Two practice sessions on Friday opened the season-ending race weekend, with FP1 run under the sun while FP2 was the far more representative practice session as it emulated the twilight racing conditions teams will face in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez began FP1 shod on the Pirelli P Zero Red supersoft tires before switching to the harder Yellow soft compound later in the session.
Grosjean set a quick time of 1:45.600 on his eighth lap while on the supersofts to secure 12th on the timesheets. His runs on the softs proved unproductive. A pair of lockups and a spin at the first corner of the 5.554-kilometer (3.451-mile), 21-turn circuit just as the session hit the one-hour mark resulted in an early exit from FP1 with only 13 laps in the books. Having flat-spotted his only set of soft tires, the team turned its attention to preparing for FP2.
Gutiérrez enjoyed a drama-free outing but, unlike Grosjean, his fastest lap came on the Yellow soft tires. Gutiérrez secured his quick time of 1:45.925 on his 10th lap during his second stint, which placed him 14th overall. Gutiérrez’s best drive on the Red supersofts was a 1:46.319, earned during his first full run at speed. He ended FP1 with a six-lap run on the same set of Yellow softs he used to secure his quick time. When FP1 was over, Gutiérrez had tallied 20 laps.
Fastest in FP1 was Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton. His quick time of 1:42.869 was .374 of a second faster than teammate and championship point leader Nico Rosberg. The two drivers are the only ones still competing for the title and Rosberg leads Hamilton by 12 points heading into the season finale.
As the sun began to set, FP2 began in earnest. Gutiérrez was fastest for Haas F1 Team with a best time of 1:43.012, good for 13th quickest. He earned the fast time during a qualifying simulation on his 12th lap while riding on a set of Pirelli P Zero Purple ultrasoft tires. Gutiérrez began the 90-minute session with an eight-lap baseline run on Red supersofts before switching to the ultrasofts. And after completing his mock qualifying runs, Gutiérrez spent the final 30 minutes of FP2 working on a 19-lap run, with the first seven laps coming on a set of used supersofts before pitting for a set of used ultrasofts. When it was over, Gutiérrez had logged 35 laps.
Grosjean’s FP2 started solidly with a seven-lap baseline stint on a new set of Yellow softs. Like his teammate, Grosjean switched over to the ultrasofts for a qualifying simulation, whereupon he earned the 14th-fastest time with a lap of 1:43.108 on his 13th tour of the track. Unfortunately for Grosjean, that was as good as it would get. His long run was compromised just three laps in courtesy of a water leak. After a quick evaluation in the garage, the team was forced to terminate Grosjean’s session with a valuable 25 minutes of track time still left on the clock and only 17 laps completed.
Hamilton and Rosberg sat atop the charts again in FP2, with Hamilton’s quick time of 1:40.861 outpacing his teammate by a scant .079 of a second.
Between the two sessions, Haas F1 Team ran a total of 85 laps – 55 by Gutiérrez and 30 by Grosjean.
Romain Grosjean, Driver No. 8, Haas F1 Team
“Not the easiest Friday we’ve ever had. We had some issues this morning with that spin, and some mapping issues and the braking. We did well and worked hard to sort that out for FP2. Then, unfortunately, in FP2 we had the issue with the water leak which meant we couldn’t do our long run. I’ve been struggling to get the tires to work. We initially had a good run in the day, but then after that we struggled a bit more. That’s going to be the main concern for our work tonight. We know that FP3 tomorrow won’t be representative of the rest of the weekend. Hopefully, we make the right guess for qualifying and the race.”
Esteban Gutiérrez, Driver No. 21, Haas F1 Team
“I think we maximized our track abilities today. We managed to complete the whole program, which was important for us to get a good feeling for the car, especially with the temperatures being very different between practice one and practice two. It’s important to understand how that affects our car. We have plenty of data to look at. We’ll work tonight to understand everything and make the right choices for tomorrow.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team
“FP1 and FP2 both started well. Everything seemed to go to plan. Then in the second half of FP2 on Romain’s car, we had a water leak, forcing us to stop running with him. We went through our testing, but we still have to learn about the ultrasoft tires here. I think we made progress. We’re not where we want to be yet, but we have one more session tomorrow and then we’ll see.”
Drivers have one more practice session on Saturday (14:00-15:00) before qualifying starts at 17:00. Qualifying consists of three rounds, with the 16 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.