Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Friday Practice Recap

Event:  Free Practice 1 and Free Practice 2 (FP1 and FP2) 

Date:  Friday, Nov. 23

Location:  Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, UAE

Layout:  5.554-kilometer (3.451-mile), 21-turn track

FP1 Weather:  Sunny

FP1 Air Temps:  28.7-30.3 degrees Celsius (83.7-86.5 degrees Fahrenheit)

FP1 Track Temps:  36.6-44.0 degrees Celsius (97.88-111.2 degrees Fahrenheit)

FP2 Weather:  Clear

FP2 Air Temps:  26.0-26.6 degrees Celsius (78.8-79.9 degrees Fahrenheit)

FP2 Track Temps:  28.0-30.5 degrees Celsius (82.4-86.9 degrees Fahrenheit)

Drivers:  Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen

Magnussen:  6th quick (1:40.235), 21 laps completed

Grosjean:  10th quick (1:40.663), 24 laps completed

Fastest Driver:  Max Verstappen of Red Bull (1:38.491)

Most Laps:  Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes (29 laps)

Grosjean:  7th quick (1:38.060), 30 laps completed

Magnussen:  9th quick (1:38.318), 30 laps completed

Fastest Driver:  Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes (1:37.236)

Most Laps:  Kimi Räikkönen of Scuderia Ferrari (40 laps)

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.

“It was a pretty good Friday. I think it was a good improvement from the afternoon into the evening. I was pretty happy with the way the evening session went, which is most important for the weekend, so that was quite positive. FP1 and FP3 aren’t representative, whereas FP2 is, so I’m glad the car worked well there. We have a few things to look into to make sure we get the best of the car tomorrow and prepare for the race the best way we can. Generally, we’re happy with where we are.”

“I guess it was a pretty good Friday. It’s always tricky here with FP1 in bright daylight and the track being so hot, then for FP2 it cools down a lot in the evening. It’s not that easy to learn too much between the two sessions because of the temperature difference. The car seemed to be OK in both sessions, so that’s good news. It’s more the long run on the hypersoft tire, which was the tricky one. It’s difficult to make those tires last more than five laps. The front tires take a big hit. Overall though, I’m happy about how today went.”

“Practice went pretty well today. We didn’t have any big issues. We successfully ran through all of our programs. Let’s hope we continue on that path in qualifying tomorrow and have a good final race on Sunday.”

Drivers have one more practice session on Saturday (14:00-15:00 local time) before qualifying starts at 17:00. Qualifying consists of three rounds with the 15 fastest drivers from Q1 moving on to Q2. Then, the 10 fastest drivers from Q2 advance to Q3, where they’ll battle for the pole.