The newest venue on the Formula One calendar certainly looks impressive and one team enjoying the new racing environment more than the others is McLaren Mercedes who topped the Friday timesheets. Heikki Kovalainen led the way from team-mate Lewis Hamilton second ahead of the 2009
champion Jenson Button
. As ever, it’s hard to read too much in to practice pace as the drivers give their thoughts on the first day action at the Yas Marina Circuit.
1 . H. Kovalainen - McLaren Mercedes MP4-24
“The whole day was pretty good. We’d already done some good work in Woking preparing for this circuit, so we had a good balance right from the start this morning. However, we had a brake issue during first practice which we couldn’t sort out during the session. This afternoon, we got it sorted and were able to improve considerably, with both tyres working well. The circuit is cool – it’s very smooth with good grip and the kerbs are nice. Turns Two and Three are not easy-flat, but, with the good balance of the car, they’re fun. On the straight, KERS gives us an additional benefit. We can use it for maximum performance and it’s worth three-and-a-half to four tenths. The light is no problem with our slightly tinted tear-off visors, which we could remove once the sun had set.”
2 . L. Hamilton - McLaren Mercedes MP4-24
“It looks like we might be quite competitive here – our long runs appear to be good, the car feels great and the track is great – it’s quite interesting coming from daylight into nighttime, you don’t notice the difference through the twilight. They’ve done an incredible job here. It’s a really nice circuit to drive – there are a lot of technical corners, where braking stability is important. It’s a great track and I really enjoy driving it. The only bit I don’t like is the tunnel – but it’s a challenge. We’ll have to see what happens tomorrow, because the track conditions are always changing, but we feel quite comfortable with the pace we have. Our car seems to behave quite well over the kerbs, we’ve got the balance feeling quite good today. Our car is probably driving better than it has all year – it’s just been getting better and better. In a way, it’s been an excellent year: it’s a bit like a race when you start from the back of the field and fight back to the front – that’s what our season has been like."
3 . J. Button - Brawn Mercedes BGP 001
"The Yas Marina circuit is certainly an interesting one. When you look at the layout, it doesn't seem that exciting but when you actually drive it, it's fantastic. The track has a bit of everything with high and low speed corners, positive and negative camber and the walls are pretty close to you most of the way round. We had a good first day of practice here with just a few balance issues to work on overnight."
4 . S. Vettel - Red Bull Renault RB5
"So, that was the last Friday practice of this year. I’d like to say thanks to Renault – many people didn’t believe that we’d succeed without having to change an engine, but here we are having completed a lot of miles on another Friday without a single problem. Abu Dhabi is a new circuit, so new conditions – including starting driving in the daylight and finishing the session at night, which is quite exciting. Obviously, the circuit was very green and slippery to begin with, but overall it’s quite a thrill to drive, with some good corners. It’s also pretty special to go under a hotel! Performance wise, we’re looking quite good. We didn’t know what to expect around here, but it seems as though we’re quite competitive, although we will have to wait to see how competitive. Even though it’s a new track, it was a normal Friday practice and we were testing which tyre works best.”
5 . K. Kobayashi - Toyota TF109
"Today went well and it was interesting to drive on this track for the first time; it is a fantastic venue. This is the second time in two weeks I have had to learn a new circuit so it is becoming a familiar experience. I learnt a lot from the Brazil weekend which has already helped me here in Abu Dhabi. It will also be helpful to have a completely dry weekend so I can really become familiar with the car and tyres on this track; that didn't happen in Brazil but I am confident it will this weekend. We have quite a lot of data from today and that will allow us to find areas to improve. I believe we can make another step in terms of performance before qualifying and then I will do my best to start as high as possible."
6 . S. Buemi - Toro Rosso Ferrari STR4
“This new circuit has some interesting features which we are not used to, like the tunnel and it’s a nice feeling to start running in daylight and going into the dark. This morning was a bit difficult, but we improved the car quite a lot in the afternoon, so I am not unhappy. You have to consider that there is a huge difference in the track between the first session and the second, as it is a lot quicker in the evening when it’s cooler. It was a bit difficult to get the tyres working properly, especially the Option, but apart from that, the car is not too bad. Now we have to see what we can do for tomorrow, when it will be important to qualify well.”
7 . M. Webber - Red Bull Renault RB5
“A productive first day at a new track. We had an engine change between P1 and P2 – the guys did a brilliant job to get the car turned around in time. Other than that, we got on with the normal tyre comparisons and other tests we do on a Friday – so, although a new track, a normal Friday. The track’s pretty good – it’s not Spa, but it’s also not Bahrain! It’s not bad. There was a difference in clarity between driving in the afternoon for P1 and in the early evening during P2 – it’s a different atmosphere when the lights are on, but we’re used to that from Singapore.”
8 . R. Barrichello - Brawn Mercedes BGP 001
"First of all, I'm really pleased with the new track here in Abu Dhabi. The venue looks sensational and it's quite challenging to drive which is makes it a lot more fun for the drivers. The car felt good here over the two sessions and we were able to make several improvements over the course of the day. I'm quite happy with the balance and looking forward to tomorrow."
9 . N. Rosberg - Williams Toyota FW31
"I enjoyed driving the track for the first time today. It was dirty to begin with and then of course in the second session we were interested in the artificial lighting conditions in the dark and the effect on the tyres of the temperature dropping. Visibility-wise it was fine in the second practice session and again, the temperature change didn’t seem to have too big an effect on us. The more unknown element is the choice of tyre and it is hard to say which is better. In terms of set-up, we have definitely found a direction especially on the mechanical side. All in all, a good day which has given me confidence that we can score some points here this weekend."
