Mercedes Formula 1 team boss Toto Wolff said he would have no problem with world champion Lewis Hamilton talking to Ferrari about a move in 2021 after reports in Italy claimed meetings had already happened.
The 34-year-old Briton, now a six-time world champion, will be a free agent when his Mercedes deal runs out at the end of next year.
Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper reported Hamilton had twice met with Ferrari chairman John Elkann.
Asked at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix how he would feel about Hamilton talking to Ferrari, Wolff replied: “I’m totally OK with that.
“I think this is a free world and I recognise that everybody needs to explore career options, and make the best decision for themselves. Drivers and everybody else included.”
Wolff said Mercedes needed to provide the drivers with the quickest car and if that happened, everything pointed to Hamilton staying even if nothing was certain.
“I have started to embrace the fact that everybody has objectives and needs to have the best possible opportunity for his career,” said Wolff, who has been tipped as a replacement for Formula 1 head Chase Carey. “In that respect, I am absolutely open for everybody to explore options.”
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, a four-time F1 world champion, will also be out of contract at the end of 2020. He has been beaten by 22-year-old teammate Charles Leclerc this year, prompting speculation he could leave or retire.
Mercedes’ own future in Formula One is not guaranteed beyond 2020, with the German company competing in the electric Formula E series and parent Daimler investing heavily in electric vehicles.
Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto praised Hamilton on Friday, saying he was happy the Briton would be on the market.
“You can also bet that if his chairman meets with him, he’s not going to talk badly about that either,” commented Wolff.
Hamilton, who qualified on pole position at Yas Marina, said it was the first compliment he could recall from Ferrari in 13 years.
“It has been a long, long time and a team that I’ve always appreciated over the years, so to earn their respect from someone from there who’s obviously very high up is obviously not a bad thing,” Hamilton said.
“I think they’ve got two great drivers so who knows what the driver market’s going to be doing over the next yea
Ferrari principal Mattia Binotto sang Lewis Hamilton’s praises on Friday, fuelling speculation that the Italian team could seek to sign the six times Formula 1 world champion for 2021.
“Lewis is certainly an outstanding driver, a fantastic driver,” Binotto told reporters at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix when asked if he would like to sign Mercedes’ Briton.
“Knowing that he’s available in 2021 can make us only happy.
“But honestly it’s too early for any decision, so we are happy with the drivers we’ve got at the moment and I think certainly at one stage next season we will start discussing and understanding what to do.”
Hamilton, like several other top drivers, including Ferrari’s four times champion Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, will be out of contract at the end of 2020.
That raises the potential for a major shake-up of the driver market next year.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is committed beyond 2020 but there has been speculation that Vettel could leave the Italian team or even retire altogether.
Hamilton, 34, won this year’s championship two races ago at the U.S. Grand Prix and has said his decision to stay at Mercedes would depend on what team boss Toto Wolff decides to do.
The Austrian has been tipped as a future replacement for Formula One Chief Executive Chase Carey.
“I’d also like to know where he goes or if he stays in the future,” said Wolff of Hamilton. “And we are having those discussions about the future and I think it is very important between the two of us.
“There are many things to be decided on and we will see over the winter,” added the Austrian.
Mercedes’ own future in Formula One, like other teams, is not certain beyond 2020 with the commercial agreements that would keep them in the sport still being hammered out.
At the same time, the German company has entered the all-electric Formula E series with a works team.
Parent company Daimler has announced plans to cut at least 10,000 jobs worldwide over the next three years as it moves to slash costs in order to invest in electric vehicles during a time of weakening sales.
Board members were attending Sunday’s season-ending race in Abu Dhabi.
Max Verstappen believes it will be tough for him to end the season with back-to-back victories despite qualifying on the front row for tomorrow’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton took his first pole position since Germany on Saturday, with Verstappen only third quickest and over 0.3s behind the six-time champion. A grid penalty for Valtteri Bottas means Verstappen will start from second place, but the Red Bull driver — who won last time out in Brazil — says it will be tough to beat Hamilton.
With Bottas 0.15s quicker than Verstappen in Q3, albeit aided by a fresh engine for the final round, the Dutchman was still pleased with his own performance despite not securing the front row start on outright pace.
“I think today was the best that we could do; we all know that. Mercedes is quite dominant here. We tried everything we could. Overall, I am pretty happy. Still good to start on the front row. Of course I would have liked to actually qualify there, but still a lot of chances for tomorrow. We’ll see what happens.
Verstappen offered his congratulations to polewinner Hamilton after a qualifying session in which his Red Bull could not quite match the Mercedes’ pace. Image by Bloxham/LAT
“The lap was really decent; there was not much I could (have done) better. I mean, there is never a perfect lap. It was good (and) I was driving to the limits. We just seemed to lack a bit of grip compared to (Mercedes). They are especially quick in the last sector.
“They are always very dominant here on this track,” Verstappen continued, “and we tried to be as close as we could. Unfortunately, we were just lacking a bit too much in that last sector. But overall, I think I’m pretty pleased — for us, I think it was a pretty positive weekend.”
Toto Wolff insists he would be OK with Lewis Hamilton meeting with Ferrari chairman John Elkann and is open to the six-time world champion leaving Mercedes.
Hamilton’s contract expires at the end of next season, as does Sebastian Vettel’s deal at Ferrari. While negotiations are yet to start over a new Mercedes deal, reports in Italy claim Hamilton has met with Elkann twice this year, and Mercedes team principal Wolff (pictured above with his drivers and Vettel) says he is understanding if the driver is looking into other options beyond his current contract.
“I would be totally OK with that,” Wolff said. “This is a free world and I recognize that everybody needs to explore career options and make the best decision for themselves. And this is for drivers and everybody else included. So I have zero problems — racing drivers are always going to try to be in the quickest possible car, and the quickest team is always going to try to have the best racing driver in there. There is a good consensus between us of what we are trying to achieve.”
After qualifying on pole position, Hamilton thanked Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto for comments about how his availability can only be good for the Scuderia, and Wolff says he would even like to see such a headline move.
“I actually sat next to Mattia when he said that in a press conference, and he was asked a question about what he thought of Lewis and he said that he has the highest esteem for Lewis. You can also bet that if his chairman is meeting with him, he is not going to talk badly about Lewis either. So I am totally relaxed about the situation.
“We need to push very hard to provide the drivers with the quickest possible car, and if we are able to do this, I am 100 percent convinced we will have the best possible driver line-up in the car. Everything points to our relationship to continue, but in life you never know and therefore, as I said before, I am very open about this.
“I have started to embrace the fact that everybody has objectives and needs to have the best possible opportunities for his career. In that respect, I am absolutely open for everybody to explore options. But obviously my personal priority of the team is to continue this successful journey and we have been really benefiting from an excellent relationship, and if that ends one day I would be the first one to cheer.”
Lewis Hamilton says any interest in him from Ferrari is not a waste of time following comments from Mattia Binotto at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Of Hamilton, Binotto said, “Knowing that he’s available in 2021 can make (Ferrari) only happy,” with Sebastian Vettel’s deal expiring at the same time. Hamilton claims it is rare for Ferrari to say positive things about him, and welcomed Binotto’s words amid reports in Italy he has also met with Ferrari chairman John Elkann this year.
“I think that’s the first compliment I’ve had from Ferrari in these 13 years,” Hamilton said. “I don’t remember them mentioning me ever. So thank you and I’ll take it! It doesn’t really mean anything — it’s all talk, but it’s nice that they are finally recognizing me after all these years.
“It’s positive. I think it’s never a waste of time to be nice to someone, and as I said it has been a very long time and it’s a team I have always appreciated over the years. So to earn the respect from someone over there who is very high up is not a bad thing.”
“I think they have got two great drivers as it is and who knows what the driver market is going to be doing next year. I am not really focused on that at this second — I want to finish this season strong. I have got this incredible group of people behind me where I am and I feel I owe it to them to give my heart and my energy 100 percent, particularly as I am still in contract and negotiations haven’t started yet.
“I don’t know how the next phase of the contract is going to go; it’s weird you have to do it almost a year before it ends and it can’t be done towards the end, but it’s just the way it goes.”
Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg both secured a spot among the top-ten on Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix grid, a feat the Aussie considered as a veritable turnaround for Renault after Friday’s under-performance.
Both drivers battled their midfield rivals in the first two segments of qualifying to earn their spot in Q3, with Ricciardo claiming P8 and Hulkenberg P10 although both will gain a position on Sunday’s grid thanks to Valtteri Bottas’ demotion to the back of the field.
It was the first time since Sochi that both Renault cars have made it to Q3, an achievement that appeared as a distant prospect after Friday’s low-key performance.
“I don’t know how we managed to get ourselves in trouble in Q3 with those outlaps,” he admitted. “Mercedes were fighting with Verstappen, overtaking me, couldn’t put temperature in the front tyres.
“By the exit of turn 1, I was already one tenth down on my Q2 lap,” he pointed out. “It’s a shame, because matching my Q2 lap would have put us P7 easily.
“When you have a two or three tenth buffer on the midfield you want to capitalise on it, but now I have to start behind them,” he said
Sainz is also keenly aware that starting on the soft compound means that he’ll be under attack from those behind him such as Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly who will have a free choice of tyres for the start of the race.
“They’re going to be chasing me. They’re going to be chasing basically all the soft runners. I think we have a very good chance of finishing ahead of Gasly because we have track position, but at the same time he has a very good chance of having a better strategy.
“Disappointed, but at the same time we need to keep learning from these little details,” he added, turning his attention to tomorrow’s race.
“This has been a track where I’ve struggled [in the past] so today to be so fast in qualifying motivates me,” he said. “I was feeling at home in the car, I was understanding what to do in every moment.
