will deliver a lot of useful information to help us improve for qualifying and the race."

Pat Fry, Ferrari chassis director

"At the Yas Marina track, the first and third practice sessions don't tell you much, because of the effect of the high temperatures on the tyres. Usually, the level of grip gets better as the sun sets and in FP2 the track and air conditions produce a more similar picture to the one we can expect in the race, allowing for a better idea of car balance and a clearer understanding of the tyres. Here, it's important to find the right compromise between aerodynamic and mechanical grip for the twisty section, trying to make turn-in easier in the corners while also have good top speed on the long straights. As was the case in Brazil, tyre management will be a key factor. For the first time at this track we have the Soft and Supersoft tyres and this choice opens up various strategy choices, also taking into account the limited life of the softer compound. In the second session, an electrical problem meant Fernando had to park the car on track and the guys are now fixing the problem for tomorrow's practice. This incident is further proof that reliability, down to the smallest detail, is a major challenge for all teams, even right to the last race. It won't be an easy weekend, but we'll be trying to score as many points as possible, given that every position is worth double."

Force India

Sergio Perez, P1 - 1:45.983, 9th; P2 - 1:43.746, 11th

"It was a busy day, but I think we did a good job of getting the information we needed and understanding the changing temperatures throughout the day. Tyres will clearly play a big part with quite high degradation over the long runs and that will be the main challenge on Sunday. So it's important to analyse the tyre performance and see where we can improve. We also need to focus on our single lap pace with the target of Q3 tomorrow, but it's looking very competitive to try and get in the top ten."

Nico Hulkenberg, P1 - 1:46.030, 10th; P2 - 1:44.068, 13th

"The first session went well, but my car felt quite different this evening and not so easy to drive. It's something we need to analyse and understand because it certainly had an impact on performance and lap time. Despite these issues I was still able to get a feeling for the tyres, which have been more of a challenge than we expected. It was very cool this evening at the end of FP2 and that was a big factor on tyre performance."

Otmar Szafnauer, Force India chief operating officer

"We made a good start to our Abu Dhabi programme with no significant issues to report and encouraging performance on the track. Both drivers are generally happy, although we need to find a better direction for Nico tonight to make sure he is comfortable before qualifying. The afternoon session was the most relevant, being run in temperatures more representative of qualifying and the race, and we collected all the relevant tyre information and long run data. Our long run performance needs some work, but the soft tyre certainly appears to be the more consistent of the compounds. Tonight we need to make sure the car is optimised for qualifying because it's a circuit that's always proved difficult for overtaking and grid position will be vital for a successful result come Sunday."

McLaren

Kevin Magnussen, P1 - 1:46.049, 11th; P2 - 1:42.895, 3rd

“It hasn’t been a bad day, all in all. I tried out our new front wing during both today’s sessions, and it felt different, which is good. Fortunately, we managed to get a lot of testing of it done, and we learned some interesting things about it, so that’s good too.

“It - our new front wing - follows a very different philosophy from our regular front wing, and I think today’s running has given us a positive direction for the future.

“Looking forwards to the race, the option [tyre] has shown itself to be extremely soft; it needs to be looked after in order to last a stint. And, in terms of degradation, there’s quite a big difference between the two compounds.

“Although I ended up in P3 today, it’s possible that we may not be quite able to fight for the second row tomorrow. All year we’ve tended to look stronger on Friday than we do on Saturday. Some of the other teams seem to be able to find a bit of extra pace overnight - and I guess that may happen again here. Even so, we’ll be giving it our very best shot, so let’s see how it pans out. The car feels okay, and tomorrow is when its speed will really count.”

Jenson Button, P1 - 1:47.235, 17th; P2 - 1:43.503, 8th

“This afternoon we had an issue with the rear suspension, then a hydraulic problem ahead of FP2. I also had a problem with something inside the cockpit, which meant I had to climb out then climb in again, so I suppose you’d have to say it’s been quite a busy day.

“Because of all that additional work, we haven’t really established a good set-up foundation - but then that’s a natural consequence whenever you find yourselves having to right so many things that have gone wrong.

“Over one lap, the car looks pretty good - but whether it’ll be the same tomorrow, I don’t know. We need to do a bit more work to get a proper idea of how the tyres will behave across a long run.

“So we’ve got a lot to do overnight, but, hopefully, we can put the car right for tomorrow, and then we’ll see where we are.”

Eric Boullier, McLaren racing director

“Today was a very busy day - for a number of reasons.

“First, we were able to test our latest iteration of front wing. It would have proved difficult to run it on both cars, but, as we always alternate new components between our drivers, it was Kevin’s turn to run our new front wing during both sessions today, Jenson having run the new components last time we tested any.

“All in all, we were very happy with its debut performance - it’s doing exactly what we expected it to do.

“It was unfortunate for Jenson to be hit with not one but two mechanical issues during today’s practice sessions. The first occurred early in first practice, when we discovered a suspension-related issue at the rear of his car. We’d fully resolved that, and were reassembling the car, when we noticed an entirely separate problem involving the hydraulics.

“It was touch and go as to whether we’d be able to get Jenson out during today’s second practice session, but I doff my hat to our intrepid mechanics, who worked gallantly to get his car turned around in time, losing just 35 minutes of track-time in the process.

“Of course, that’s not an ideal way for Jenson to start his weekend - but he suffered a similar mishap during FP1 in Brazil, and he bounced back superbly. It won’t hold him back, of that I’m certain.

“Given the critical nature of this weekend, with the unusually large number of championship points on offer, it’s essential that we work really hard to ensure that both our cars qualify well tomorrow. Kevin’s pace on the option [tyre] over a single lap certainly looked encouraging, so we’ll be giving it everything we’ve got at this most unique of events to convert that early promise into a decent show in qualifying tomorrow.”