2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Friday Analysis

Hamilton Top On Tense Friday

After intriguing news stories away from the title fight somewhat distracted from the duelling Mercedes, all eyes were on Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg today – that was if, your eyes could keep up. Judging by today’s running, Mercedes have as big an advantage over the chasing pack as they have had all season, particularly defined by their 1.7 second margin of control in FP1. This was significantly eroded by the competition in the second session, but two things have become clear today – Hamilton and Rosberg should comfortably claim the front-row, but the fight for pole is extraordinarily close. A fitting way in which to end the campaign.

Fine Margins

As it has been for the majority of the campaign, the margins between Hamilton and Rosberg are remarkably slender. Lewis edged his teammate out in both sessions, but Nico is certainly in contention and the 2014 Friday trend has been for Hamilton to reign supreme. After all, he has been the fastest man on a Friday afternoon on 16 occasions. Naturally, the man who is widely regarded to have an advantage in the natural speed department, hits the ground running more often than not. The fact that Rosberg is close to his Mercedes counterpart after today should stand him in good stead ahead of tomorrow.
The question that will be answered tomorrow is the amount of speed that the pair have in their pocket. Hamilton has historically been a sector three specialist at Yas Marina, and as such, I would imagine that he has not shown his full hand today – if he demonstrates his technique in the final sector too early on, he will hand crucial data to his rival. Meanwhile, Rosberg has suggested that he has time available to deploy tomorrow, and considering that he made similar comments prior to his remarkable qualifying performance in Austin, I am inclined to believe him.
Today was all about sparring – tomorrow promises to be fascinating.

The Prodromou Effect

Following his gardening leave, ex-Red Bull aerodynamisist, Peter Prodromou, has certainly been busy in his first few months at Woking. Former right-hand man to Adrian Newey, Prodromou has seemingly taken many of Red Bull’s secrets to his new team, as McLaren fitted a new front wing to Kevin Magnussen’s car in FP1 – a front wing which has evidently been inspired by the RB10.
Obviously, an exact copy of a rivals technology will not be compatible with the MP4-29, so some modifications have been made. What is impressive, is that McLaren’s new man is already having a direct influence on development.
It may not be the B-car which Eric Boullier had suggested would arrive at Abu Dhabi, but the MP4-29 certainly featured some intriguing development parts which should contribute well to their winter checklist. It is important to note however, that Magnussen’s best-of-the-rest effort in FP2 was set with the old wing fitted. I would imagine that McLaren are somewhat relived – if they attached a Red Bull inspired wing and suddenly matched Mercedes, the frustration would be colossal.

The Next Generation

As Alex Lynn sealed the GP3 Series title with another pole position today, his hopes of becoming a Toro Rosso driver next season have been brought into sharp focus. However, it was Esteban Ocon and Adderly Fong who took to the track behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car for the first time at a race weekend.
Ocon in particular has been causing waves in the paddock. The Lotus youngster has demonstrated supreme pace and consistency in the European F3 Championship, winning the title and beating Max Verstappen – the man that Trevor Carlin has dubbed “the best he has ever seen.” Hence, Ocon seems to be in good stead to land an F1 seat in the future and today’s drive is his first chance in the sharp spotlight of the paddock. It was a no-thrills outing, but this is the perfect way to operate at this stage of proceedings.
Meanwhile, GP3 driver Adderly Fong enjoyed a similar debut in the Sauber. The 24 year old has scored 2 points during his GP3 career so far, after making his debut with Status Grand Prix in 2013. While Fong’s sensible drive rarely captured the attention of the cameras, it was Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil who received the air-time. Gutierrez learnt just how slippery the pit-lane apron is on a Friday morning in Abu Dhabi, as he locked his brakes when heading for the pit-box and collided with a mechanic – fortunately, it was a glancing blow. In FP2, Adrian Sutil’s session was curtailed by a brake disc failure.

FP1 Timesheet
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:43.476
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes +0.133
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari +1.708
4 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull +1.858
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +1.885
6 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso +2.242
7 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso +2.359
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams +2.437
9 Sergio Perez Force India +2.507
10 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +2.554
11 Kevin Magnussen McLaren +2.573
12 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +2.655
13 Felipe Massa Williams +3.073
14 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber +3.080
15 Pastor Maldonado Lotus +3.235
16 Esteban Ocon Lotus +3.590
17 Jenson Button McLaren +3.759
18 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham +4.495
19 Adderly Fong Sauber +4.793
20 Will Stevens Caterham +7.208    

FP2 Timesheet
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:42.113
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes +0.083
3 Kevin Magnussen McLaren +0.782
4 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull +0.846
Valtteri Bottas Williams +0.957
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +1.070
7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +1.376
8 Jenson Button McLaren +1.390
9 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso +1.433
10 Felipe Massa Williams +1.445
11 Sergio Perez Force India +1.633
12 Pastor Maldonado Lotus +1.892
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +1.955
14 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso +2.044
15 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber +2.203
16 Adrian Sutil Sauber +2.650
17 Romain Grosjean Lotus +2.873
18 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham +3.392
19 Will Stevens Caterham +4.944

20 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 

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