Although he finished qualifying in ninth, an engine penalty for Valtteri Bottas will promote the Spanish driver to eighth place on the grid.
“I expect a tough race tomorrow,” he said. “IT’s going to be be a tight one.”
The result of Saturday’s qualifying session means that Sainz narrowly loses out in the season-long battle with his rookie team mate Lando Norris for the overall best performance.
Norris has managed to start ahead of Sainz on the grid on 11 occasions in 2019, compared to 10 times that Sainz has had the edge.
“It’s the only thing everyone has said in every interview: ‘Nice job, 11-10 in qualifying!” Norris said to Sky Sports F1, although he didn’t think his last push lap had been a good final effort.
“It was nice, it was a good lap, I didn’t make any big mistakes,” he said. “But it was just decent, it wasn’t anything amazing or the best lap of my life.
“It was just controlling the tyres, making sure you didn’t do wheel spins or oversteers,” he added. “Here it’s so sensitive to one oversteer that it can all go wrong very quickly!
“I did it in Q2, or Q1 – I pushed too much in turn 1 already and had a huge oversteer. By the end of the lap the tyre temps were way too high already. Sometimes you’ve got to drive slower to go quicker.
“We achieved P7 but a P6 grid start taking into account the Bottas penalty so I’m happy,” Norris continued.
“It’s been a pretty good couple of days. I’ve generally been fairly comfortable with the car, which has been positive.
“We knew qualie was going to be tough and our aim was to get into Q3 and we did that. We’re ahead of the midfield guys we wanted to beat, so that’s a bonus.
“It couldn’t have been any better in terms of positions. It’s a good way to end the season.”
Max Verstappen admitted that pole position was never a realistic possibility for Red Bull in today’s qualifying session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit.
The Dutch driver had topped final practice on Saturday morning. But despite starting from pole last time out in Brazil, he always felt that Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas had the pace to take the top spots this time around.
“Today third was the best we could do,” Verstappen told Paul di Resta after qualifying. “I think we all know that Mercedes is quite dominant here. We tried everything we could here. Overall I am pretty happy.”
Even though he aas only third fastest, Verstappen will be promoted to the front row for tomorrow’s race start thanks to an engine penalty demoting Bottas to the back of the grid.
“Of course it is still good to start on the front row,” Verstappen acknowledged. “I would have liked to have actually qualified there, but I think there are still a lot of chances for tomorrow and we’ll see what happens.”
Verstappen took heart from the pace shown by the RB15 in Friday’s long distance race simulations.
“From our side it felt alright, but we always know that Mercedes is also very quick in the long runs. We’ll just wait and see what happens tomorrow.”
Verstappen’s best Q3 time of 1:35.139s was almost nine tenths quicker than his rookie team mate Alexander Albon who will start from fifth following Bottas’ penalty.
“It was okay. Just average really,” Albon said of his session as a whole. “I struggled from the beginning and just never really got it. Frustrating.”
Albon was first out on track at the start of both Q1 and Q2 and said that this hadn’t helped his campaign as he found the track rather slippery.
“Yeah it was but I think that was because we were first out a lot of the time, which doesn’t help. But in the end it was okay actually.”
Since his promotion to the Red Bull team over the summer, Albon has consistently demonstrated better pace in the race than he has in qualifying, so the Thai driver was hoping to prove that again this weekend.
“We’ll see, we’ll see. I think Valtteri is at the back, right? So we’ll be fifth. We’ll try and make something happen.”
Charles Leclerc wants Ferrari to provide answers after he ran out of time to start his final attempt in qualifying at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Leaving the pits to start his final run in Q3, Leclerc was informed that he only had a five-second margin to make the checkered flag and begin his flying lap. With a number of cars backing up in front of him, Leclerc was unable to cross the line before the session ended and so couldn’t try and improve his time, believing he missed out on second place as he ended up fourth.
“At the exit of P3 I knew I had a tight margin but to be honest I didn’t want to overtake Sebastian and be in front of him,” Leclerc said.
“P2 was reachable today and I couldn’t go again in Q3, so we need to analyze this situation. We will see tomorrow.
“I have no idea, but sometimes it happens, I don’t know whether the situation was unlucky or if we could have done anything better but yeah, we will analyze it and try to understand to not have it happen again, because it’s a big shame.”
“I will take quite a bit of risk at the start. I need to finish in front of Max for the championship so at the end, we will see what happens.
“I think the team was really clear about putting us both on the softs (tires). We were not really sure if we would get to Q3 on the mediums but after the first run in Q2 I had quite a good lap on the softs. I was confident about sacrificing (another go) in the case I had I couldn’t improve on the mediums on the second set. So we went on the mediums, and I gave it all to try and pass to Q3 and we made it, so it’s a good thing.”
Charles Leclerc will launch his race on Sunday with the bit between his teeth after Ferrari’s mismanaged run in Q3 on Saturday at Yas Marina.
Leclerc clocked in fourth at the end of the final segment of the top-ten shootout but was denied a second Q3 run as a result of a misjudgment by the Scuderia’s pitwall.
Teammate Sebastian Vettel crossed the line with seconds to spare before the session ended but Leclerc, who was following the German, ran out of time to embark on a second lap.
“Sometimes it happens, I don’t know whether the situation was unlucky or if we could have done anything better but yeah, we will analyse it and try to understand to not have it happen again, because it’s a big shame,” said Leclerc.
“I knew at the exit of Turn 3 that I knew I had a tight margin, but to be honest I didn’t want to overtake Sebastian and be in front of him.”
The Monegasque will nevertheless start his race from the inside of the second row, right behind poleman Lewis Hamilton and alongside Vettel.
“I will take quite a bit of risk at the start,” added Leclerc. “I need to finish in front of Max [Verstappen] for the championship so at the end, we will see what happens.”
Scuderia boss Mattia Binotto admitted the team had left its drivers’ final qualifying run deliberately late, but without enough margin for Leclerc.
“We screwed up,” Binotto said. “I think here we were completely aware and conscious of what could of been the risks.
“It was a risk we knew that we were taking but this didn’t work today.”
It’s been an unusually long dry spell in Lewis Hamilton’s normally bullet-proof record of picking up pole positions. But the six-time world champion used the final qualifying session of the season to put an emphatic end to that.
Hamilton’s pole time of 1:34.779s was a new track record for the Yas Marina Circuit and gave him his fifth pole of the season. But it’s his first since Germany back in July, resulting in a gap of nine races without taking the top spot in 2019.
The Mercedes driver admitted that it felt good to back back on pole again after such an unusually long gap without success on Saturday – and that it hadn’t been easy to pull it off this weekend.
“It’s been such a long slog trying to get this pole position,” Hamilton told Paul di Resta after the end of the session.
“I’m glad that we’re in this position. Of course, to end this qualifying season with a pole – which has been a while, as I think we’ve only had four earlier on this year – it’s been a special car and this is the last time I get to qualify with so I’m glad I did it proud today.
“We just kept our heads down and just continued to try. The guys have been doing a great job around me – the other drivers – so it was really trying to focus on continuing to do my job.
Although Mercedes had topped both of Friday’s practice sessions thanks to Valtteri bottas, Hamilton admitted that he hadn’t been very happy with how things had gone.
“Yesterday was quite wobbly,” he said. “I had to recompose myself last night, and come back today and refocus. I managed to really dial in the car with the great work of the engineers.
“We never give up, there’s always room to improve. There’s been a lot of growth in this whole year for so many people in the team,” he said. “We’re constantly looking for those small milliseconds.”
Hamilton was especially delighted with the support he’d received from fans at the circuit along the way. “Every time I come here I seem to get a lot of love here in Abu Dhabi and there are a lot of Brits here, so a big thank you to everyone,” he acknowledged.
Hamilton’s final advantage in qualifying was a fairly comfortable 0.194s over his team mate, who revealed that he had been under the weather heading into the weekend.
“I’m feeling better already than a couple of days ago,” Bottas said in the press conference after qualifying. “I’ve been quite ill this week since Monday night, so when I travelled here it got worse.
“But in the car it doesn’t matter, you know – the adrenaline kicks in and you feel normal,” he said, although he still looked and sounded distinctly poorly as he talked with the media.
Despite his heroic efforts in qualifying, Bottas won’t be joining Hamilton on the front row tomorrow due to an engine change penalty demoting him to the back of the grid.
“As a team, it has been a really strong day. We’ve saw yesterday in practice that we had good pace,” the Finn reported. “It didn’t feel quite as good today as yesterday with my car, I struggled a bit with sliding. Nut I think Lewis made some good improvements
“In any case I’m going to start last,” he sighed. “[But] we will find the fighting spirit tomorrow.
“I believe, anything is possible, we do have a very good car. Normally Sunday is stronger for us than Saturday, so we’ll give it all we have.
“Anything’s possible. I look forward to coming up and taking those opportunities and most importantly, having fun in the car.”
Lewis Hamilton broken the track record at the Yas Marina Circuit to take an emphatic pole position for Mercedes at the F1 season finale.
The world champion’s time, 1 minute 34.779 seconds, was enough beat teammate Valtteri Bottas by 0.2s, but the Finn will be forced to start from the back of the grid with a litany of penalties for making two unscheduled power unit changes this weekend.
Hamilton’s pole not only equals Bottas’s tally of five poles for the year, but it’s also the Briton’s first since July’s German Grand Prix, and Hamilton paid tribute to the Mercedes team’s work ethic to turn the tide back in his favor.
“It’s been such a long slog trying to get this pole position,” Hamilton said. “We just kept out heads down, continuing to try.
“We never give up. There’s always room to improve. There’s been a lot of growth in this whole year for so many people in the team … just constantly looking for those small milliseconds.
