Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2012

Vettel and Hamilton lead the way in Abu Dhabi again

2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Friday practice analysisPosted on Author Keith Collantine

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2012Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton have shared the front row of the grid in all three Abu Dhabi Grands Prix so far.

The contest between the pair last year was very close. McLaren were quickest throughout practice and Hamilton topped Q1 and Q2.

But as track conditions changed in Q3 he was unable to improve on his Q2 time. Vettel couldn’t beat it either – but he was able to set a time quick enough to beat Hamilton to pole position.

The pair were the only drivers to lap the Yas Marina circuit in under one minutes and 42 seconds today, raising the prospect of another Vettel-Hamilton front row.

McLaren weakness on the soft tyre, which was also apparent in India, factored again in today’s running. That plus Red Bull’s usual qualifying advantage may be enough for Vettel to secure another pole position.

Longest stint comparison

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint:

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/2012drivercolours.csv

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Sebastian Vettel 109.213 108.742 111.808 108.434 108.51
Mark Webber 106.648 105.346 121.704 103.366 103.213
Jenson Button 108.802 108.823 108.321 108.159 108.272 108.111 108.115 107.884 108.35 108.196 107.868 107.702 107.558 111.018 107.432 136.312
Lewis Hamilton 106.843 110.359 102.79 114.942 118.453 102.777 111.903 106.048 102.095 122.407
Fernando Alonso 106.817 107.315 107.566 107.074 119.154
Felipe Massa 108.351 108.633 109.239 108.894 108.08 107.997 107.671 107.987 107.786 111.8 107.568 107.473 128.213
Michael Schumacher 110.272 109.567 109.531 109.384 114.186 109.371 108.867 108.873 108.947 112.329 108.858 111.458 139.128
Nico Rosberg 110.422 110.567 110.075 109.931 110.542 113.659 109.131 109.043 110.069 109.707 113.646 109.203 109.468 108.999 143.309
Kimi Raikkonen 108.67 108.346 109.323 108.564 136.151
Romain Grosjean 115.74 108.699 122.497 108.499 108.469 108.419 108.361 108.949 108.89 108.782
Paul di Resta 109.172 109.363 108.994 117.371 108.701 108.86 108.732 108.49 109.567 108.443 128.66
Nico Hulkenberg 109.394 109.421 113.115 108.532 110.381 110.883 109.618 109.184 109.145 109.092
Kamui Kobayashi 109.209 110.592 110.394 108.998 109.484 109.537 108.623 108.399 108.415 108.476 131.534
Sergio Perez 103.855 112.515 109.002 103.456 112.384 103.252 112.363 103.106
Daniel Ricciardo 109.998 109.591 110.546 109.453 109.217 129.712
Jean-Eric Vergne 107.364 106.326 106.161 111.587 106.13
Pastor Maldonado 109.733 108.981 108.915 114.023 108.409 108.36 108.149 108.122 108.573 108.02 107.678 107.738 108.19 133.962
Bruno Senna 109.649 109.356 109.663 109.981 109.108 109.445 108.716 125.733
Heikki Kovalainen 111.401 110.457 110.77 110.656 111.18 110.541 110.561 125.303
Vitaly Petrov 112.053 111.787 111.744 110.891 110.565 111.045 110.828 110.407 110.467 133.632
Pedro de la Rosa 111.83 112.079 115.069 111.494 126.005
Narain Karthikeyan 112.633 111.711 111.102 111.863 112.171 125.571 112.696 111.517 112.877
Timo Glock 111.248 111.1 111.105 112.736 110.968 110.904
Charles Pic 112.588 113.179 112.242 111.522 111.436

On more than one occasion in second practice Hamilton extended his run as he tried to find more time over a single lap. His engineer warned him it would reduce the time available for his race simulation later in the session, which proved to be the case, as can be seen in the graph above.

Jenson Button, McLaren, Yas Marina, 2012Jenson Button, however, was eager to ensure he got a longer high-fuel stint: “I wanted to do plenty of laps during my long run today, since I missed out on quite a lot of long-run running on Friday in Delhi ?ǣ and that set me back for the rest of the Indian Grand Prix weekend.

