Red Bull and Mercedes lead the way in practice ahead of this weekend’s season finale in Abu Dhabi. In the early session, Max Verstappen edged out his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo by four and a half tenths. While in the twilight conditions Valtteri Bottas edged out both the Red Bulls by four-hundredths of a second.
Haas protest to be decided on Saturday
The protest by Haas over Force India’s running the VJM11 will be heard on Saturday morning. Haas protested Force India ahead of this weekend’s season finale because, it is understood, it contests it is wrong for its competitor to be running a car, not of its own making.
The issue centred around the car being built by the original Force India team which fell into administration in July and was then brought by Lawrence Stroll. Then re-entered as Racing Point Force India.
F1 regulations state all entries are responsible for designing their own cars the hearing began at 11:00 on Friday but had to be paused ahead of opening practice to examine additional evidence.
It reconvened at 15:30 and personnel were spotted exiting roughly an hour later. The stewards said they were now “deliberating on the matter” but would need time to come to a decision.
“A substantial amount of written evidence was submitted and each party made extensive verbal representation,” they said in a note to teams and officials.
“It is anticipated that a decision will not be handed down any earlier than just prior to FP3.”
Haas believes that Force India should not be allowed to immediately qualify for ‘Column 1’ payments, which teams need to finish in the top 10 in two of three seasons to be eligible for.
Top three evenly match
Going into this weekend we said that Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull would all be around the same pace. FP2 I believe is the real session as drivers will be racing at that time of day, in Bahrain and Singapore, we saw the warmer and cooler sessions led by different teams.
However, as ever we did see the gap narrow and from watching FP1 teams weren’t really going for pace, it was more a development session. Valtteri Bottas edged out Max Verstappen by four tenths, which I think we believed Mercedes would have the advantage overall given the layout of the circuit, but still think Ferrari will have a bit more to give.
Lewis Hamilton said “Overall, it’s been a good day; even though the first session was not great. The track was very green in the beginning, so there was a lot of sliding around and – just like everyone else – we were struggling with the tyres.
“There’s a big difference in track temperature between the two sessions; the conditions in FP2 are much more representative of qualifying and the race. We made some really good changes over the break and I was much happier with the car in FP2, but there’s still a lot of work to do.”
Ferrari appeared as we have seen all season to struggle with outright pace, in FP2. But we can’t say too much about that as we know they tend to close back up in FP3 and Qualifying, we need to see if that is the case again.
Red Bull believe they can challenge
While Mercedes lead the outright pace in FP2, it was Red Bull looking very strong in the final sector as we expected. Max Verstappen was less than a tenth of a second behind having led the way in the morning session.
We know that the decision by them to use the Hypersofts was the main reason they were fastest in FP1. That session proved the difference between the tyres was a second, while we saw tyre management get easier in FP2.
Verstappen said “As we have seen already this season we are good at managing the tyres. I would expect this to be another circuit where tyre management is key to a good result, hopefully, it plays into our hands again.”
“Both long runs and short runs look good for the tyres so I’m pleased with how it has gone so far. A good final Friday of 2018, now time to focus on qualifying.”
That Red Bull does have some pace and we have seen them have in recent races which we expected. However, I think that Verstappen’s consistency on the long runs could be very important when it comes to the race.
Verstappen added “We’ll see what’s going to happen tomorrow, but at least today the car was responding. We don’t need to turn up or completely change the set-up because it’s working.”
Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, making his final appearance for Red Bull before switching to Renault, added: “I’m excited. We look pretty good. If it’s a six-way fight, which potentially it could be, it’s going to be an exciting race.”
Revision to sausage kerbs
The sausage kerb at the exit of the penultimate corner has been removed from the circuit following complains from drivers. Along, 50mm high kerb was added between Yas Marina’s final two corners ahead of this year’s grand prix.
But in practice, the kerb began to break up and has been reprofiled to make it less aggressive on Friday night after concerns were discussed during drivers’ briefing.
The concern follows Sophia Floersch’s terrifying Macau Grand Prix crash last week.
Tomorrow’s session again will be a tight fight across not only the top three but across the whole field. Max Verstappen I think will be motivated by the fact that this the best weekend for points and wins. But, Mercedes put in a good strong race in Brazil, but we know that they haven’t got it right this season.
Mercedes are I believe the stronger car this weekend, but we know that overtaking can be difficult on track. But we have seen drivers attempt to overtake, as well as great racing on the track