“It’s been a special car and it’s the last time I’ll get to qualify with it, so I’m glad I did it proud today.”
Hamilton and Mercedes ruled the roost again under the Abu Dhabi lights. Image by Steven Tee/LAT
Bottas knew coming into qualifying that he would be starting from last place thanks to his power unit failure during the Brazilian GP requiring a near complete new motor — and the team had to install another new engine on Saturday after a hydraulic leak during practice — but with second in the drivers’ standings secure, he was allowed to partake in qualifying regardless with nothing to lose.
The Finn said he would aim for the podium in a no-holds-barred race.
“I believe [a podium is achievable],” he said. “Anything is possible.
“We have a good car and some days it’s even better than Saturdays for us. We’ll give it all.”
Max Verstappen qualified third for Red Bull Racing and so will inherit a front row start from Bottas. However, the Dutchman said his 0.36s deficit to Hamilton’s benchmark was the closest his car could manage and remained pessimistic about his prospects in the race.
“I think today was the best we could do,” he said. “We all know that Mercedes is quite dominant here.
“We tried everything we could … we’ll just wait and see what happens tomorrow.”
More Vettel/Leclerc, angst at Ferrari? Image by Sam Bloxham/LAT
Charles Leclerc beat Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel to fourth and fifth at the end of the session, the pair around half a second off the pace, but the Monegasque appeared to complain that he’d been backed up by the German in preparation for their final laps, causing him to miss the checkered flag.
Vettel, however, was himself making space behind Red Bull Racing’s Alex Albon and was in any case unable to improve to threaten the sister machine, while Albon qualified sixth and 0.4s further back.
Lando Norris qualified seventh at the head of the midfield, beating McLaren teammate Carlos Sainz 11-10 in their intra-team qualifying battle in his rookie F1 season.
But it wasn’t a perfect result for the team, with Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo splitting the pair in eighth. Sainz followed in ninth, the trio covered by just 0.023s.
Nico Hulkenberg qualified 10th for what looks set to be his final grand prix, 1.9s off the pace.
Pierre Gasly was just 0.035s behind Perez to qualify 12th, splitting him from Lance Stroll in the sister Racing Point machine in 13th.
Daniil Kvyat qualified 14th, less than 0.1s slower than Perez and with a 0.1s advantage over Kevin Magnussen — the Haas driver the slowest of Q2, in 15th.
Romain Grosjean was knocked out at the first hurdle by 0.3s, in a messy session for the Frenchman. He first complained of a lack of grip early in Q1 — he’d been forced to use a different-spec car after his Friday practice crash with Bottas — and was balked by Kvyat in the pit lane as he embarked on his final flying lap. The stewards were set to investigate the incident at the end of qualifying.
Alfa Romeo teammates Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen qualified 17th and 18th respectively, while George Russell beat outbound teammate Robert Kubica to 19th and 20th to clean-sweep the year’s intra-Williams qualifying battle 21-0.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has successfully claimed the final pole position of the year, pipping his team mate Valtteri Bottas to the top spot in the floodlit qualifying session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by just under two tenths.
It’s Hamilton’s fifth pole of the season and 88th in his F1 career, but only his first since the German Grand Prix prior to the summer break.
However it won’t be a Mercedes 1-2 on the grid, as Bottas will start tomorrow’s race from the back after being forced to take a second new power unit this weekend, leaving Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to pick up the vacant front row spot alongside Hamilton on Sunday.
Ferrari locked out the second row despite Charles Leclerc missing out on a final run due to congestion as cars vied to leave it late to find space to make their last push laps.
As might be expected from the desert setting, Yas Marina Circuit had obligingly served up dry, sunny and very warm conditions for the final weekend of the 2019 Formula 1 season, despite taking place at the end of November. The sun was starting to set over the grandstands as the drivers embarked on their last qualifying session of the year, which was to be held in twilight conditions under the floodlights. Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas had dominated Friday’s running but Red Bull had pipped final practice thanks to Max Verstappen.
Q1: Mercedes flex their muscles as Haas, Alfa and Williams struggle
First out on track was Red Bull’s Alexander Albon, with the Haas cars of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen and the two Alfa Romeos of Kimi Raikkonen close behind, all on the soft compound tyres. After that there was a steady stream of cars rolling off pit lane including the two Williams of George Russell and Robert Kubica.
Albon’s first effort of 1:37.699s opened the proceedings and he remained on top of the timesheets until his team mate went 1.309s quicker, with the McLarens of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris also acquitting themselves well to slip into second and third. They were soon demoted a place by Charles Leclerc’s maiden run of the evening which put the Ferrari into second just nine hundredths slower than Verstappen.
By contrast, Sebastian Vettel’s first effort saw him immediately spin on cold tyres at the start of his push lap. He was still recovering as Lewis Hamilton arrived on the scene to go top with a new benchmark of 1:36.231s. Bottas’ own response was good enough for third place albeit almost a quarter of a second off his team mate. Left with the track to themselves, both Silver Arrows then found more time with their next efforts and Hamilton successfully raised the bar for the competition to 1:35.851s.
Vettel’s next effort was good enough to put him into fifth place while Albon found more speed to pop up to second. Both drivers were now well clear of the elimination zone, which was occupied by Raikkonen, Grosjean, Russell, Giovinazzi and Kubica after the first runs, with Magnussen on the bubble in 15th. For those drivers, everything now depended on their final run of the first round.
Raikkonen briefly emerged from the danger zone into 14th, but he was soon pushed back down by better times from Magnussen, Grosjean and Giovinazzi. Racing Point’s Lance Stroll briefly looked likely to be eliminated, but he then found more pace to go 12th while his team mate Sergio Perez leapt into the top six with his latest push. When the dust settled, Magnussen found himself still in 15th but that meant he was through to Q2 – unlike Grosjean, Giovinazzi, Raikkonen, Russell and Kubica.
Although disappointed to miss out on the second round, Russell could at least claim one significant success as the only driver on the grid to maintain a perfect 21-0 qualifying record over his team mate in 2019.
Q2: Leclerc pips Hamilton and Bottas, all three set to start on medium tyres
Albon was first out again at the start of the second round, although somewhat to his bemusement and slight annoyance. He aas gambling on medium tyres for his first run. That selection was echoed by his team mate and also by Hamilton, while the rest of the front runners all stuck to the safer soft compound for their latest laps.
Albon’s time of 1:36.718s was a full second slower than Hamilton’s immediate riposte, and even Verstappen couldn’t get near the six-time champion’s level as he complained of a lack of rear grip on the Red Bull. Finally the Ferraris on soft tyres got within touching distance of Hamilton: Leclerc was second quickest and just 0.063s behind, with Vettel slotting into third ahead of Verstappen, Sainz and Albon.
Bottas was the last man to set a time in the round, and while the medium tyres didn’t work quite for the Finn was still able to produce a mighty final sector to go second, just four hundredths behind his team mate. It seemed as though it was job done for the Silver Arrows in terms of tyre strategy for Sunday’s race, although they were both back out again for another run on softs to guard against unpleasant surprises.
In fact in turned out that there was one surprise to come, with Leclerc deposing Hamilton for the top spot with a lap of 1:35.543s after a late switch to join the Mercedes drivers on the medium compound. Otherwise the top five remained unchanged, while Sainz improved to sixth ahead of Albon and Norris successfully injected himself into the top ten in eighth ahead of the Renaults of Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg.
Missing out on the final top ten pole shootout round were the two Racing Point drivers and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat, while Magnussen was slowest in that run putting him into 15th place of the grid for Sunday’s start.
Q3: Hamilton and Bottas top qualifying after Leclerc misses out on final run
With the skies now fully dark, Mercedes and McLaren were quick to get moving when the lights at the end of pit lane went green to get Q3 underway. Vettel was the first of the Ferraris to get underway, with Leclerc slightly delayed by the Ferrari pit crew checking the SF90 for any damage after the Monegasque took a bit of a hit on the kerbs during the final run of Q2. This time Albon was among the last to head out, while Ricciardo opted to remain in the garage and pin his hopes on a single late run.
Back on softs for the occasion, Hamilton laid down the gauntlet with a 1:34.828s which was a full 0.360s ahead of Bottas, Leclerc and Vettel. Verstappen was looking happier to be back on the red-walled tyres, and moments later succeeded in splitting the two Mercedes to provisionally put himself on the front row in second place but still over three tenths off Hamilton’s formidable effort.
After briefly regrouping on pit lane, it was time for all ten drivers to make their final qualifying runs of the season. Ricciardo found himself a nice gap in which to conduct his only run of the round which was good enough to put him into seventh just behind Albon and ahead of the two McLarens of Sainz and Norris with Hulkenberg slowest.
Elsewhere, jockeying for space slowed the field and resulted in Leclerc failing to cross the line after the chequered flag, thwarting his hopes of a making a final run and consigning himself to fourth. Meanwhile both Mercedes went quicker, Hamilton improving to 1:34.779s and Bottas up to second albeit with a grid penalty to serve on Sunday meaning that Verstappen will still start on the front row.
There was also a late improvement from Norris to move him into seventh ahead of Ricciardo. With Sainz only ninth quickest, it meant that the younger driver has claimed the honours in the qualifying battle of the McLaren team mates by 11-10.
Lewis Hamilton was in supreme form as he claimed pole for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, on Sunday as Ferrari drivers were the joke of the session as their drivers again played games with one another.
Hamilton headed his teammate Valtteri Bottas making it six Silver one-twos in qualifying at Yas Marina Circuit in the past half dozen years. But the Finn will start the race from the back of the grid due to engine penalties.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Camilleri revealed that Ferrari’s refusal of permission in F1 will remain intact in the future.
“We have retained the veto rights and those are critical not just for Ferrari but for F1 as well.
