Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Yas Marina, 2017

Teams look close on pace but will that make for a good race?

2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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The Friday practice pattern at Yas Marina is well-recognised: Ignore the times from the first practice session because it’s the cooler second session which matters.

This rings especially true this year as the first session on Friday was slightly hotter than usual. Track temperatures were up at 43C, and dropped by over 11C by the time second practice began.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Yas Marina, 2017
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix practice in pictures
Sure enough, the teams evidently used the first 90 minutes of running as an early 2018 season test session. That much was clear when Kimi Raikkonen took to the track with an enormous apparatus on his Ferrari. What Mercedes were up to was less obvious, though Valtteri Bottas admitted the first session was all about next year rather than the next race.

Once the sun had gone down and the ultra-soft tyres had come out in second practice the result was encouraging for those hoping to see a close race. The top three teams were separated by three-tenths of a second.

But this is a track where Mercedes’ ability to crank up its engine performance tends to bring greater rewards in qualifying. Last year they were only ahead by two-tenths on Friday, but that margin swelled to eight-tenths on Sunday. Mercedes don’t have to worry as much about trimming their cars out for speed on Yas Marina’s two long straights.

The usual one-stop strategy is likely to be the teams’ preferred approach. Whether anyone can get close enough to Mercedes to threaten them with the ‘undercut’ could be they key to the race. Splitting on the grid would be a useful start – something which looks a possibility given Bottas’ inability to match Hamilton’s pace so far.

Force India are solidly in the ‘best of the rest’ slot but behind them Renault appear to have found some pace. “We do look quite competitive,” Nico Hulkenberg admitted. “I would say there is not much between us and the Force Indias and McLaren.” They should be in contention for Q3, but reliability in the race has to be a concern for all Renault-engined runners given their recent problems.

But if the front-running teams appear to be a good match on race pace, will that translate into an exciting grand prix? Yas Marina has struggled to produce good races even when there’s a championship hanging in the balance. Lewis Hamilton’s go-slow tactics last year graphically illustrated how difficult overtaking is even when one driver deliberately backs off.

Longest stint comparison – second practice

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:

Complete practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’39.1261’37.87763
2Sebastian VettelFerrari1’39.0061’38.02658
3Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’40.7731’38.18062
4Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’39.5181’38.35257
5Valtteri BottasMercedes1’39.7411’38.53762
6Max VerstappenRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’39.1541’38.89448
7Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’40.2931’39.32356
8Esteban OconForce India-Mercedes1’39.33336
9Nico HulkenbergRenault1’41.8641’39.52967
10Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Honda1’40.5221’39.55947
11Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes1’40.7231’39.63562
12Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren-Honda1’40.5691’39.67145
13Carlos Sainz JnrRenault1’41.7481’40.20161
14Lance StrollWilliams-Mercedes1’41.5811’40.32956
15Pierre GaslyToro Rosso-Renault1’41.6461’40.69467
16Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’41.12831
17George RussellForce India-Mercedes1’41.13126
18Pascal WehrleinSauber-Ferrari1’41.7521’41.27068
19Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’42.3441’41.30267
20Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’41.3061’41.56035
21Brendon HartleyToro Rosso-Renault1’42.5851’41.49674
22Antonio GiovinazziHaas-Ferrari1’42.06521

2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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2 comments on “Teams look close on pace but will that make for a good race?”

  1. It might be a race where the “two categories” of the grid,are really close. The top 3 teams are super close,with Mercedes having a power advantage in the first 2 sectors,RBR being super quick in Sector 3 & Ferrari having the best tyre usage of all.

    The good thing is that midfield is extremely close as well. The battle between F.I-Renault-McLaren is very close & we can easily put Massa in that mix.I would like to see 4 different cars in Q3,to have a variety at the finale ;)
    Unfortunately the midfield battle would have been ages better if Renault & McLaren were better(& more reliable) the whole season.

    1. At first glance the S2 seems to favor merc but the slow 7-8-9 turns can legitimately put ferrari in the game. The last sector the chassis’ll do the job so qualy’s gonna be fun..

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