FP1 & FP2 - Saudi Arabia GP 2021 - Team quotes

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By Olivier Ferret

3 December 2021 - 21:36
FP1 & FP2 - Saudi Arabia GP (...)

AlphaTauri

Pierre Gasly

“I really like driving this track, the corners are amazing and there’s a big rush of adrenalin when you’re out there. The whole day has been really good for us and I’m pretty happy with the pace so far. We know that on Saturday we usually do quite well, so I’m fairly confident for tomorrow, as I think we can still improve. I don’t feel quite as positive about the long runs though, so we still have some work to do to prepare for the race on Sunday.”

Yuki Tsunoda

“I’ve enjoyed today a lot as it’s a really fun track, especially the first sector, I’ve never driven a circuit with corners like this before, so it’s been pretty special. I think the pace today has been quite good. The hard tyre already works well here and then I think we need to adapt the car a bit to the other compounds, so we’ve got some work to do. Overall, I think we’re looking quite strong so far. I didn’t manage to complete any long runs yet, but today’s performance makes me positive.”

Jonathan Eddolls (Chief Race Engineer)

“As always, coming to a new track we have to spend some more time initially optimising the setup for the track characteristics and learning about the tyres. Predominately in FP1 the key was to work on the setup requirements to allow us to maximise the car’s potential for the rest of the weekend. The tyres look quite robust here, so we were able to take our learnings from the earlier session and modify our tyre allocation for FP2. The purpose of the second session was to continue our short runs, but also to start understanding the performance of the car on the longer runs, particularly after the challenges of last week. The track has developed a lot between the two sessions, meaning it was quite a struggle to stay on top of the balance of the car. We’ve gathered plenty of data today and for sure there is more lap time to find, so we’ll work hard tonight to get the car in the best place for Qualifying tomorrow.”

Haas F1

Round 21 of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship began with practice on Friday at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit as teams prepared for Sunday’s inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Friday’s action consisted of two 60-minute sessions – FP1 and FP2 – around the 6.175-kilometer (3.836-mile), 27-turn circuit – the longest street circuit in Formula 1 and second-longest track on the schedule after Belgium’s Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

Mazepin and Schumacher ran their exploratory installation laps on differing compounds – Mazepin starting the weekend on Pirelli P Zero White hard tires and Schumacher on the Yellow medium rubber. While the search for grip continued throughout the session, with just two support series running earlier in the morning on the maiden tarmac, a switch to Red softs followed for the Haas duo. Schumacher duly banked his best time of 1:31.525 for P18 while Nikita also set his fastest lap of 1:33.464 for P20. A brief high-fuel stint concluded each driver’s FP1 session.

FP2 ran under the lights in the evening – as will Sunday’s 50-lap race – but conditions remained warm with air temperature a balmy 29 degrees Celsius (84.2 degrees Fahrenheit). Schumacher finished the session in P18 having commenced his run-plan with a 5-lap stint on the hard tires. The German ran softs for his qualifying simulation – setting his quick lap of 1:30.652. Mazepin finished in P20 with a best outing of 1:31.629 – set on softs, the Russian starting his workload with a 5-lap tour sampling the medium compound. Both drivers wrapped the session with high-fuel runs – the session ultimately ending early due to a red flag stop caused by Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc –the Monegasque driver thankfully walking away unscathed from his crash at Turn 22.

Uralkali Haas F1 Team ran a total of 87 laps on Friday across FP1 and FP2 – 44 by Schumacher and 43 by Mazepin.

Nikita Mazepin

“It’s a very different track to what we’ve experienced this year – and not only this year for me – but in my career. It’s a track that requires a lot of confidence and knowledge of where it’s going because a lot of the corners look the same. I was fortunate to be able to do laps this week in comparison to the week before last and I enjoyed it – I think there’s still a lot of pace to be found out there.”

Mick Schumacher

“It’s very quick and quite intense. I think we got to learn the track and understand it and now I’m looking forward to tomorrow. We were as close to the Williams as it looks but we know they’ll be able to turn up their engines more for qualifying so we’ll just have to wait and see – hopefully we’ll have a better car around the corners and catch-up a bit. Track conditions are improving a lot as it was very dirty to begin with, so I expect there to be a lot of track evolution in general.”