“Will we ever use it? I doubt it. [But] just the fact of having it, does it get people’s attention? I think so.
“It’s something I think is important. Some of the teams think it’s anachronistic and shouldn’t be there but on the other hand some think it’s a good idea to have an ‘adult’ in the room.”
Formula 1 and the FIA are currently in the process of drafting the final commercial agreement that will bind the teams to the sport.
Contrary to his predecessor Sergio Marchionne, who often took an inflexible stance against F1’s commercial rights holder Liberty Media, Camilleri has favoured a conciliatory tone since taking the reins of Ferrari in the summer of 2018.
For the Egyptian-born Briton, F1 and Ferrari are inseparable.
“Everyone, including our direct competitors, realizes that Ferrari is key to F1 and F1 is key to Ferrari,” he said.
If Ferrari were to exit F1, would it be the same thing? I don’t think so.”
Max Verstappen led a close final practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, edging out the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
The final qualifying session of the season looks set to be a tight battle for pole between the top three teams, as Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari were all covered by just 0.4s in FP3. Verstappen led the way with a 1m36.566s, but was less than 0.1s clear of both Hamilton and Bottas. The latter, though, will start the race from the back of the grid.
The final practice session of 2019 = our final practice best bits
Bottas actually took another new power unit on Saturday after Mercedes discovered a pneumatic leak at the end of FP2 that couldn’t be fixed. A new internal combustion engine (ICE), turbo, MGU-H and MGU-K comes with no penalty as the Finn was already set to start last for an earlier power unit change.
It is understood that the new power unit Bottas is running this weekend is of different specification to the one previously introduced by Mercedes, with an eye on its 2020 development.
In a session that was largely devoid of drama, Albon was also involved in the one incident of note. He ran off track at Turn 16 after fast closing on Nico Hulkenberg who was slow on the racing line. Both drivers summoned to the stewards after the session to discuss the matter.
Seventh in the final session was Sergio Perez as Racing Point showed strong pace, although he did have a reliability concern as oil was escaping from the rear of his car. The issue was highlighted when Kimi Raikkonen, following the Mexican, wound up covered in oil, but the team was confident the issue was not a major one. Perez ended up within a second of Verstappen at the checkered flag.
Perez car leaking oil, and Kimi gets some on his visor
Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz and Pierre Gasly rounded out the top 10, with the latter pair fighting for sixth in the drivers’ championship as they both currently have 95 points.
Haas was competitive once again, with Romain Grosjean 11th and Kevin Magnussen 14th after just 12 laps in a session that is of limited value given the track conditions. Temperatures will drop significantly by qualifying, with that session taking place at sunset.
Williams has included Israeli racer Roy Nissany in its line-up for next week’s post-season F1 tyre test at Yas Marina.
Nissany, who raced in Formula 2 last year with Campos, will join Williams’ 2020 driver George Russell and Nicholas Latifi.
The 25-year-old rookie from Tel Aviv – who raced in the past in the European F3 championship and won several races the World Series Formula V8 3.5 – will enjoy his first F1 outing on Tuesday afternoon at Yas Marina and drive again on Wednesday morning, with the remaining half days split between Russell and Latifi.
Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto says that Lewis Hamilton’s availability for 2021 can only make the Scuderia “happy”, suggesting the Italian outfit could make a bid for the Mercedes star.
Hamilton’s contract with Mercedes runs until the end of next season, at which point the six-time world champion is expected to either extend his allegiance to the German manufacturer or perhaps retire from F1.
Hamilton’s comments of late point to a prolongation of his stay with the Silver Arrows outfit beyond 2020 although the Briton admitted he wasn’t looking forward to the arduous task of negotiating a new deal with his current employer.
Could Ferrari step in and drive a wedge through those negotiations?
“Lewis is certainly an outstanding driver, a fantastic driver,” Binotto told the media in Abu Dhabi when asked if Ferrari would be willing to make an offer to Hamilton.
“Knowing that he’s available in 2021 can make us only happy, but honestly it’s too early for any decision. We are happy with the drivers we’ve got at the moment.
“Certainly, at one stage next season we will start discussing and understanding what to do.”
Key to Hamilton’s future in F1 beyond 2021 is likely Mercedes itself and the manufacturer’s plans moving forward.
The current paradigm shift in the automotive industry, with manufacturers gradually abandoning the internal combustion engine and moving towards an all-electric era, has called into question the relevancy of F1 for manufacturers in the context of the sweeping changes.
However, Hamilton doesn’t believe Mercedes will pull out of Formula 1 at the end of 2020.
“The board members are here this weekend, so I’ll double check with them,” Hamilton said at Yas Marina.
“But they’re all hardcore races and [I’m] pretty sure that they want to stay. But things may have changed, as they can do so I’ll find out.”
Hamilton also recently underscored the importance of Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff remaining on board in the future, if the manufacturer does indeed remain in F1.
Wolff – who has been at the helm at Mercedes since 2013 – is rumored to have been earmarked by Liberty Media as a possible successor to Chase Carey as F1’s chief executive.
While Hamilton will want a head’s up from Wolff before deciding his future, the opposite is also true.
“We ended up in Mercedes at the same time in 2013 and I think we have built up a lot of trust,” said Wolff about his and Hamilton’s future.
“At the same time, the two of us are part of a wider organisation where everybody is playing in their relative field of competence.
“For him to say that is nice. I’d also like to know where he goes or if he stays in the future.
“We are having those discussions about the future and I think it is very important between the two of us, like between many others that have played an important role within that team.
“There are many things to be decided on and we will see over the winter.”
Sebastian Vettel has admitted he would have liked to “stay home” this weekend and is torn between finding redemption at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix but at the same time hankers to be around the family after the birth of his third child.
On Thursday, the Ferrari driver missed the FIA press conference in Abu Dhabi following the birth less than 24 hours earlier of his third child – his first son.
“Maybe this is the first weekend where the feeling is strongest that I would also like to stay at home,” he told the German broadcaster RTL. “I want to bring the season to a good end, but at the same time, of course, I would like to be home with my wife so I am torn.”
The fiercely-private 32-year-old German said of the birth of his son: “Everything went well and of course I am very, very happy. Thank God you can stay in touch these days, but I am torn.”
Vettel crashed during free practice on Friday, spinning in Turn 11 and clouting the wall with the rear of his Ferrari and damaging the rear of the car. He was not harmed, but it was another forced error by the quadruple F1 World Champion
He played down suggestions that the momentous moment in his family life is a distraction from his work in Abu Dhabi, “Let’s see what we achieve this weekend, but it definitely doesn’t hurt. It is a motivation boost that I hope we can use this weekend, as we lack some performance here.
“But anything can happen in the race, because nobody has anything to lose and the championship is done,” added Vettel.
Mercedes has banned its 2019 Formula 1 reserve driver Esteban Ocon from the team garage this weekend in Abu Dhabi as the Frenchman’s return to the grid with Renault becomes a reality.
Although to still be managed by Toto Wolff, the Frenchman has been signed up by the Renault works team for 2020.
Ocon, 23, has also been released early by Mercedes so that he can get an early taste of the 2019 Renault in the post-grand prix Abu Dhabi test next week.
Asked if he is already helping Renault to develop the 2020 car, he told Canal Plus: “Technically no, I do not have that right.
“But we are discussing, and I have been able to fit my seat, prepare myself a little and go in the simulator. That’s why I do not have the right to be in the (Mercedes) garage this weekend,” Ocon said in Abu Dhabi.
“We are preparing to test next week and I’m lucky to have two days, which is rare. Even Daniel (Ricciardo) did not have this chance last year, so it’s going to be a good preparation for next season,” he added.
McLaren supremo Zak Brown won’t delve into whether he regrets splitting with the team’s former works engine supplier Honda who appear to have found the sweetspot with their once pitiful Formula 1 power unit package while the Woking outfit took the customer route.
After three dismal years together following Honda’s return to Formula 1 in 2015, Brown and fellow executives signed up instead for a customer Renault deal.
However, although McLaren has upped its game considerably and is now regarded as ‘best of the rest’ in 2019, Red Bull scooped up the works Honda deal and is now winning races and targeting the title for 2020.
When asked if there is any regret about dumping Honda, Brown said in Abu Dhabi: “Look, I think, first of all, congratulations to Honda. It’s great that they’re going to be staying in the sport.
“I think you’ve got to give credit to Helmut Marko for making a good strategic decision to first put Honda into his B-team and that worked out well, so he put it into his A-team.
“He’s got two good lieutenants in Christian (Horner) and Franz (Tost) running those teams and you know, they’re winning races now and good on them and good for the sport,” Brown added.
Brown also revealed in Abu Dhabi that an expanded sponsorship by the tobacco giant British American Tobacco will mean a revised livery for 2020.
“I don’t want to spoil that debut but I will say it will look quite impactful and be very noticeable on the racetrack,” he said. “BAT is our biggest partner but we will always stay core to our papaya.”
Formula 1’s two Finnish drivers aren’t sure what they will be doing in 2021 – like many drivers on the grid this year, both Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas are only signed up to their current teams for 2020.
“Well, that decision must be made somewhere before then, but I haven’t even thought about it,” said 40-year-old Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen in Abu Dhabi.
He said the new rules for 2021 will not overly influence that decision.
“I don’t know how much things will change,” the 2007 world champion told the Finnish broadcaster C More. “On paper the changes are big, but it is pointless to start speculating until we see the cars on the track.”
Also signed up only for 2020 is Valtteri Bottas, who drives for the top team Mercedes.
“I think it will be interesting for all of us. I don’t remember a situation with so many drivers with contracts that are expiring,” he said.
“I will be like all the other drivers looking at all the options,” Bottas added. “But if I had to decide now, I would stay with this team.”
