Friday practice report from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance: The changes to the circuit have injected some renewed interest to the circuit. The combination of reprofiled corners and new tarmac has changed the nature of the circuit significantly. We had a good FP1 with Jack doing an excellent job and providing some excellent feedback in his return to F1 duties. Nicholas too came to terms with the circuit revisions quickly and was able to do some good running at low and high fuel.
George had a solid FP2 session but clearly missed some of the early learning from FP1 and there is more to come from him tomorrow, especially at low fuel. Nicholas made a small mistake early in FP2, but we were able to repair the car quickly and get him back out to complete most of his original programme. Separate to his minor contact with the wall, we identified a developing problem with one of his rear dampers, which we were unable to change during FP2. We will rectify this overnight, which should help improve the handling of his car. Despite this issue, his high fuel pace was decent, and we were able to learn quite a lot about the likely behaviour of the tyres on Sunday.
As always, there is a lot to look at tonight and there are definitely further improvements to come from the car and the drivers as we complete the finetuning for the new circuit layout here at Yas Marina.
George Russell: It was interesting trying out the circuit changes and I have to say I liked them. The track is now faster and flowing and therefore nicer to drive. Ultimately though, it all comes down to lap time. I was a little bit off the pace today, but I still felt that my laps were pretty decent nevertheless. We've got a bit of work to do to close the gap to Alfa Romeo and the midfield cars ahead tonight, but I think there is more lap time to come from me and it's only natural that you find more lap time throughout the weekend. The aim is to qualify well tomorrow; we will be working hard tonight to do that and end the season on a high.
Nicholas Latifi: It’s good to be back at Yas Marina Circuit. I think the updated track does suit our car slightly more; it’s definitely better fun to drive and has a nicer flow to it. I believe that it will help with the racing too, so hopefully we’re in a position to take advantage of that on Sunday.
I had an incident at Turn 13 in FP2 and damaged the end plates of the rear wing, but the guys and girls in the garage did a great job to get me back out there so I could continue with the session. I was struggling a bit with the balance of the car in FP1; we made some slight adjustments going into FP2 which did help a bit, but there was a problem with a rear damper that we weren’t able to resolve during the session. We’ll get that fixed tonight and continue to work through the data, so we should be in a stronger position heading into Saturday.
Jack Aitken: It was really nice to be back in the car after such a long break and to feel the progress that’s been made across the last year. I spent a lot of time making sure I was on top of the car’s set-up and various procedures, but everything went very smoothly and I was happy that we collected some valuable data. The car felt good to drive around the updated track layout and I was pleased with the pace today. I think the team will make some good progress over the next few sessions, so hopefully it’ll be a good race to finish off the season on Sunday.
Most importantly, I kept the car in one piece so that George could jump back in for FP2!