10 . K. Raikkonen - Ferrari F60
“The car is not bad to drive, but it is simply slow and lacks grip, as in fact has been the case very often this year. It’s not as though there is a specific reason why it’s not going well, but most of all, its down to our choice to stop development of the F60, so our performance level compared to the others is going down race by race, given that so many teams are still working on this year’s cars.
There are only a few corners where you can make a difference, near the start of the lap. Then there are so many heavy braking points and slow speed corners, where stability on entry and acceleration on exit are the important factors. Going from daylight to artificial light? After two races in Singapore, it doesn’t cause a problem. The pit lane exit? In terms of its layout it’s quite similar to Interlagos, except there’s a wall instead of a guardrail.”
11 . A. Sutil - Force India Mercedes VJM02
"The car was performing well today, although we still have some work to do to get the balance right. We are missing a little grip on the harder tyre but it's going well with the softer compound, although we are struggling with warm up on both. The circuit is OK, but I miss some of the high speed sections you find in other tracks. There are a lot of second gear slow sections and the flow is not really there, but it's still a big challenge as it's very slippery so you are always fighting with oversteer. There wasn't a problem with the changing light as the lighting is very good: you still know it's at night but you can really see clearly. Driving into the sunset was OK - I don't think there will be a problem on Sunday."
12 . K. Nakajima - Williams Toyota FW31
“It was an interesting day, running P1 in the daylight and P2 in the evening. The track has improved a lot and we have spent a useful day finding a set-up direction. The tyre selection is quite tricky, which will be the key factor we will look at tomorrow.”
13 . N. Heidfeld - BMW Sauber F1.09
“The track offers everything you can ask for. The tarmac is good and the lay-out is quite good with the first sector having the fast corners, the second sector providing this endless straight and a possibility for overtaking, and the third one being rather narrow and windy, but flowing nicely. I’m not happy with the car’s set-up and balance yet. This is especially for a single quick lap as on the long runs the lap times were improving. The visibility during sunset and twilight wasn’t an issue today. I hope this doesn’t change if we get more dust in the air. In respect of the total darkness and floodlighting, I have the feeling it was brighter in Singapore.”
14 . J. Trulli - Toyota TF109
"I must say that was an enjoyable day for me and it was interesting to drive on the new track for the first time. It was good fun and I am looking forward to racing here. They have done a great job with the facilities and the track is really well built, so I am impressed. The first laps were difficult because there was just no grip, but that is normal for a new circuit like this and as the day went on the situation improved. Driving during twilight was a new experience for me and the view does change a little, with some shadows, but generally it is similar to Singapore so it's not a problem. All in all, the car seemed competitive and well-balanced so if we can improve again tomorrow we can have another strong weekend."
15 . V. Liuzzi - Force India Mercedes VJM02
"It's a great facility here, still quite slippery with the dust but it was very interesting to drive in such different light conditions over the day. It went quite well today. I think we are very competitive and have a very strong car on higher fuel loads. We still need to work a lot on the low fuel conditions as we are not spot on but I think we are going in the right direction with the car and can be happy with the progress we made today. We knew it would be hard but it's not easy for anybody with this high temperature to find a balance but I am positive for tomorrow."
16 . F. Alonso - Renault R29
“Today we experienced Yas Marina for the first time so we had to learn the circuit and work out the best way to set the car up. We tried a lot of different things and made some good progress by concentrating on getting good grip and traction in the low-speed corners. As we expected, the track was a bit dirty to begin with, but when more rubber was laid down I started to get a good feeling for the circuit and the car. We have a lot of information to look over tonight so that we can make some changes in the morning to find some more performance from the car before qualifying.”
17 . G. Fisichella - Ferrari F60
“This will become a sort of second home Grand Prix for Ferrari, as rising above the back of the circuit, will be the first ever theme park dedicated to the Maranello company. As for the track, I can say the nicest part is the first section with the quick corners. I think there is some chance of overtaking on the long straights, while the pit lane exit is a bit dangerous, but there is nothing that can be done to change it. In the second session, when the temperature dropped, the track became less slippery. In the first session, I was struggling a bit to stay on track and I had a lot of graining. We have nothing new on the car and we must try and do our best, working on its set-up.”
18 . R. Grosjean - Renault R29
"The circuit is very nice and it feels like there are two different parts. The first part is like a ‘normal’ track and the second part, including the third sector, has a lot of 90-degree corners that are very challenging. I quite like sectors one and two, but not sector three as you cannot afford to make any mistakes there. These very different sectors are a challenge when it comes to setting up the car. Also, the temperature difference between the sessions played a relatively big role in today’s programme as we ran on the track during the day and the night, which allowed us to see what it will be like for the race. Now I’m look forward to tomorrow and building on today’s work."
19 . J. Alguersuari - Toro Rosso Ferrari STR4
“I have enjoyed driving this new circuit. It has nothing particularly tricky about it and it reminds me in parts of Valencia. This morning I was learning the track and I also had to get used to an F1 car again, as last weekend, I was racing in the World Series. The first session went pretty well and so did the afternoon, apart from a small problem on the car towards the end. Degradation does not seem to be an issue with the tyres and they are lasting well. In FP2 the track of course had more grip and was generally faster, helped by the fact it was cooler in the dark.”
20 . R. Kubica - BMW Sauber F1.09
“The track is quite interesting, although there are not a lot of high speed corners and most are quite short. The final sector of the track reminds me of Singapore. We were just starting to work on the set-up and the tyre evaluation in the second free practice session when I had an engine failure. Now the track conditions are improving with each lap, this is a big loss and I lost nearly one hour of valuable track time.”