Canadian Grand Prix promoter Francois Dumontier travelled to Abu Dhabi for the announcement of Nicholas Latifi’s 2020 race seat with Williams and is excited of the prospect of having two fellow countrymen on the grid next year.
Le Journal de Montreal said Dumontier also travelled to England in late 2016 when the same British team was about to announce Lance Stroll’s signing.
“When I heard that Williams would make the announcement in Abu Dhabi, I decided to come here,” he said.
“We cannot ask for more,” Dumontier added. “Two Canadians in F1 on a permanent basis is a very historic and exciting moment.”
“Nicholas was born in Montreal and moved to Toronto with his family when he was young. We have never hidden the fact that Toronto is a market that is important to us. We will work with Nicholas, because he can play a very important role at the promotional level. He will give us more visibility in the rest of Canada.”
As for Latifi, he will be starting his F1 career with the worst team on the grid by some margin, and is aware of what he is letting himself into, “It still feels a bit surreal. I don’t think it will sink in fully until I’m on the grid in Melbourne next year. I don’t underestimate the challenge ahead.”
Coincidentally both drivers are sons of Canadian billionaires whose fathers have invested in their path to the top of the sport, Lawrence Stroll buying Racing Point for his son while Michael Latifi is no-doubt bankrolling young Nicholas, he has also bought a substantial share of McLaren.
Canada has had 12 drivers qualifying for Grands Prix over the years of which Jacques Villeneuve has been the most successful with 11 F1 victories and the 1997 world title, his father Gilles Villeneuve is the only other Canadian winner with six victories before his death in 1982.
Sergey Sirotkin, who is actually Renault and McLaren’s reserve driver, was put on standby to potentially replace Williams’ George Russell in Abu Dhabi.
British rookie Russell is not saying what the problem is.
“It’s not an illness, it’s something different,” he is quoted by Auto Hebdo. “Everything will make sense when I can say more. I do not feel 100 per cent but I can drive, but the team needed to have a plan B.”
France’s Auto Hebdo said Mercedes reserve Esteban Ocon was also considered as Williams’ potential Abu Dhabi stand-in, but he is too tall.
And 2020 Williams racer Nicholas Latifi does not yet have a super license.
Russell, 21, said he is working on his mysterious problem in Abu Dhabi with Hintsa Performance, the sports coaching company set up by the late F1 doctor Aki Hintsa.
The top-three separated by less than a tenth of a second, the stage is set for a competitive qualifying after the final session of practice on Saturday in Abu Dhabi.
Leading the way with a time of 1:36.566, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen put himself in good stead to back-up his pole position two weeks ago in Brazil, with the Mercedes’ of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas a mere 0.074 and 0.089 seconds behind the Dutchman respectively.
With Bottas set to drop down the order for his engine penalties – having taken another fresh power unit before the session – that means qualifying is shaping up to be a very narrow head-to-head battle between Verstappen and Hamilton, with both drivers having made noticeable gains since yesterday.
Interestingly in Verstappen’s case, his session-best time came with a fastest middle-sector, which is typically where engine power is most influential.
Further afield from the top three, Alex Albon was fourth-fastest, 0.361s down on his teammate, while the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc were were left in fifth and sixth, having spent significant time testing the medium tyre for Q2, and not just pushing for ultimate pace on the softs.
Racing Point’s Sergio Perez was the surprise package of the session, best-of-the-rest in seventh, albeit over half-a-second behind the top six.
Bouncing back from his difficult Friday, Daniel Ricciardo was eighth for Renault, while Brazil podium finishers Carlos Sainz and Pierre Gasly rounded out the top ten.
It’s not often in F1 you get to say the fastest car will be at the back of the grid, but it’s certainly shaping up that way in Abu Dhabi.
Topping the timesheets in both sessions on Friday, Valtteri Bottas was undoubtedly reaping the benefits of his brand-spanking-new power unit, even if it will almost certainly cost him a chance at winning this race. That said, the question of who will be his prime beneficiary remains largely unanswered.
A mere 0.076 seconds separating P2 Lewis Hamilton from P3 Charles Leclerc in second practice, with Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen a further 0.049s and 0.116s back respectively, the “old” Mercedes doesn’t seem to possess the same pace advantage around Yas Marina. Additionally, with the long runs interrupted by multiple red flags, we don’t have any real indication how things might differ in the race. In short: the story of the 2019 season might be well-established by now, but its final chapter remains a mystery.
0.423. Average gap between Valtteri Bottas and the rest of the field over Friday’s two sessions. An ominous sign Mercedes have once again improved their power unit, or is that reading too much into it?
One. Quantity Haas brought of their “experimental” floor from winter testing to this race, which has now been ruined in Romain Grosjean’s unfortunate crash with Valtteri Bottas. Additionally, that means Grosjean’s floor will revert to the Melbourne spec – round one of the 2019 season.
P15. Position of Nico Hulkenberg at the end of FP2. Ahead of his teammate, but still a long ways away from getting a satisfying sendoff.
Not sure what Valtteri Bottas was thinking diving down the inside of Romain Grosjean like he did. On the bright side, at least Grosjean can say a crash wasn’t his fault for once.
Strong words from ex-McLaren and Renault boss Eric Boullier regarding Pierre Gasly’s time at Red Bull, suggesting the team’s focus on Max Verstappen means “there is no room for anyone else”. While I think there’s definitely an element of favouritism at play, it’s not enough to excuse how far below standard Gasly was in the RB15, and Boullier – among others – is suffering from a bit of recency bias after his podium in Brazil.
Max Verstappen topped the timesheet in FP3 thanks to a late charge in the final practice session in Abu Dhabi, indicating that Aston martin Red Bull Racing will be a force to be reckoned with in qualifying.
The Dutchman took the top spot from Lewis Hamilton, lowering the Mercedes driver’s benchmark by 0.074s, while Valtteri Bottas clocked in third.
Alex Albon concluded the session fourth but Ferrari was once again outpaced by its front-running rivals, although Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc’s running took place mainly on the medium tyre, indicating that the Scuderia pair may have some pace in hand to unleash this evening.
Run under Yas Marina’s warm conditions compared to the cooler temperatures that drivers will encounter in qualifying, the relevance of FP3 is debatable.
Still, the session offered an opportunity for teams and drivers to check and tweak settings as well as verify degradation levels.
Friday’s pacesetter Valtteri Bottas was equipped with a new engine, his second for this weekend after Mercedes discovered a pneumatic leak on the brand-new unit installed yesterday.
Over at Williams, after feeling under the weather earlier this week, George Russell was once again in the cockpit, appearing fit and well.
McLaren’s Lando Norris was the first driver to establish a benchmark, but the early time was quickly topped by Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg before a soft-shod Bottas logged in a 1m37.911s to pick up where he left off on Friday.
The Finn was demoted however by Hamilton who clocked in 0.212s faster on the soft tyre, while Vettel and Leclerc rose into P2 and P3.
But at the session approached its halfway mark, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen seized the best time, the Dutchman running nearly half a second faster than Hamilton.
The Briton would have none of it however, responding tit for tat with a 1m36.877s while Bottas slot himself into second.
Alex Albon’s heart rate hit a peak when he stumbled upon the slow-moving Renault of Nico Hulkenberg on the racing line at Turn 17, forcing the Red Bull charger to take some hectic evasive action.
Hamilton extended his advantage up front, but Bottas got within 0.015s of his teammate.
Both Ferraris appeared on course to challenge Mercedes’ lead, with two purple sectors but the red cars were clearly outpaced by their Silver Arrows counterparts in the final portion of the track, a definite weak area for the Scuderia.
With just a few minutes remaining on the clock, Verstappen sprung to the top with a 1m36.566s that edged Hamilton by 0.074s!
The Dutchman’s time remained unchallenged, hopefully indicating that Red Bull will be a force to be reckoned with in this evening’s shootout.
Hamilton and Bottas ended FP3 in second and third, with Albon Vettel and Leclerc rounding off the top six.
Valtteri Bottas was handed a reprimand for causing a collision on during practice on Friday as he topped the times ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes one-two on the first day of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend.
The 30-year-old Finn completed a ‘double top’ by going fastest in both sessions, making full use of a new power unit after suffering an engine failure in Brazil two weeks ago. The switch is costly however as he will take penalties that send him to the back of the grid.
Bottas tried to pass Romain Grosjean on the inside at Turn 12, but the Haas driver turned in and the pair collided. They were not hurt.
“I think he didn’t really see me coming up the inside,” explained Bottas. “My apologies, but there was nowhere for me to disappear. I went for the over-take and that was it.
“Honestly, I thought he would see me coming. He wasn’t covering the line so I thought he was aware I was there, but maybe he didn’t look in the mirror before turning in.”
Both drivers were called to the stewards who later issued a statement that said Bottas had “acknowledged that it was a failed attempt at an overtake which resulted in the collision.”
It was his first reprimand of the year.
Bottas started the weekend at Yas Marina on the back foot, an engine failure during the Brazilian Grand Prix forced his Mercedes team to replace PU-elements on the W10 which means he will start from the back of the grid in Abu Dhabi.
The team reported that “Bottas suffered Mercedes’ first mechanical failure since Austria 2018 at the Brazilian Grand Prix last time out, his Mercedes experiencing a sudden rise in oil consumption before he was forced to pull off the track.
“Following on from that, ahead of the final race of the year at Yas Marina, the call was made to replace internal combustion engine, turbocharger and MGU-H.
Built on a low-lying man-made island, the Yas Marina Circuit features several very long straights but, just to complicate that, a final sector completely at odds with the two that go before it.
It takes the concept of racing around a harbour to extremes, with the final third of the lap weaving in and out of the yacht basins, and under the magnificent Yas Hotel.
