Charles Leclerc topped the timesheets in FP2, but Scuderia Ferrari did not have a perfect Friday at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Carlos Sainz crashed into the barriers at turn 3, having completed just four laps in the second session. The long delay while the barrier was repaired also limited the amount of work Leclerc was able to get through. The Monegasque had also entrusted his car to Robert Shwartzman in the first session, as per the regulation requiring young drivers to drive a free practice session, replacing one of the regular race drivers twice per season. Leclerc was fastest in the session run under lights, but with only just over 20 minutes of track time because of the two red flags, teams had to decide what to work on and not all of them tried a qualifying simulation.
FP1. In the first hour on a dirty track, with high temperatures and in daylight, Robert started off with rakes fitted to the SF-23 to carry out some aero measurements, while Carlos immediately got on with fine tuning the set-up. They both went out on Soft tyres and a heavy fuel load, before tackling faster qualifying simulation laps on another set of Softs, both drivers setting their best times at this point. Carlos lapped in 1’26”676 while Robert stopped the clocks in 1’26”703 having performed particularly well throughout the session in which he was the second quickest youngster on track.
FP2. In the second session, the more meaningful in terms of track conditions, as it started at sunset (tomorrow’s qualifying starts at 18.00), Charles was back behind the wheel of his SF-23, but having completed just four laps, Sainz ended up in the barriers bringing out the first red flag. His best time of 1’26”707 therefore does not mean much. The damage sustained on his car will be completely repaired in time for tomorrow’s final free practice. The session took a long time to restart as the barriers had to be repaired but almost immediately after the track went green again, Nico Hulkenberg hit the wall coming out of the first corner, stopping the session once again. For the restart, Charles went out on Soft tyres setting the best time of 1’24”809. He only managed a total of 16 laps.
A lot of work to do. Both Charles and Carlos still have a lot of work to do tomorrow, although that goes for pretty much the entire field. Today, some teams focused on qualifying, while others tried to do some race preparation as well. Free practice starts at 14.30 (11.30 CET) when once again temperatures will be much higher than those for the later qualifying session.
‘It was a tricky day. We only completed two laps on the short run and not many overall, but the feeling in the car was pretty good so far. The fight is on with Mercedes and they look competitive, so it won’t be easy. We will do everything we can to qualify in front of them tomorrow.’
‘It’s obviously not been the Friday I wanted here in Abu Dhabi. We played a bit with the set up in FP1 and I was looking forward to FP2 after making some changes to the car. Unfortunately, I went over the big bump at the entry to turn 3 and I lost the car over it, bottoming out and hitting the barriers.It was a costly mistake and I’m sorry for the mechanics for giving them extra work today. I’m sure tomorrow we will be back on track and ready to go. It looks like the field is going to be tight so we can expect an interesting Qualifying.’
George Russell – Fastest in FP1
‘That was a relatively positive Friday for us. There were a lot of rookie drivers out there on track in FP1, so we didn’t get a completely clear gauge of where our relative pace was. Fred did a good job for the team though, and we got a lot of useful data to look over. FP2 was clearly an interrupted session so again, we couldn’t get a read on where we were stacking up against our competitors or a true picture of where our pace may be. Nevertheless, we have a lot to review overnight and that will hopefully put us in a good place to finish the last race of the season on a high. I’m excited going into tomorrow.’
‘FP2 was a very frustrating session for me, and I suspect for all the drivers out there. We got very little running in the end, and a lack of consecutive laps too, which is what we most want to achieve on a Friday. On the laps we did do, the car felt OK. The grip felt good and there are a few things we will look at overnight to see what we can improve. It was a shame we didn’t get more running, but we will look to make up for that in FP3 tomorrow.’
“We had limited track time in FP2 so we weren’t able to learn as much as we wanted to. I didn’t expect the balance to be so far off, there was a lot of understeer and jumping. There’s a lot to figure out in tomorrow’s practice session. Of course, we’re still P3 so it’s not too bad, I just think balance wise it could be much better. We need to make some big improvements to be good in qualifying tomorrow.”
Jake Dennis: Oracle Red Bull Racing Test Driver
“What an incredible experience, I can only thank Red Bull Racing for the opportunity to drive this car. It is immaculate to drive and these moments don’t come around very often in your career. To finally tick driving in FP1 off the bucket list is pretty special. It is so different from what I am used to, the first run was mind blowing, how quick these cars are and how much downforce and braking capacity they have. It was just a cool day in the office and I exited the car with a big smile on my face. I do a lot of work on the simulator for the Team so it’s good to correlate as much as possible back to the simulator in the factory and it is quite impressive how close it is. I had that fear factor, which you obviously don’t have on the sim and the G forces. It was a bit of a challenge, but I have given the car back to Max in one piece!”