M ercedes dominated both training sessions. Valtteri Bottas set the fastest times of the day twice. Actually irrelevant for him. The Finn will start from the back because of his engine penalty. Lewis Hamilton could therefore have an easy time at the top after Friday. Only Max Verstappen looks like a defensive opponent. To do this, Red Bull still has to find the golden key with the vote. So far, the RB15 is only a weapon on the medium tires.
Ferrari has the expected difficulties. The red cars lose too much time in the last sector of the route. You can't tear that out on the straights of the first two sections. They are the fastest there, but no longer with the lead that they had over their opponents until a few races ago. The rear tires get too hot in the eleven corners of Sector 3. Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc each landed in the guardrail at turn 19.
The first day of training also showed that the teams will mainly use the medium and hard mixtures in the race. Pirelli's softest tire begins to collapse after five laps. The lap times increase in two steps by one second each. This is why the soft long runs are difficult to compare. Every lap longer on the soft rubbers has massively increased the average value. Lewis Hamilton demonstrated the qualities of the Mercedes with the fastest long run. No car keeps its tires in such good shape as the Silver Arrow. Red Bull is more at risk on the medium tires.
In midfield, two teams cut a strong figure that haven't shone as recently. Romain Grosjean made a name for himself as the fastest driver outside of the top 6 in both training sessions. Racing Point also presented itself in strong form. McLaren and Toro Rosso cavort in the midfield. Renault and Alfa Romeo-Sauber are shockingly weak.
Six things you need to know
1.) Does Mercedes have an opponent?
The statistics show Mercedes as an Abu Dhabi specialist. Since the beginning of the hybrid era, two Mercedes have always been on the front row. This time not for the first time because of the engine penalty for Bottas. And once again the Mercedes set the pace on the Yas Marina Circuit.
What makes the Silver Arrows so strong on the 5.554-kilometer circuit? It's the layout and the special conditions. Nobody manages as well as Mercedes to bring the front tires into the comfort zone so quickly on the relatively cool asphalt in the evenings and still not destroy them. In addition, the curve type in the last sector is the W10. Brake down to 100 to 130 km /h, then accelerate without pitting the front tires and overheating the rear tires. Nobody manages that anywhere near well.
Most likely the Red Bull. But you are still deep in the labyrinth of finding the setup. “We'd need the soft tires at the front and the medium tires at the back,” says sports director Helmut Marko. Since this is of course not possible, the fine-tuning of the RB15 has to be worked on. “If everything fits, we can keep up with Hamilton,” the Graz native is convinced. Marko already has an idea why it could be: 'We were too fast on the straights and too slow in sector 3.' That means more downforce.
In the long run on Pirelli's medium mix, the world champion was on average only two tenths faster than Alexander Albon. In the second stint, however, he was driving with less fuel. Not Max Verstappen. Red Bull refueled for the medium long run in the second half of training in order to create comparable conditions. Red Bull also played with the cards face down in the fastest lap. Mercedes reads from the GPS analyzes that Honda turned down the engine power on Verstappen's fastest lap. The bottom line was that it cost half a second. And that's roughly the difference on the clock.
2.) Where can Bottas end up in the race?
In sixth place at the most, say the strategists. Even with his great speed advantage, the Finn will find it difficult to move up from 20th place on the grid. Overtaking is a feat on the Yas Marina Circuit because it is difficult to keep up with the car in front of the two long straights. 'In order to bring Valtteri forward, we need a SafetyCar,' fear the engineers.
3.) What was going on with Ferrari?
On one lap, Ferrari's deficit still looks tolerable. 0.386 seconds for Charles Leclerc, 0.435 seconds for Sebastian Vettel. In the long runs, however, the red cars had no chance. 'The old song,' said Vettel. “We just lack downforce. And that punishes us especially in the many slow corners. ”After two sectors, Leclerc was still in the lead on his fastest lap. In the last section the Monegasse lost six tenths to Hamilton.
The whole picture is somehow reminiscent of Barcelona, when you could keep up for two sectors, but lost a lot of time in the final section with many slow corners. Vettel was faster than his teammate in the third sector, but a little slower in the second. “Our problem was that the rear tires got hotter and hotter at the end of the lap. In the two curves under the hotel alone I lose two tenths of a second to Max. '
Then the German pondered which came first: the hen or the egg:' Are we so slow in the curves because we lack downforce and the tires overheat as a result, or do the tires generally get too warm and then we also lack the contact pressure? ”In contrast to earlier times, the Ferrari no longer make up for the time lost in the corners on the straights. Leclerc only wins a tenth on Verstappen and four tenths on Hamilton.
4.) What is the problem in Turn 19?
Turn 19 was the focus of the action. Both Ferrari kissed the guardrail. Valtteri Bottas was just able to catch his Mercedes. Antonio Giovinazzi turned a lathe without striking. What was going on in the 90-degree left turn behind the Yas Marina Hotel? 'If you got off the line a little and ended up off the track, it was insanely slippery there,' said Leclerc. Vettel joked: “I would say our car was slippery there.” Since the curve is almost at the end of the lap, the tires there had already lost grip again. And next to the route there is little space to correct.
5.) Who rules in midfield?
If you only look at the fastest laps, HaasF1 has the fastest car ahead of Racing Point and Toro Rosso. If you include the long runs, Toro Rosso is best positioned in the sum of all characteristics. Pierre Gasly put in two excellent endurance runs on both the soft tires and the hard soles. Racing Point is also looking up again. 'We were a bit handicapped by the power in the last race,' said Andy Green, Head of Technology. At 27 meters above sea level it is normal again.
The two Racing Point were able to convince especially in the medium long runs. Renault was only competitive in the racing simulations. “But we can't buy anything for that. You need a good starting position because overtaking is so difficult, ”demands Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian sees two starting points: “First we have to understand why we slowed down in cooler temperatures. We suddenly got oversteer. The second 50 percent must come from the car's setup. That wasn't ideal. ”At Alfa-Sauber, too, there is still a lot of room for improvement. “We had a lot of small problems. And when the times in midfield are so close, you're right behind. I'm sure that we can turn that around tomorrow, ”hopes team boss Frédéric Vasseur.
6.) Why was Grosjean's accident so fatal?
Romain Grosjean marked the best in both training sessions Time behind the top teams. The long run also felt neat. Until Valtteri Bottas got in his way. “Valtteri's attack was perhaps a bit optimistic,” admitted Mercedes. “I didn't expect him to overtake me there,” said Grosjean. The stewards only issued a warning for Bottas.
The collision was fatal for HaasF1. The experimental underbody broke in the collision. A unique piece. “We've been trying it for a few races to better understand our problems. It suddenly worked so well here that we wanted to leave it on for the race. We can forget that now, ”said team boss GuentherSteiner. With the standard underbody, Grosjean will fall in the region where team-mate Kevin Magnussen moved. Between 10th and 15th. Steiner swore: “Nobody can have as much bad luck as we have this year.”