It’s also a race weekend where two of the practice sessions are carried out during early afternoon and the rest of the weekend at twilight, which means Free Practice One and Free Practice Three conditions are not very representive to Qualifying and the Race.
However, Friday afternoon saw the final practice sessions of the season get underway with shining blue skies and track temperatures at 34.9c for FP1.
The first session, FP1, saw Max put in a total of 22 laps and a best time of 1:37.492, which saw him finish in P2. Alex was in P4 after posting a 1:38.084 from his 23 laps.
Free Practice Two was the first twilight track action of the weekend as the Bulls put in a session of long runs. Max finished in P5 with a time of 1:36.807 from 30 laps. Alex came back in P6 after his best time of 1:37.288 from 30 laps.
First Practice Session: 1:37.492, Position: 2, Laps: 22
Second Practice Session: 1:36.807, Position: 5, Laps: 30
“Overall, it was a pretty decent Friday. I’m not entirely happy with the balance yet and there are of course still some things we need to look at and do better but overall I’m pretty pleased. Mercedes look very strong here again and will be hard to beat but I still think it will be close tomorrow. We will analyse the tyre data later today but overall there are no real surprises. The soft is quick over one lap and on race runs it drops off as expected.”
First Practice Session: 1:38.084, Position: 4, Laps: 23
Second Practice Session: 1:37.288, Position: 6, Laps: 30
“It was tricky out there but overall today was good and we’re getting there. It’s difficult to get the tyres working and there’s quite a lot of dust down so that’s why we saw a lot of cars spinning. The balance was ok and we know we need to improve a little bit here and there but Max looked quick so let’s see how things go tomorrow. I think I’ve got a little bit of fine tuning to do on my side, especially in sector three, but we’re chipping away. The Ferraris will of course be quick in qualifying but let’s see where we are come qualifying.”
Renault F1 Team started the final Grand Prix weekend of the 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship with a mixed day of practice at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit.
Nico Hülkenberg enjoyed a smooth first session, recording the tenth fastest time. Daniel Ricciardo suffered an engine failure, which caused his session to end early.
In Free Practice 2, Nico was fifteenth with Daniel just 0.278secs adrift of Nico in sixteenth.
Alan Permane Technical programme notes
Nico was relatively happy with the car during FP1 where he ran Pirelli’s Medium (yellow, C4) tyre.
Daniel’s session ended 30 minutes early after an engine failure at the penultimate corner bringing out a red flag. The team replaced the engine, which was a high-mileage unit from the start of the season. We brought forward the ICE that was scheduled to be used on Saturday and Sunday.
FP2 is important here as it’s when conditions are most representative for what we’re expecting for qualifying and race.
Nico began on Hard tyres (white, C3) with Daniel on Mediums. After that, both cars ran the Soft (red, C5) tyre for the first time of the day, before focusing on high fuel runs.
What we learned today: We have a bit more performance to find for qualifying tomorrow.
Free Practice 1: P10, 1:39.505, 22 laps
Free Practice 2: P15, 1:38.122, 29 laps
“It was a fairly standard Friday. The first session was hot under the sun and then things cooled in the evening where conditions are similar to both qualifying and the race. There were no particular problems for us and we worked through our programme as planned. The car felt good in the first session but we seemed to lose a bit of performance in the evening. We need to see what happened there. We’ll dig into the data and aim to make some improvements ready for qualifying.”
Free Practice 1: P19, 1:40.850, 12 laps
Free Practice 2: P16, 1:38.400, 26 laps
“It wasn’t the smoothest Friday for us today. We missed a bit of running with the engine issue in the first session and, in the evening, we made some changes to the car. We were a bit off the pace, we haven’t quite found the balance yet, so we’ll be looking for some further tweaks ahead of qualifying. I’m feeling confident we’ll get there and find the sweet spot to put us in a pretty good place for tomorrow and for the race.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director: “Today proved to be a tricky day for us. FP1 went well enough but in the cooler conditions of FP2 we didn’t quite get the tyres into their working window for the first timed laps early in the session. As always we seem competitive on high fuel and we will be looking at various settings overnight to have the car in the right configuration to make some headway in final practice and qualifying tomorrow.”
Track conditions at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix are a mighty variable – one of the biggest drivers and engineers must contend with.
Daytime in the Emirates is hot, even in November, but as soon as the sun sets, temperatures drop. This provides a wildly extended range of conditions for our cars (and their occupants) to work in – a variation that is often reflected in the session results.
Such was the difference today between FP1 and FP2. A strong display in the earlier session gives us plenty of promise for the rest of the weekend; but with qualifying and Sunday’s race to be contested in the cooler circumstances of early evening, it will be crucial to harness the C38’s performance also when the floodlights turn on.
One final qualifying awaits us in 2019: our engineers are crunching the data already to make the best of tomorrow’s battle for the grid. Once again, every detail will matter – in the light of day and in the darkness of night alike.
1st practice: 13th / 1:39.888 (17 laps)
2nd practice: 17th / 1:38.415 (30 laps)
“Laptimes say very little on Fridays so I won’t focus too much on that. We still have to work on things, look at all the data we collected and make an improvement ahead of tomorrow. Only when we get to qualifying we will have a clear idea of where we really stand against the rest.”
1st practice: 9th / 1.39.423 (20 laps)
2nd practice: 18th / 1:38.464 (32 laps)
“We looked strong in FP1, but tomorrow’s qualifying conditions will look a lot more like FP2 when it was cooler. We will need to check everything we learnt today, come up with a good setup and put it all together when it matters. I made a small mistake when pushing, but didn’t touch the wall.
“In the end, you’re trying to find the limit and this is what practice is for. The track is quite long and the gaps are naturally bigger, but the battle in the midfield will still be close. We will need to analyse all the data we got tonight and make the right choices for tomorrow.”
Williams report from day one of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend, Round 21 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Yas Marina Circuit in the United Arab Emirates – the final race of the season.
Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer: “We enjoyed a productive Friday as we conducted testing in the hot conditions of FP1 before turning our attention to qualifying and race preparation in FP2. The red flags in both sessions disrupted the flow a little, but, nonetheless, we adapted well and completed everything that we had planned.
“The cooler conditions in FP2, and the relatively soft compounds available at this event, helped improve the handling of the car, and this was particularly to George’s liking. Unfortunately, Robert was less happy in FP2 than he had been in FP1, and this is something that we will be looking at overnight.
“Tomorrow will be another day of two halves, with the track hot in FP3 before again cooling down before, and during qualifying. We will not pay too much attention to FP3 and instead will try to build on our FP2 findings as we seek the best balance for qualifying.
“Although we are rapidly approaching the end of a long and tricky season, it is inspiring to see that the team continues to work hard, professionally, and effectively. Their tireless efforts are very much appreciated, and their dedication to the cause will prove to be excellent preparation for next season.
George Russell: “The car was feeling nice to drive, probably one of the best of the year, but the pace was quite slow. It was tricky around the circuit, because it changes a lot from FP1 to FP2 as the conditions get cooler and it turns from day tonight. I was enjoying it and it was good fun to drive.
“I felt that I learnt something from FP2 in the long runs, especially after the red flag as our pace was stronger in relative terms. I have not been feeling great, but the session was good for me and I feel fine to drive, which is the most important thing.
Robert Kubica: “Today was quite a mixture. The first session was surprisingly good for the conditions we had on the track. I was pretty happy with the balance and with the things we were trying, which were more for next year.
“Normally FP2 is a better session in the cooler conditions and with lower track temperatures, but for us it was the opposite. We need to try and get back to having the behaviour and feeling of the car I had in FP1, so, as always, we will try our best, and hopefully it will work better tomorrow than it did this afternoon.
This Friday at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was a busy one for the Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow team and its drivers.
Over the two free practice sessions which took place in the afternoon and evening, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel worked solidly on preparing for qualifying and the race, both of them making a mistake each, although it did not have a significant effect on the day’s programme.
FP1. Sebastian and Charles ended the first session in fifth and seventh places respectively. They began on the soft tyres before switching to the medium to evaluate its potential behaviour in the first stint of the race. Vettel posted a 1’38”906 and Charles did a 1’39”249. When there was just a minute remaining, the German spun his car into the barriers at turn 19 which slightly damaged his SF90.
FP2. Before the second session, which started in daylight and ended under the floodlights that turn night into day at the Yas Marina circuit, the gearbox was changed on Sebastian’s car, but this was penalty-free as the one taken off was not his race gearbox.
The green light came on at 17 (14 CET), exactly the same time at which qualifying starts tomorrow. It was a busy 90 minutes. Both drivers began with qualifying runs and the Monegasque was immediately in trouble, when, at the same turn 19, he brushed the barriers with both right-hand wheels.
A check revealed no damage was done and so he was able to go back out, with nothing more than a tyre change. Leclerc was quickest of the two Scuderia drivers, posting a 1’36”642, slightly better than Vettel’s 1’36”691.
Long run. In the second part of the session, the focus shifted to long run work for the race. Sebastian tackled his on medium tyres and Charles had the hardest ones.
Programme. The final hour of free practice takes place tomorrow at 14 local time (11 CET). Sunday’s 21st and final race of the year gets underway at 17.10 (14.10 CET).
Charles Leclerc: “The first session was quite challenging for us. The balance of the car was not great, but we took a very good step forward and returned to FP2 with a better performance. This is positive, as the track conditions were far more representative of what we can expect during qualifying and the race, considering that they both take place during the night in Abu Dhabi.
“Tyre degradation is quite an important factor here. We seem to be fast in the first and second sectors, however still have some work ahead in optimising how we perform in sector three, so we will focus on that and try to make some further improvements.
