The final round of the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship began with practice Friday at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi as teams prepared for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Sunday.
Two 90-minute sessions – FP1 and FP2 – on the 5.554-kilometer (3.451-mile), 21-turn track were run under clear conditions, with Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen navigating the counter-clockwise layout that boasts a top speed of 335 kph (208 mph) and an average speed of 195 kph (121 mph).
While the top speeds are high, the track’s array of corners forces teams to compromise on their cars’ setup, employing medium levels of downforce. The layout emphasizes traction and braking and, with the Yas Marina surface being relatively smooth, Pirelli’s softest tire compounds are used since the demand on tires is minimal in comparison to other circuits. This means a return to the Pink hypersoft tire – the grippiest compound in Pirelli’s lineup – which actually debuted at Abu Dhabi last year during testing following the grand prix.
Both Grosjean and Magnussen began FP1 on the Purple ultrasoft tire before transitioning to the Pink hypersofts, commenting rear grip was a challenge on the initial compound but the overall balance of their racecars improved considerably on the latter compound. Magnussen’s quick time of 1:40.235 came on his 13th lap shod on hypersofts. He ran 21 laps and was the sixth-fastest driver. Grosjean’s best time was a 1:40.663 on his 15th lap, also set on hypersofts. He ran 24 laps and posted the 10th-quickest time.
Leading the way in FP1 was Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, whose fast lap of 1:38.491 was .454 of a second better than the next quickest driver, his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
As day turned to night in FP2, speeds picked up and lap times dropped. Grosjean wrapped FP2 as the seventh-quickest driver with a time of 1:38.060, which was 2.603 seconds better than his best lap in FP1. His quick time came on the 11th of his 30 laps on a set of hypersofts, which he called “quite resilient.” Magnussen shaved 1.917 seconds off his FP1 time with a lap of 1:38.318 to finish the session ninth fastest. His fast lap came on his 13th tour, also while utilizing the hypersoft tire after switching from ultrasofts. He also completed 30 laps.
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas topped FP2 with a mark of 1:37.236, which was .044 of a second better than Verstappen, his nearest pursuer. The Yas Marina track record of 1:36.231, set last year by Bottas in the final round of knockout qualifying, remained intact.
Between the two sessions, Haas F1 Team ran a total of 105 laps – 54 by Grosjean and 51 by Magnussen.