Günther Steiner

“First off, it’s always exciting to see a new track come to life – the Jeddah Corniche Circuit is no different, it looked good under the lights tonight. To finally get out there today and to get 87 laps in between the two sessions with our rookies is a positive. Track time is obviously at a premium, as is grip on such a new surface, but I think we used the day wisely to prepare ourselves for tomorrow’s qualifying session. There’s no doubt a lot of key learnings Mick and Nikita will take from today’s running, and together with the engineers we’ll see what we can do to further improve. A solid first day in Saudi Arabia.”

Alpine F1

Alpine F1 Team took their A521s for a first drive around the all-new Jeddah Corniche Circuit today, as Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon began preparations for this weekend’s inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Anticipation was high for Formula 1’s debut in Saudi Arabia, and what is regarded as the world’s fastest-ever street circuit firmly lived up to its much billed hype.

For Free Practice 1, Fernando and Esteban ventured out onto the Saudi tarmac during the afternoon sunshine and enjoyed their opening exchanges with the circuit. They ended a trouble-free hour with Fernando ninth on a 1min 30.842secs, and Esteban twelfth with a 1min 31.023secs, before the circuit was illuminated by the floodlights for the evening.

A few hours later and now under the lights, Fernando and Esteban experimented with Mediums and Softs for Free Practice 2. As the session went on, the Alpine pair found themselves firmly inside the top ten.

Fernando posted his fastest time on Softs to end the evening in fifth place on a 1min 29.411secs, while Esteban, also on Softs, was just a tenth down on his teammate in sixth position on a 1min 29.555secs.

Preparations for the first ever Formula 1 qualifying session in Saudi Arabia will continue tomorrow, with both drivers eager to return to the incredibly fast 6.174km circuit hugging the Red Sea coastline.

Esteban Ocon

“It was a good Friday for us today. We gained a good understanding of the new track, which was the main aim for the day. It’s certainly not an easy circuit to master as it’s very fast and very demanding physically. Above all, I’d say it’s tough for mental efficiency and remaining focused for the whole lap, even on the straights where you have to keep an eye on slower cars ahead. You have to be absolutely on it here in every aspect. The grip was good from the start and I was quite impressed with that. We’ve seen new tracks in the past with poor grip, so it was a nice surprise here to be able to push straight away. Overall, it’s a fun place and the car seemed to go quite well. It is only Friday, but I expect qualifying to be fast and exciting to watch.”

Fernando Alonso

“It was a fun day today, and I like the track. Every new track requires a lot of work to go into it and I think we got through quite a lot today. The circuit feels fast as expected, but it seems to have quite high grip as well, which was a nice surprise, especially coming to a street circuit. Formula 2 helped today by cleaning the tarmac before we drove in the afternoon. There are still quite a few unknowns for everybody in terms of setup and we will have to fine tune the cars tonight. I’m optimistic for tomorrow and it should be a good show for everyone.”

Alan Permane, Sporting Director

“It’s been a very productive day. We came here well prepared from our simulation work and hit the ground running. We have worked with all the available tyre compounds today to understand what is best for Saturday and Sunday. There are no real complaints with the cars and both drivers are pretty happy – the circuit looks fun to drive. One comment, which you don’t often hear in F1, is that it needs a lot of mental concentration. It’s a very demanding track, physically and mentally, so I think the race is going to be long and hard and keeping concentration is going to be key.”

Aston Martin F1

Lance Stroll

“It was cool to experience the circuit for the first time today and it is a very fast track. I think we can see that overtaking will be challenging on Sunday, so qualifying will be very important. We do not have a big braking zone to help overtaking, but that means the track has a real flow to it. Getting comfortable across the lap will be key to a good lap time because there are a few areas where, if you really push, you can find time. We have a decent starting point with the car, but we will work overnight to make progress and ensure we head into qualifying in a good place.”

Sebastian Vettel

“It is a fast and fun track to drive, but it is difficult to hook up a lap. I was able to get into a rhythm this afternoon and felt confident in the car, but it became more tricky in the night-time conditions. We were exploring the limits more and trying a few things, so we need to review tonight and find a good direction for the rest of the weekend. Tomorrow will be an interesting challenge because it is a long circuit with a lot of corners taken flat, so there is little time to breathe and no room for errors. The timing of the laps in qualifying will also be crucial and I am excited to take on the challenge.”