“Our competitors may very well be stronger than what they have shown in FP2, so we will see how things stand tomorrow.”
Sebastian Vettel: “In the medium low-speed corners of this circuit we are still lacking speed, compared to our rivals. Sector three is the one that really hurts us, we are struggling with the tyres getting hot, and the car is difficult to drive.
Of course, when you drive on the limit, any car will be more difficult to drive, and this what we are here to do. We will try our best to have a solid weekend, we can improve the setup and then see if we can fight well on Sunday.
“Today I hit the barriers: I was caught out a bit by surprise as I didn’t expect to spin. I knew going in that I would have to catch the rear, but it didn’t quite work, which was a bit unfortunate, but the only damage was to the rim.”
Racing Point report from day one of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend, Round 21 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Yas Marina Circuit in the United Arab Emirates – the final race of the season.
FP1 1:39.864 P12 23 laps
FP2 1:37.985 P13 32 laps
“The car looks pretty competitive, but obviously we don’t know what set-up and fuel loads the rest of the teams are running today so we will see what tomorrow brings. There are some things to look over tonight, but our pace in the second session gives us confidence for the rest of the weekend. We have a good balance here so it’s about optimising our package tomorrow. Every weekend is important but we definitely want to finish off the season on a high.”
FP1 1:39.901 P14 17 laps
FP2 1:37.637 P8 32 laps
“It has been a good day and our pace in FP2 was competitive. The evening session is generally the most representative so I’m feeling quite optimistic. Tomorrow is looking very tight and I think one or two tenths will make the difference between making Q3 and missing out. If we are able to put everything together and find a bit of rhythm and pace tomorrow, we can secure a good result in qualifying. Our race pace is also looking competitive so hopefully we can carry this forward into Sunday.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal: “It’s going to be another close and competitive weekend with small margins making the difference in the midfield. We’ve collected plenty of data today, although the three red flags prevented us from doing as much running as we would have liked.
“That said, we have a good understanding of the three tyre compounds and by the end of the day we had given the drivers a car balance more to their liking. The homework we’ve done should give us a good chance to compete for a place in Q3 tomorrow evening.”
Mercedes report from day one of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend, Round 21 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Yas Marina Circuit in the United Arab Emirates – the final race of the season.
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport top the time-sheets on Friday at Yas Marina Circuit
Valtteri set the fastest time in FP1 with Lewis in P3
In the evening session, Valtteri was again the fastest man on track with Lewis in P2
Valtteri Bottas: It’s been a good day out on track; the car was well-balanced from the get-go. I had to take a fresh engine for the weekend which also seems be to working well. My pace looked competitive in both sessions, so from that perspective we’ve definitely started the last race weekend of the season off on the right foot, although I’m sure there’s still room for improvement for tomorrow.
“The track was a bit dusty on the first few runs in FP1, but it evolved quickly and then felt pretty good all through the session. The end of my FP2 session was compromised by a minor incident with Grosjean; I thought he had seen me going for the overtake on the inside, but by the time I realised that he hadn’t seen me, there was no way for me to escape anymore.
Lewis Hamilton: “It’s been a bit of an usual Friday for me; I was struggling to get into the rhythm today, but you have your good and bad days. Nonetheless, the car still felt good, but there’s definitely areas that we can work on as a team and areas for me to work on personally.
“I’ll just sit down tonight and make sure to get that straight for tomorrow. I’ve been trying to explore some new avenues with the car. We already know where it works well, so I’m pushing the car into different places, just trying to see if there’s anywhere else I can exploit the car and the tyres for the future.
James Allison: “It’s been a pretty good day, Valtteri was strong from the outset in FP1 and kept that good pace going in FP2 on the low fuel and also in the race simulation runs. Lewis took a little bit longer to find his rhythm with the car but seems to have got that now and was certainly fast and very effective in the long runs.
“The car is behaving itself and we’re hopefully of a good day tomorrow. Although we’ve had a strong day today, it’s pretty clear from looking at the Ferrari and the Red Bull that they’ve got pace in their car as well, so it’ll be an exciting day tomorrow in Qualifying where there’ll be no room for error.
McLaren report from day one of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend, Round 21 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Yas Marina Circuit in the United Arab Emirates – the final race of the season.
FP1 1m40.687s (+3.730s) 23 laps 17th
FP2 1m37.834s (+1.578s) 32 laps 11th
“A decent Friday in terms of running but obviously just a bit outside the top 10, which is not ideal. The field seems to have tightened even more this weekend and the battle to lead the midfield tomorrow will be tough.
“I’m confident we know where to look for those extra tenths and hopefully we can take the necessary steps to qualify close to the top teams.”
FP1 1m39.628s (+2.671s) 18 laps 11th
FP2 1m37.918s (+1.662s) 32 laps 12th
“A difficult day. We’re not where we want to be in terms of the pace of the car. We do have positives concerning the car but also some weaknesses.
“We just need to work on those then I think we should be looking better for tomorrow. Qualifying is going to be very close as usual, no matter what. We just need to make sure we extract every little bit.”
Andrea Stella, Performance Director: “We had a solid Friday with both cars running well, getting through their run plans without any issues. Today’s test items included some aerodynamic measurements and tests, in addition to gaining an understanding of the tyres in preparation for the race.
“This weekend the tyres are interesting, as is usually the case when we have the C5 compound. We’ve gathered good data today that we’ll analyse overnight to give us the best chance of ending the season on a high note in what promises to be a very tight qualifying session and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.”
Toro Rosso report from day one of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend, Round 21 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Yas Marina Circuit in the United Arab Emirates – the final race of the season.
First Practice Session Best lap: 1:39.969, pos. 15th, 20 laps
Second Practice Session Best lap: 1:37.651, pos. 9th, 34 laps
“It was a productive day, FP1 wasn’t so important as the conditions are different to the conditions we race in, but it’s still useful to get some reference points and see how the car behaves. FP2 was also productive, all of the laps were important because the conditions are more representative for the race, so it was good to put so many laps in during the session. We’ll see when we study the data tonight what we need to do with the car for tomorrow. I felt quite good with the car today, but it doesn’t mean we can stop working and leave everything like this, things change over the weekend and we need to adapt.”
First Practice Session Best lap: 1:40.401, pos. 16th, 17 laps
Second Practice Session Best lap: 1:37.770, pos. 10th, 36 laps
“It was a bit of a messy FP1 between the red flags and getting blocked on my second run, so it wasn’t an ideal session as we didn’t do many laps. The good thing was we were still able to test a couple of things we had planned. FP2 was a better session, as between the two cars we completed more testing ahead of Qualifying and the race, so now we have good things to analyse to decide what’s the best configuration for tomorrow. I’m happy with this afternoon, the long-run pace was strong and I think there’s more to come in the short runs. To finish in the top ten today makes us feel positive.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer: “We didn’t have the easiest FP1 session today and this was reflected on the timing sheets. We ran the Option first followed by the Prime, which was never going to help flatter us, and we came here with a number of test items, which were unfortunately interrupted by the red flags. This means we were a little bit on the back foot during that session.
“Yas Marina is a track where it’s easy to get stuck in traffic, and this happened particularly to Pierre as he struggled to get a clean lap. For Dany, the car balance was quite good in FP1, while Pierre struggled a little bit more. We did a lot of analysis on the data and made a number of changes going into FP2, so we had a cleaner session this afternoon.
“We were able to show the true competitiveness of the car over the short runs with both cars ending the day in the top 10, which is where they should be, so that was positive. In the long runs, the Option tyre showed to be quite stable, but there is still some work to do, particularly if we make it to Q3 tomorrow as it would be the race start tyre.
“The performance on the other two compounds on the long runs looked pretty good, so there’s still a lot to analyse tonight, but I think we can look forward to a reasonable performance for the rest of the weekend.”
Lewis Hamilton says he is “making it a little bit more difficult for myself” at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by trying different setup approaches in search of more performance.
The Mercedes driver wrapped up his sixth drivers’ championship at Circuit of The Americas at the start of this month, and says that since then he has been working on different setup directions to try and tap into even more performance from both himself and his car. After finishing behind teammate Valtteri Bottas in both practice sessions on Friday, Hamilton admits he is not comfortable with the handling at this stage. While conceding the work could hurt his race pace, he thinks it could pay dividends next season.
“I think there was a bit of a difference between the hard tire and the soft tire — there is quite a big difference in characteristics between the setup and I am really pushing the car into a different place over the last two races just to explore,” Hamilton said.
“It is easy to go too far but I am sticking with it and hoping that it works. We already know what does work and I am not keen to do what does work — I am really trying to see where else I can exploit the car and the tires. That is making it a little bit more erratic and not as smooth and simple in terms of my driving style.
“I wouldn’t say that it is fun. It is still just as hard work and I am making it a little bit more difficult for myself than it needs to be, but I feel I need to go through that process to see if I can edge out a little bit more for the future.”
Hamilton — whose car carried No. 1 briefly in Friday practice (pictured) before reverting to its regular No. 44 — admits a lot of his work is speculative given the way next season’s car might react differently, but he sees potential in trying new techniques with the championship won.
“I am definitely hoping to unlock something and utilize a couple of different tools that I haven’t touched during the year, because they never really worked before. I am trying to explore and see whether or not I can get them to work. It is a pre-emptive thought for next year, even though next year’s car is going to be different. There still might be things I can apply but I am having to take it all with a pinch of salt at the moment.”
Haas’ Romain Grosjean won’t be able to continue with the specific package he ran on Friday in Abu Dhabi as a result of his clash with Valtteri Bottas in FP2 and the damage inflicted to his car’s floor.
Grosjean and Bottas came together when the Finn lunged up the inside of the Haas at Turn 2, a move for which the Mercedes driver received a reprimand from the stewards.