“I?m pleased to report that our car feels reasonably good over a long run here, so now we?re going to be focusing on understanding just how hard we can push the tyre during a long run.”

Fernando Alonso also had a shortened high-fuel run: “We focused more on aero comparison on Fernando’s car, sacrificing a bit the long run” said Ferrari after practice.

The willingness of drivers like Hamilton and Alonso to compromise their race preparation may be because the tyre choice here seems quite conservative and the tyres are holding up well over a stint, as was also the case in India. “Tyre degradation is not as big as last year,” admitted Nico Rosberg.

Felipe Massa did a longer stint and race engineer Rob Smedley told him at the end of the session that his lap times compared favourably with Button’s.

Sector times and ultimate lap times

Car Driver Car Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3 Ultimate lap Gap Deficit to best
1 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 17.943 (4) 42.924 (1) 40.876 (1) 1’41.743 0.008
2 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 17.811 (1) 42.950 (2) 41.072 (2) 1’41.833 0.090 0.086
3 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 17.946 (5) 43.123 (6) 41.264 (3) 1’42.333 0.590 0.079
4 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 17.951 (6) 43.119 (5) 41.320 (4) 1’42.390 0.647 0.110
5 2 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 17.972 (7) 43.053 (3) 41.441 (6) 1’42.466 0.723 0.000
6 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 17.932 (3) 43.091 (4) 41.457 (7) 1’42.480 0.737 0.107
7 9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 17.890 (2) 43.254 (9) 41.388 (5) 1’42.532 0.789 0.000
8 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 18.080 (11) 43.135 (7) 41.608 (11) 1’42.823 1.080 0.000
9 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 18.095 (12) 43.335 (13) 41.568 (10) 1’42.998 1.255 0.000
10 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 17.991 (8) 43.538 (15) 41.525 (9) 1’43.054 1.311 0.052
11 19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 18.035 (9) 43.554 (16) 41.498 (8) 1’43.087 1.344 0.104
12 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 18.195 (15) 43.242 (8) 41.716 (13) 1’43.153 1.410 0.047
13 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 18.190 (14) 43.330 (12) 41.662 (12) 1’43.182 1.439 0.085
14 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 18.196 (16) 43.314 (11) 41.745 (14) 1’43.255 1.512 0.000
15 11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 18.168 (13) 43.307 (10) 41.948 (15) 1’43.423 1.680 0.155
16 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 18.073 (10) 43.449 (14) 42.035 (16) 1’43.557 1.814 0.132
17 16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 18.259 (17) 43.673 (17) 42.106 (17) 1’44.038 2.295 0.222
18 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 18.353 (18) 43.699 (18) 42.884 (19) 1’44.936 3.193 0.069
19 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 18.411 (19) 44.012 (19) 42.822 (18) 1’45.245 3.502 0.000
20 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 18.516 (20) 44.055 (20) 43.083 (20) 1’45.654 3.911 0.128
21 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 18.827 (23) 44.422 (21) 43.296 (22) 1’46.545 4.802 0.162
22 25 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 18.694 (22) 44.652 (23) 43.227 (21) 1’46.573 4.830 0.098
23 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 18.590 (21) 44.541 (22) 43.457 (24) 1’46.588 4.845 0.001
24 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 18.949 (24) 44.691 (24) 43.383 (23) 1’47.023 5.280 0.383

After practice Hamilton said “it was quite tricky to get a good time from the [soft tyre]. Tonight we?ll need to do some work around figuring out how to switch our [softs] on.”

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, Yas Marina, 2012He set his best time on his sixth lap on the soft tyres. He will need to access more of the tyre’s performance sooner as spending six laps getting a time out of the tyres in Q3 would mean starting the race on seven-lap-old rubber.

Pirelli say the soft tyres are worth “0.4s to 0.8s” over the mediums. But both McLaren drivers got less than this: Hamilton found 0.176s, Button 0.230s. Vettel, however, gained a whopping 0.871s.

Lotus, who have tended to prefer more aggressive tyre choices, found even more time. Kimi Raikkonen’s soft tyre lap was over a second quicker than his effort on mediums.

