Mercedes appears to be the team to beat, which isn’t really a surprise given the dominance they have had in Abu Dhabi since the beginning of the hybrid era. Although they didn’t top the times in FP1, they were just three hundredths behind Max Verstappen they had a seven-tenths advantage in the evening session.
Its no surprise really that Mercedes were the fastest team in the evening this is a circuit which we have always said suits their car in the first two sectors. We know they tend to build throughout the weekend and then get quicker, I think you have to be impressed with Lewis Hamilton being two tenths off.
But you need to expect that despite him missing last weekend, he felt like the “first day back to school.” In his first interview since Bahrain Hamilton told Sky Sports “I was very, very happy and grateful this morning, just to be back here. And, obviously, to be able to try and finish off the season strong, I was super excited.
“It felt like a first day back to school kind of thing. So it definitely took a minute to get back used to it for the first session, and then the second one, I think [I was] still getting my bearings, but not too bad.
“I think we got through most of the stuff we missed out in the fourty minute session [stop when his brakes were being fixed] at the start of the day, but otherwise got most of the stuff done.”
Hamilton said he was under no pressure to come back having won the championship, but wanted to enjoy the last weekend of the season.
Asked about f it had felt strange to see George Russell racing his car in Bahrain last weekend, Hamilton praised the job that the young Briton did.
“I think George did an amazing job, and I think everyone knows that. I think it was definitely odd. And from my 27 years of racing, I’ve never missed a race. So yeah, one day, I’ll write a book about it. But as I said, I’m just grateful to be back.”
Red Bull as expected were the closest team to Mercedes however the gap to Mercedes appears very large, seven and a half tenths. They will admit this could be one of the more difficult weekend. Verstappen believes there is still more he can find.
The dutchman told reporters “. We will see what the other drivers say about track limits in the briefing tonight but it’s Friday Practice which is always about exploring the limits and getting a better understanding of how wide you can go with the car.”
“In qualifying we know we can’t go so wide and will pay more attention, but I don’t think it’s a big issue. The soft tyre seemed to hold on ok so I think that will be ok for qualifying and we will see whether I can sit in a different Press Conference chair tomorrow.”
Red Bull are still likely to find a bit overnight, but you need to say that it’s very unlikely for them to find enough to close the gap to Mercedes in qualifying tomorrow evening
Camilleri announces retirement
Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri has announced his retirement from the Italian sports car manufacturer with immediate effect. The move, which has been cited for ‘personal reasons’, has come out of the blue and Ferrari has not yet had time to sort out who will replace him.
Ferrari’s chairman John Elkann has been appointed as acting CEO while they find a successor. The departure of the Italian comes as a surprise and on the same day, it was also announced he was stepping down from Philip Morris.
Camilleri had taken on the CEO role at Ferrari in the summer of 2018, following the death of Sergio Marchionne.
Camilleri time as CEO, didn’t see Ferrari manage to secure championships, however as a car manufacture before coronavirus hit in March solid growth was reported and the share price currently stands at €179.
Speaking about his decision, Camilleri said: “Ferrari has been a part of my life and serving as its chief executive has been a great privilege. My admiration for the extraordinary men and women of Maranello and for the passion and dedication they apply to everything they do knows no bounds.
Not scared by fire
Kimi Raikkonen’s running in FP2 was cut short and caused a red flag after his Alfa Romeo stopped at the side of the track and caught fire. Two weeks after Romain Grosjean’s lucky escape the fire was rare and the cause of which has yet to be revealed.
Asked if the experience had been scary, given it initially looked like he’d been incumbered climbing out by his radio wire, Raikkonen nonchalantly replied: “No, there was nothing scary about it. It was just a shame it catches on fire and then obviously it gets all messy afterwards with trying to put the fire out. It’s one of those things.”
Raikkonen didn’t want to say what damage was done to his car, but it’s unlikely to face penalties as teams tend to run high mileage gearboxes and engines on a Friday. Raikkonen is hoping to end the year on a high after a run of two 15th place finishes and one P14 since finishing ninth at Imola.
Fight for third and fourth in constructors
This weekend the key fight really is between Racing Point, Renault and McLaren, although it appears likely that following Sergio Perez’s win baring a bad race that Racing Point is likely to seal third. But there was a surprise with just thousandths between Lando Norris and Sergio Perez.
Racing Point has tended to be stronger at places where Mercedes are strong. However, Sergio Perez has been hit with a number of penalties so I believe it is unlikely we saw a real representation of the performance of Perez. That means Lance Stroll is the teams’ main hope of scoring points.
Yas Marina can be a difficult circuit for overtaking, this hopefully creates a interesting battle through out the weekend. McLaren I feel are in a better position to fight with Racing Point, as it’s a race without issues.