It was a fairly average start to the final round of the championship for Scuderia Ferrari, with Charles Leclerc ending the opening day at the Yas Marina Circuit in eighth, with Carlos Sainz Jr right behind in ninth.
For this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix all the drivers have had to get to grips with the brand new track layout, which has resulted in significantly quicker lap times. Leclerc went about his business and collected plenty of data for the team to look over ahead of qualifying and the race, the Monegasque driver ended the day eighth and almost +0.9s off the leading pace.
Leclerc enjoyed his first taste of the new layout, where he has found tyre degradation to be very high.
“I quite like the new layout and it was fun to drive. The modifications seem to make it easier to follow the cars ahead, so it appears to be a positive track update.
The track evolution was quite big over the course of the day, but that’s more down to the temperature as it becomes much cooler here in the evenings. This helps us to gain grip.
“Tyre degradation is quite high but I think our car is reacting well to this circuit so far. In terms of pace, we did a good job with the race simulation and still have a little work to do to prepare for qualifying. We are lacking a bit there compared to some of our closest competitors and I hope we can put it all together for tomorrow.”
“It’s been a very difficult Friday” – Carlos Sainz Jr
It was an equally solid start to the weekend for Carlos Sainz Jr, the Spaniard who also collected plenty of data for his team ended the day +1.1s off the leading pace and just over +0.2s behind his team-mate.
Sainz clearly has some time to find on Saturday before qualifying if he wants to give himself the best possible chance of taking fifth in the Driver’s Championship. Sainz has found the opening day challenging which has come as a surprise to the Spaniard.
“It’s been a challenging day here in Abu Dhabi with the new track layout and surface, making it very different to any other year we’ve driven here in the past.
It’s been a very difficult Friday because since FP1 I wasn’t feeling at home in the car and I’ve been chasing the balance the whole day.
“That’s quite unusual because we’ve been starting on the right foot pretty much every weekend and today, I feel we have a lot of homework to do, going into Saturday.
We will now sit down with the engineers, see where we can improve the car and hopefully find more performance for tomorrow.”