On paper, it looked like a straightforward Friday with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz securing the same places – eighth and ninth respectively – in both sessions on the first day of practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The new Yas Marina layout was significantly quicker, by a dozen seconds or so per lap. As usual, the track got faster as the temperature dropped and also bit by bit as the surface rubbered in. The team got through all of its planned programme without any problems, completing a total of 104 laps.
FP1. In the first session, Charles and Carlos used just the Soft tyres to learn the track, especially the parts that had been resurfaced in line with the modifications. They completed 46 laps: 20 for the Monegasque who started off acquiring measurements by running obvious aero rakes on his SF21 while the Spaniard did 26. Charles’ best time was a 1’25”846, while Carlos stopped the clocks in 1’25”886.
FP2. In the evening session, the drivers continued with fine tuning the car and evaluating the tyres, starting on Mediums before switching to Softs for qualifying simulation runs. On Mediums, Charles did a 1’25”194, having had a 1’25”104 cancelled for exceeding track limits, with a 1’25”270 for Carlos. Once they switched to Softs, the Monegasque got a best time of 1’24”557, with the Spaniard doing a 1’24”844. They both ended the session in race trim, but on different compound tyres, Softs for Leclerc and Mediums for Sainz. This evening the team will carry out an in-depth study to fine tune the set-up and to look at the behaviour of the tyres. It will be very important to work out the best allocation of these for tomorrow’s qualifying that starts at 17 local time (14 CET) as this is always key at Yas Marina, as well as for Sunday’s race. There will be more time available for this during the third and final free practice session, although, starting at 14 (11 CET) it is not so representative of the conditions facing the drivers over the rest of the weekend.
Charles Leclerc #16
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 #55
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.