Romain Grosjean found over 1.2 seconds – and reckoned he could have gone even quicker: “I did not drive the best lap of my life with the option tyres today; with the first set of options you put on you have to go for it, so I think I can still improve a little bit.”

Putting his best sector times together (above) shows Grosjean could have been ahead of Webber. But note how close the battle for third place is behind Vettel and Hamilton – Fernando Alonso will be eager to ensure he comes out on top of that scrap to get in a strong position for the race.

Complete practice times

Pos Driver Car FP1 FP2 Total laps
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’44.050 1’41.751 57
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1’43.285 1’41.919 55
3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’43.618 1’42.412 55
4 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’44.542 1’42.466 43
5 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1’45.743 1’42.500 54
6 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1’45.422 1’42.532 43
7 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’44.366 1’42.587 52
8 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’45.567 1’42.823 57
9 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1’45.115 1’42.998 63
10 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1’45.811 1’43.106 58
11 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1’43.191 34
12 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’45.194 1’43.200 55
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1’45.587 1’43.255 54
14 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’44.694 1’43.267 55
15 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1’43.578 34
16 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1’45.722 1’43.689 52
17 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’46.649 1’44.260 51
18 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’46.708 1’45.073 45
19 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1’45.245 36
20 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1’45.347 25
21 Jules Bianchi Force India-Mercedes 1’45.769 22
22 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1’47.418 1’45.782 56
23 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1’47.891 1’46.589 57
24 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1’46.674 22
25 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1’48.354 1’46.707 48
26 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1’47.406 35
27 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1’48.887 22
28 Ma Qing Hua HRT-Cosworth 1’50.487 20
29 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault No time 3

The track temperature in first practice reached 47C at one point – some 15C higher than in the second session. This is why the second session is considered much more representative of likely conditions in qualifying and the race.

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2012Throughout the season lap times have been up to a second down on 2011, mainly due to the limits on exhaust-blown diffusers. But here the cars are more than two seconds slower than before. This seems to be due to the surface of the track being slipperier than usual, and the higher kerbs installed at several corners.

Mark Webber lost time in the second session with a familiar problem: “We had a KERS issue, which wasn?t the same as last week. It never helps to miss some running on the track during practice, but it?s not a big deal.”

Yas Marina is not one of Webber’s strongest circuits: “Normally I struggle around car park sort of race tracks,” he added after today’s running had finished.

Sergio Perez is eyeing a top-ten starting position again: “I think my position in the second session is pretty much what we are capable of here,” he said. “This means Q3 is possible.”

Speed trap

# Driver Car Engine Max speed (kph) Gap
1 15 Sergio Perez Sauber Ferrari 322.5
2 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams Renault 322 0.5
3 19 Bruno Senna Williams Renault 322 0.5
4 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber Ferrari 321 1.5
5 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Ferrari 319.8 2.7
6 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari Ferrari 319.6 2.9
7 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso Ferrari 319.2 3.3
8 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 318.2 4.3
9 11 Paul di Resta Force India Mercedes 318.2 4.3
10 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT Cosworth 317.5 5
11 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT Cosworth 317.3 5.2
12 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes Mercedes 317.1 5.4
13 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Mercedes 317.1 5.4
14 24 Timo Glock Marussia Cosworth 316.6 5.9
15 25 Charles Pic Marussia Cosworth 316.5 6
16 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham Renault 316.1 6.4
17 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham Renault 316.1 6.4
18 16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso Ferrari 315.9 6.6
19 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault 315.1 7.4
20 9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus Renault 315 7.5
21 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren Mercedes 314.1 8.4
22 3 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes 314 8.5
23 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Renault 311.9 10.6
24 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault 311.4 11.1

Lotus ran their latest exhaust update on Raikkonen’s car. This is intended to claw back some of the straight-line speed they lost when they introduced their Coanda exhaust in Korea.

They remained near the bottom of the times but curiously the four cars that were slower than them at the speed trap were the same four that were quicker on lap time.

Ferrari’s straight-line speed is better, and recalls their tactic from India of gearing the car to make up places in the DRS zone in the race.

2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Image ?? Red Bull/Getty images, McLaren/Hoch Zwei, Yas Marina/LAT