Yas Marina - In 2008 we first saw the night lights of Singapore, so obviously when the UAE decided it wanted a slice of the Formula 1 pie it had to come up with something different and so the “twilight” race was born.
Of course, that has not proved to be the case so far and again today, F1 fans at the track and at home were treated to the sight of daylight retreating and the night settling in very quickly. All it requires is for the drivers to switch to a less tinted visor.
The showbiz setting and timings did little to alter the hard technical realities on track, with the champion elect, Sebastian Vettel certainly not taking it easy five days after securing the Drivers’ crown in India. He was fastest this evening, ahead of Red Bull team-mate, Mark Webber, the only non-world champion in the top four on the time sheet, as in third and fourth places respectively were Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes and Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus.
One has to skip past the two McLarens to find Fernando Alonso in eighth place, two ahead of his Scuderia Ferrari team-mate, Felipe Massa. Both men had a trouble free time, but neither of them was happy with the performance level of the F138.
Although conditions are the same for all 22 cars on track, it’s true that the unusual effect of a track temperature that drops as the session progresses, when usually the opposite is true, certainly complicates the task of finding those precious fractions of a second needed to propel the Prancing Horse up the order when it comes to tomorrow’s Qualifying session.
Like today’s final practice, the grid deciding hour also begins under the sun and ends under floodlights. At the moment, there is little doubt that the Soft Pirelli will provide the quicker lap time, by well over a second for most runners. However, unlike a week ago in Greater Noida, there should be no tactical qualifying on the slower Medium, so as to start the race on it, as even the stickiest of the two compounds here should manage a decent first stint length on the marble smooth Abu Dhabi track surface.
Fernando Alonso: “Compared to other Fridays, today we were a bit less competitive than usual and now we need to work out if that is down to the fact that the track characteristics do not suit our car, or if it’s a question of set-up. The tyres work better here than in India, where they suffered a lot from blistering in the fast corners, while here they are better, especially at night when the temperature drops.
Unfortunately, in performance terms, we are behind our rivals for second place in the Constructors’ classification. Compared to the start of the year, they have improved and will be difficult to beat, but tomorrow we will make some changes and will do our utmost because we absolutely don’t want to give up the fight”.
Felipe Massa: “Today we got through the entire programme we had planned for this day, concentrating on set-up and the behaviour of the two Pirelli compounds. At the moment, I am not very pleased with the car’s behaviour, as we are not as competitive as I’d expected to be.
On this track, we found ourselves running in daytime in the sunshine, with very high temperatures, with the conditions changing completely in the evening and in this situation, it’s not easy to understand which direction to go in. Now we will try and work out how to improve the car’s performance for tomorrow’s qualifying, which we know won’t be easy, but we’ll give it our best shot”.
Pat Fry: “As far as the work programme was concerned, this was a Friday like any other, but when it comes to the results it was rather complicated. We had a few small aerodynamic components to try and the analysis crossed over the performance of both cars, which provided enough data to choose the best configuration for the race. Here, in order to establish the best set-up, you have to take into consideration the changing track conditions between the first and second sessions.
In both of them, we struggled to find the right grip level, especially on the Medium compound. In the late afternoon, the situation got better and we worked on the balance of the cars, but the results were not that satisfactory. The performance difference between the two compounds is very high and some cars, including ours, made up almost two seconds a lap.
This unusual difference in performance from the Medium tyres clearly shows what a margin for improvement there is and that’s why tonight, we will evaluate solutions better suited to giving our drivers a more competitive car”.