Williams

George Russell

It was very fun out there today. It is an incredibly fast track and it punishes you heavily if you make a mistake. You must be very precise with where you are positioning the car and tomorrow in Qualifying it will be very tricky. It will require lots of commitment on those one or two flying laps, particularly through the high-speed corners, so I am excited for that as I am sure it will be very exhilarating. The car was feeling nice to drive today and it was quite close in the midfield with other teams such as Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo. I think a lot of people were struggling to get the tyres working on the first timed lap, particularly on the soft Pirelli compound, as preparation doesn’t seem so straightforward. If you get the tyres in the right window, I think there will be plenty of opportunity so we will be putting a lot of emphasis on trying to get that right overnight.

Nicholas Latifi

It is always nice to discover a new track, especially when it is a street circuit as you have to gauge the risk versus reward and find your marks, which means you really have to build it up lap-by-lap. There are some things to improve and clean up overnight, on both the driving side and with the car, to give me a bit more confidence heading into Qualifying tomorrow. Overall, however, we had two good sessions today and I think we can make some good steps for the race on Sunday.

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance

It’s still too early in the weekend to assess exactly how we are doing, but we feel we’ve had a decent day. The track has lived up to expectation and is fast and challenging. Unfortunately, there were some different tyre strategies amongst drivers today, which meant that there was heavy traffic at times, and therefore completing representative laps wasn’t always easy. However, we have made some good progress and can see opportunity for further improvement overnight. With all the sessions being late in the day, FP3 should be a useful session for working on the car set-up ahead of Qualifying.

It will be interesting to see how easy overtaking is on Sunday and how this will play into people’s view on strategy. The track is already in a good state and the tyres are working well, which should make for an interesting weekend.

Red Bull

MAX VERSTAPPEN

“Overall, it’s a really cool track, there are a lot of fast corners and it’s fun to drive. We struggled to get heat into the tyres in FP2, which we will of course look into. Then we made a few changes from FP1 to FP2 which didn’t quite work but hopefully we can find the right balance come qualifying tomorrow. There are of course a lot of things to work on and improve so we’ll see what we can do to get more pace out of the car overnight. Looking ahead to qualifying, I think it might be quite difficult with the traffic but in general it’s hard to tell how Saturday is going to go as anything can happen but we’ll push hard and give it everything.”

SERGIO PEREZ

"It was a lot of fun out there today, it’s a really nice circuit, it is very fast and enjoyable to drive. It is going to be tricky in qualifying with traffic management, we saw that a bit when everyone was on the soft tyre at the end of FP2. I think it will be an interesting race because this track is challenging, if you make a mistake it can be extremely costly. In qualifying it will all be about trying to be in the right place at the right time. On the long runs we didn’t have enough laps to get a real read on how we will perform so I don’t think my time on the soft tyres was reflective on where we actually are. I think there is plenty more to come from the car, so hopefully we can find the right balance and pace to be in contention in qualifying. It is going to be hard to achieve the perfect lap out there but we also have a long race ahead of us on Sunday and anything can happen. We just have to stay up there and be on it as much as possible.”

McLaren

Daniel Ricciardo

“I think the track’s good fun. It’s a challenging circuit but that does make it really exciting. It’s got good flow, good grip, so I’m happy with the layout. I think it’s quite different to what we’ve already been to, as well, so that’s always fun.
“I think we’ve still got a bit more to show from a pace point of view, and I’m confident we can do it. I look at our competitors and they look pretty quick today, but I do think we can match that. So, I’m optimistic ahead of tomorrow and, of course, because it’s a new track, I’m sure there’ll be a bit of improvement. There are still some corners where I can find a bit of time. So, we’ll keep at it.”

Lando Norris

"A fun but difficult first day! Fun because it’s a new circuit, a new challenge, and exciting to get out there and feel the circuit. Definitely one of the trickier ones to put everything together and get the accuracy needed to be close to the walls – but not too close, obviously. It was a difficult day because it’s been a bit of a challenge to find a good balance with the car, so far. So, we have some work to do tonight to try to be a bit better for tomorrow. The confidence is there – at least, I feel confident to push the car, but we just have to get it in a better window. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow."

Andrea Stella - Executive Director, Racing

“The Jeddah Corniche Circuit is a really interesting track. According to Lando and Daniel, it’s a lot of fun to drive – but it also offers some real challenges for car set-up. We had a good day, with clean sessions and were able to explore our set-up options, while also learning about the tyres on this unusually high-grip surface for a street circuit.

“Looking at the timesheets, we can see that, as has been the case throughout the second half of the season, the midfield is very compact. Some of our rivals look very quick and we’ll have to be at our very best to understand what we’ve learnt in practice, put it all together and get ourselves into a strong position to qualify well and race for good points.”