Unfortunately, the contact damaged the Haas’ floor, an element whose specification was introduced in Japan and which Grosjean had never tested until Friday.
The new-spec configuration proved successful in FP1, with the Frenchman leading the midfield, a performance that encouraged the team to keep its car intact for FP2. Alas, the damaged component was the only which Haas had brought to Yas Marina.
“The plan was to try in FP1 the latest configuration that we received, that Kevin tried in the USA, and he wasn’t happy at all with it,” explained Grosjean, quoted by Autosport.
“And the guys made some small changes on the diffuser and we put it on my car to get data basically, and we said the plan was after FP1 we revert to the ‘race one hybrid’ car.
“But in FP1 I felt really good in the car, and I said to the boys: ‘I think we can try to race that package, we can try to work around the set-up, there are some good characteristics that I like – end of the braking, the car turns a little bit better, so it’s better for my driving style’. So I think we can get there.
“So we carry on with the latest spec in the afternoon, and again we were very competitive – sixth in the morning, seventh in the afternoon, absolutely not what we were expecting on a track like this.
“And then we had the incident with Valtteri and the bad news is that we had only one set of that car,” lamented Grosjean.
“So now I need to revert to the car that Kevin has been running. So I’m going to take what they’ve done. But obviously all of Friday is kind of going in the bin.”
Grosjean initially rued Bottas’ over-enthusiastic passing attempt, and especially its consequences. But the Finn apologized to his victim, smoothing things out between the two drivers.
“I spoke with Valtteri, and he apologised, which is nice,” said Grosjean. “He said ‘look, I’m starting last Sunday so I’m trying overtaking manoeuvres, and that one was probably from too far away'”.
“I didn’t expect him to lunge from so far away, and then eventually he was in my blind spot so it’s not like I could open the door.
“I think it was his fault, he apologised, it happens, we all do mistakes, we’re human. The only thing that I’m a bit sad about is that we’ve lost the car that we wanted to run.”
Sebastian Vettel insists he has a good relationship with Charles Leclerc and says it is key for Ferrari to be successful at this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and beyond.
The two Ferrari drivers collided when fighting in the latter stages of the last race in Brazil, with the team holding clear-the-air talks back in Europe before flying out for the final race of the season. Vettel was not present to face the media in Abu Dhabi on Thursday as he delayed his arrival following the birth of his third child, but after Friday practice he was keen to talk up his relationship with Leclerc.
“Obviously it’s unfortunate what happened, and we want to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Vettel said. “That’s clear. That’s the most important. The key for me is that we get along, we don’t have a problem with each other. I know that the outside tries to hype this a little bit, but actually there’s nothing to worry about from the inside.
“I think the lesson is that if we race each other then we need to give each other more room to make sure that we don’t touch. It was a very little touch, but the touch led to a result.”
Ferrari looks well-placed to challenge Mercedes at this early stage of the weekend as the two drivers ended up third and fourth in FP2, with Vettel saying he got away lightly with a spin at the end of the first practice session that resulted in his hit the wall at Turn 19.
“It was a bit of a surprise — I didn’t expect to actually spin. I knew that going in I would have to catch the rear, didn’t quite work. So it was a bit unfortunate, but there was no damage other than the rim, so I got lucky.”
Leclerc followed suit by touching the wall at the same corner in FP2, but he says that incident shouldn’t overshadow good progress made by Ferrari between sessions.
“The day started actually pretty badly for us, one of the hardest sessions of the year in terms of balance and overall quite a messy session,” Leclerc said. “But we worked very well between the sessions, and we gained quite a lot of performance for FP2.
“FP2 was pretty positive, apart from the race pace on the soft (tire), where I think we can do better. We need to work quite a bit on that, but the hard, the race pace was very strong, so that is a good thing.
“The whole third sector is pretty difficult because it’s overheating in the rear. Especially this corner, as soon as you go a bit too wide you lose a bit of grip, and I’ve been surprised by that.”
Next year’s only Formula 1 rookie Nicholas Latifi anticipates his debut in the top flight with the struggling Williams team next season will be a difficult one.
The Canadian, son of a billionaire Michael Latifi, is joining as a replacement for veteran Robert Kubica, who has scored the team´s only point in a campaign where Williams has lagged behind other teams in terms of speed.
“I don’t underestimate the challenge ahead,” Latifi said on Thursday. “I look forward to the journey ahead with the team, and I am excited to make my F1 debut at the Australian Grand Prix in 2020.”
Latifi finished the F2 championship this season in second place, winning four races with one race left this weekend at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. He has also worked as a reserve driver for Williams this year, doing testing and simulator work as well as participating in practice sessions during race weekends.
“It still feels a bit surreal,” the 24-year-old Latifi said. “I don´t think it will sink in fully until I´m on the grid in Melbourne next year.”
He will race alongside British driver George Russell, and completes the F1 grid for 2020.
Williams has been the slowest car all season, and the only point in 20 races was Kubica´s 10th-place finish at the German Grand Prix in July, with one race left.
Any driver would struggle to be Max Verstappen’s teammate at Red Bull-Honda according to former McLaren team boss Eric Boullier, who was asked to comment about Pierre Gasly’s up-and-down 2019 season.
Fellow Frenchman Gasly moved up to Red Bull Racing for 2019 to replace Daniel Ricciardo but, by mid-season, he had been relegated to Toro Rosso.
When asked by Ouest France if the ‘costume was too big’ for Gasly at the senior team, Boullier retorted, “I don’t think the costume was too big for him at Interlagos!
He added, “Red Bull is a special structure. Their strategy is conceived around performance at any price and one driver. So once everything is in place – a high-performing team, a factory engine and a lead driver like Max Verstappen – then there is no room for anyone else.”
Boullier says 23-year-old Gasly then simply struggled to fit in at Red Bull, “It’s very difficult for any driver, let alone a young driver, to arrive at a place as difficult as that.
“Everything will be focused around Verstappen. What is exceptional is that they demoted Pierre to Toro Rosso and we now see him performing even better than he was last year. He has become the leader at Toro Rosso now, similar to what Verstappen is at Red Bull,” Boullier pointed out.
As in the latter half of this season, Alex Albon will be Verstappen’s teammate in 2020. Although impressive and ever-improving, the Thai rookie has been no match for the Dutch star in the sister car with the knowledge that Gasly is waiting in the wings.
The McLaren and British American Tobacco (BAT) Formula 1 partnership has been strengthened with the cigarette-maker now confirmed as the team’s principal partner going forward.
The Woking outfit revealed in an official statement:
McLaren Racing and British American Tobacco (BAT) have today announced they have signed an enhanced partnership deal, as the 2019 Formula 1 season comes to a close, having only entered into its multi-year global partnership with the famous racing team earlier this year. The new deal will see BAT become a Principal Partner of McLaren from the 2020 Formula 1 season, having enjoyed a highly successful partnership together in 2019.
Continuing to be rooted in advanced technology and innovation, the enhanced partnership will help to further accelerate BAT’s transformation, at the heart of which is its commitment to growing its portfolio of New Category products. The partnership offers an exciting, global platform to drive awareness of these New Category products which have the potential to be less risky than cigarettes for millions of smokers worldwide.
The enhanced deal includes:
Significantly increased branding positions on the Formula 1 car – including highly visible new sidepod branding, inside halo and front wing branding positions
A commitment for the two companies to co-create marketing content to drive increased awareness of the partnership
Partnering with McLaren for its return to the full-time IndyCar competition in 2020, which will see 17 races take place across the US
A continued commitment for BAT and McLaren Applied Technologies to work together on developing innovation with application in BAT’s New Category portfolio
The 2020 season will continue to see BAT vary its branding – through its “dynamic branding” approach – in support of its transformation agenda and broad portfolio of New Category products, at all times in line with applicable regulation and legislation. This will include branding for BAT’s leading vapour range, VUSE, and its modern oral product, VELO.
Also central to the partnership is BAT’s ongoing work with McLaren Applied Technologies, further strengthening its technology and innovation ambitions which are paramount to the continuing development of its New Category products. The two companies are actively working together on a number of projects focused on enhancing BAT’s New Category product pipeline.
Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing said: “We’re pleased to announce our enhanced partnership with BAT after a successful first season together. BAT’s transformation agenda remains central to this partnership, as does a shared focus on technology and innovation and we look forward to continuing our work together from 2020 and beyond. As we reach the end of the 2019 season, we thank BAT for its continued support.”
Commenting on the announcement, Kingsley Wheaton, BAT’s Chief Marketing Officer said: “We’re extremely proud of our partnership with McLaren which has been going from strength-to-strength this season – whether it’s increased awareness of our portfolio of New Category products, technology insights and expertise to support our R&D activities or using the platform to create excitement amongst colleagues internally, we are absolutely delighted with what our partnership has delivered in 2019.
“The McLaren team are fantastic to work with and it’s great to see the team performing on the track. Our partnership is giving us a truly global marketing and innovation platform to accelerate our journey with our New Categories business, focused on creating a better tomorrow for our consumers, shareholders, society and employees.”
“I am particularly excited about our plans to partner with McLaren for their return to the IndyCar series, after a 40-year break, next year. The 17-race calendar aligns very well with our geographical footprint and business priorities.”
Aston Martin Red Bull’s Max Verstappen declared himself pleased with his opening day of running in Abu Dhabi, although the Dutchman wasn’t satisfied with the balance of his RB15.
Verstappen clocked in second behind pacesetter Valtteri Bottas in FP1 but concluded the evening session fifth behind both Mercedes and Ferrari drivers and three tenths clear of fourth-placed man Sebastian Vettel.
The Brazilian Grand Prix winner’s overall pace looked like a work in progress, with Verstappen still in the process of tweaking his set-up.