Ferrari

Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow’s priority on the first day of practice for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend was to get to know the Jeddah Corniche track. It lived up to expectations in being completely different to any other, both in terms of having a very fast layout, even with its 27 corners and because of the way the tyres performed, with unusually, the Hard compound so far proving to be the best in terms of outright performance. The team’s day got complicated just a few minutes from the end of the second session, when Charles Leclerc crashed heavily into the barriers at Turn 22. The driver emerged unscathed, but there was considerable damage done to the number 16 SF21. However, the chassis and power unit do not need to be replaced and will be used for the race as planned.

FP1. In the first session, both drivers ran just the softest of the three Pirelli compounds, due to concerns that the very dusty track surface would not offer much grip, although actually it was better than expected. Carlos set a best time of 1’30”564, 36 thousandths faster than his team-mate. They each did 26 laps, meaning that between them they covered just over the distance of Sunday’s 50 lap Grand Prix, which starts at 20.30 local (18.30 CET).

FP2. In the evening session, Carlos (22 laps completed) and Charles (23) continued with the world of evaluating the tyres, splitting the task in the first half of the session when the former ran the Hards and the latter the Mediums. They both improved constantly as they got to know the track and as a function of the grip improving as the track gradually rubbered in, also helped by the temperature dropping over the hour. Carlos got down to a 1’29”804 and Charles posted a 1’29”818. They then turned their attention to qualifying simulation, running the Soft compound to set their best times, which, as was the case for other drivers, were only slightly quicker. Sainz did a 1’29”589 at his second attempt, while Leclerc managed a 1’29”772. As usual, the session ended with long runs in race configuration, ending slightly early because of Charles’ accident.

Carlos Sainz

Very exciting day in general, just getting to know the track and getting used to such a different kind of circuit. Going at these speeds between walls is really intense and gives you a big rush of adrenaline.
The car felt quite good today so now it’s all about fine tuning, understanding the tyres, the setup of the car and what is the right strategy for the rest of the weekend.
Blind corners are obviously an issue whenever someone is cooling down and you are on a push lap because of the huge speed difference so we all need to be super focused even when we are not pushing. The track leaves very little margin for mistakes and Charles was unfortunate today. I’m sure the team can fix his car for tomorrow and we can both push hard come Qualy.

Charles Leclerc

A day that unfortunately did not end up the way we would have wanted. On the upside, we ran through out planned programme and completed all the tests we wanted to in our two sessions. The potential is there and if we can put it all together tomorrow, we should have a good day. I am sorry for the team who will have to put in a lot of work to have the car ready tomorrow and I will do everything I can to bring home the best possible result to thank them.
I really liked the track itself and I’d say that the best part to drive is around the high speed section. It is however unforgiving and there is no room for any mistakes. The most challenging part is getting into the right rhythm with all the blind corners there are. But, as soon as you do, it’s even more exciting to drive.
The grip was better than I expected, and everyone working at the track did a great job in cleaning it up and making it significantly less dusty than it was yesterday. What was peculiar was the track evolution, which was different to what we usually see at city circuits.
Tomorrow, it will be key to go out at the right time in qualifying and get a clean lap by avoiding traffic, as the track is very narrow.

Mercedes F1

A solid day of learning for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team as F1 takes to the Jeddah Corniche Circuit for the very first time

 Lewis topped the timesheets in FP1 with Valtteri 0.2secs behind in P3 as the sun began to set in Saudi Arabia.
 Under the floodlights of FP2, Lewis again went quickest with Valtteri taking P2.
 The day’s programme was designed to further the Team’s understanding of the brand-new circuit and test the assumptions made in pre-event simulations.

Lewis Hamilton

The track was rapid - unbelievably quick and with a lot of grip as well. Once you get in the rhythm, it’s beautiful to drive. The grip was very high from the moment we went out and was similar in both sessions. Traffic can be a problem here, it’s Monaco-esque and the closing distances to other cars was definitely getting dangerous. We tried a couple of things with our setup, and although we aren’t rapid on single run pace compared to the others, our long run pace seemed pretty good.

The Medium and Hard tyre both performed well, the Soft is probably a little too soft for the high-speed sections, it feels like the tyre is giving up slightly. I’m generally happy with the setup, we changed a few things in between sessions, and we’ll work with the guys in the factory back home to make sure we have the correct setup for tomorrow.

Valtteri Bottas

The track is really cool, it’s full-gas and close to the walls at high-speed which is exactly what you want and enjoy – it’s an adrenaline rush. In FP1 the track was better than I expected, a little bit dusty but thanks to the other racing categories running here this weekend, it was improving step by step. They have done a nice job with the tarmac here, it was very grippy even though it’s new and with no real bumps, nice and smooth.

It was good to get confirmation of the grip level here, you base your starting setup on the simulations and estimated grip level, and we started in a good place. The biggest surprise today was the tyres – they lasted well and I’m not sure we’ll see many stops on Sunday. All the compounds seemed to work well here, even though you could feel the Softs giving up slightly in the high-speed corners.

Andrew Shovlin

As with any new track, a significant part of the first session is about understanding whether you’ve made the correct assumptions on grip and tyre behaviour, and in the warmer conditions of FP1 we had the car working well. The second session was more of a challenge in terms of single lap pace, we’ve got some ideas on how to tackle that and we’ll be running our simulator in Brackley overnight exploring a few directions. The long run pace seemed competitive, Lewis was a little happier than Valtteri, and we finished the day with quite different setups on the cars so there are some interesting comparisons to draw out of that data. It does seem like the car has good potential around this circuit but we’ve clearly got a bit of fine-tuning to do which will keep us busy overnight.

Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN had a promising first day of action in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend, with the team’s drivers setting solid times in the first two practice sessions on the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. Antonio Giovinazzi was a strong fifth in the opening hour, while he and Kimi Räikkönen were side by side in 13th and 14th in FP2 when the session was cut short by a red flag.

After the first 120 minutes of practice, useful to accrue data and discover the latest addition to the Formula One calendar, the attention shifts to fine-tuning the setup ahead of tomorrow’s qualifying session.

Kimi Räikkönen

“It was an interesting first day on this track. It’s a very fast circuit, lots of fast corners which means it will not be easy to overtake without a big speed differential. I say a lot of fast corners, but there’s a lot more of them on the map than what it feels in the car. Only about half of them are actual corners, most of them are flat out and may as well be straights! Sure enough, at least this circuit feels different from many others and it was quite ok to drive. Dealing with traffic in qualifying will be tricky, especially in the fast parts, but we’ll manage.”

Antonio Giovinazzi

“I really hit the ground running with this track, I had a great feeling and I am really happy about the day. I was a bit worried that, coming from a Formula E test, I’d be struggling to regain the feeling with this car and the pace, but that wasn’t the case. The car felt great from the start in FP1 and we can build on this for tomorrow. I had a good feeling in the quali runs in FP2 and we can make another step forward tonight. The track is really fast and fun and we were surprised by the amount of grip. When you have good grip on a street track, it’s really enjoyable – but we need to be focused as any small mistake can cost you a lot. I am looking forward to qualifying tomorrow, hopefully it’s going to be a strong day for us.”

Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN had a promising first day of action in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend, with the team’s drivers setting solid times in the first two practice sessions on the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. Antonio Giovinazzi was a strong fifth in the opening hour, while he and Kimi Räikkönen were side by side in 13th and 14th in FP2 when the session was cut short by a red flag.

After the first 120 minutes of practice, useful to accrue data and discover the latest addition to the Formula One calendar, the attention shifts to fine-tuning the setup ahead of tomorrow’s qualifying session.

Kimi Räikkönen

“It was an interesting first day on this track. It’s a very fast circuit, lots of fast corners which means it will not be easy to overtake without a big speed differential. I say a lot of fast corners, but there’s a lot more of them on the map than what it feels in the car. Only about half of them are actual corners, most of them are flat out and may as well be straights! Sure enough, at least this circuit feels different from many others and it was quite ok to drive. Dealing with traffic in qualifying will be tricky, especially in the fast parts, but we’ll manage.”

Antonio Giovinazzi

“I really hit the ground running with this track, I had a great feeling and I am really happy about the day. I was a bit worried that, coming from a Formula E test, I’d be struggling to regain the feeling with this car and the pace, but that wasn’t the case. The car felt great from the start in FP1 and we can build on this for tomorrow. I had a good feeling in the quali runs in FP2 and we can make another step forward tonight. The track is really fast and fun and we were surprised by the amount of grip. When you have good grip on a street track, it’s really enjoyable – but we need to be focused as any small mistake can cost you a lot. I am looking forward to qualifying tomorrow, hopefully it’s going to be a strong day for us.”

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