Le Grand Retour
Paul Ricard 2018
French Grand Prix
McLarens fastest in practice as Alonso and Vettel wipe out
Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Nov 2011   |  6:11 pm GMT  |  40 comments

The first day of practice at Yas Marina Circuit brought some surprises as both Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso went off track, although both cars were only lightly damaged.

It is the fourth time this season that Vettel has crashed in practice, of the three previous occasions in Turkey, Canada and Japan he went on to win only one of them. Alonso meanwhile hit the kerb under braking in the same Turn 1 and went off into the barriers.

The McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button set the pace, as Pirelli tried out an experimental soft tyre, with a view to harvesting data for next year’s tyres. In the final hour of the second session the teams reverted to the soft and medium tyres they will use for the rest of the weekend and the indications are that the difference in pace between them is around 1.2 seconds. This is pretty much as expected, but we’ve seen a few times lately that the tyres have not performed on race day quite as teams think they will. The track ramps up a lot in speed as the weekend goes on and more rubber goes down from F1 cars and GP2 cars.

It appears that the soft tyre should last up to 20 laps, with some teams like Sauber and Toro Rosso perhaps getting a few more laps than that. This means the race is likely to be a two-stopper for most teams.

Lewis Hamilton looks a lot fresher than in India and there is a lot of confidence in the team that this weekend they can challenge for the race win. Hamilton has always been strong here, taking pole and dominating the 2009 edition of the race until a car failure caused him to retire and he looks likely to be a contender in qualifying and the race,

“It was a really positive day for me,” said Hamilton. “The car feels good – our long-run pace doesn’t feel too bad and we seem to be quite competitive. The car feels a lot better than it did at the last race – so I really hope I’ll be able to keep that going throughout the remainder of the Grand Prix weekend.”

Martin Whitmarsh said that he thought it unlikely that Hamilton would find himself sparring with Felipe Massa again this weekend, as he hoped Hamilton would be some way up the road from the Brazilian!

Jenson Button meanwhile thinks that despite there being plenty of DRS overtaking space, it will still be hard to pass on Sunday, “I was playing around with overtaking on my long run, but I still reckon it’ll be difficult to overtake people in the DRS zones,” he said. “So I think it’s going to be a bit of a struggle to make moves stick in the race – which means it’s going to be important to qualify up at the front.”

Ferrari again had a front wing on Felipe Massa’s car that flexed alarmingly. Team boss Stefano Domenicali confirmed afterwards that this is the same wing as they tried in India and that it is the same specification as the others, but that it had been modified since India. He conceded that the modifications did not appear to have worked.

Massa said he was happy with his practice session. He is wearing a special helmet design this weekend celebrating the 20th anniversary of Ayrton Senna’s third world title. It will be auctioned after the weekend to raise money for the Senna Foundation.

The track temperature in the evening session, starting at 5pm was 14 degrees cooler than in the first session. Both qualifying and the race will take place at this time so temperatures of around 28 degrees are likely. The temperature was stable across the 90 minute session.

Tomorrow’s Free Practice 3 session will therefore be of limited use as the conditions will be completely different from qualifying.

It was a day of lost engines too, with Rubens Barrichello reaching the end of the life of his engine. It’s late in the season and the engines used on Friday have already done at least two races and some practice sessions so it is only to be expected.

Romain Grosjean did a good job in his Friday morning test drive role, impressing the team and reminding the F1 world of his capabilities. But it looks like it could be another difficult weekend for the Renault team pace wise.

ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX, Yas Marina Circuit, Free Practice 2
1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m39.586s 31
2. Jenson Button McLaren 1m39.785s + 0.199 30
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m39.971s + 0.385 20
4. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m39.980s + 0.394 34
5. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m40.104s + 0.518 35
6. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m40.132s + 0.546 26
7. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m40.553s + 0.967 34
8. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m40.951s + 1.365 34
9. Paul di Resta Force India 1m41.021s + 1.435 37
10. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m41.490s + 1.904 34
11. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m41.565s + 1.979 34
12. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m41.680s + 2.094 33
13. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m41.947s + 2.361 31
14. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m41.983s + 2.397 34
15. Bruno Senna Renault 1m42.369s + 2.783 36
16. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m42.798s + 3.212 35
17. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m42.910s + 3.324 34
18. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m43.562s + 3.976 36
19. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1m44.050s + 4.464 38
20. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m44.265s + 4.679 41
21. Timo Glock Virgin 1m45.486s + 5.900 34
22. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m46.142s + 6.556 32
23. Tonio Liuzzi HRT 1m46.249s + 6.663 21
24. Daniel Ricciardo HRT 1m46.328s + 6.742 34

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Does the FIA or FOM publicly list where every driver/team is in terms of engine allocation? If not, do the teams know about other teams? This seems like an area that should be publicly accessible to F1 fans. It would be interesting to know that Ferrari used their Engine 6 at Monza, Suzuka, Korea, for example.

Yeah, I think they should’ve made changes, regardless of the introduction of DRS. I think taking out the kink that makes the hairpin, and just making it a run down to a 135 deg turn onto the long straight, would be a good start.

I hope Raikkonen comes back, but if he’s asking for 15m (euros? pounds?) then he’s nuts. He’ll never get that from Williams, nevermind the likes of McLaren or Ferrari.


I hope it’s ok to post this link, I’ve found the stats available here under the “engine cycle” tab:


Apologies to James for linking to another site – but I don’t think you’ve got anything to worry about!



I’ve only seen sites such as this one:


where the total number used is shown, not where, to use the Belgian GP example, that race engine is next used in a race, since another is usually taken for Italy.

I agree on removing the chicane before the harpin. It it becomes a corner to defend into, then there is a much greater chance of passing out of it, and being a shorter corner there would be less distance for a driver to recover from a defensive line, meaning the lead driver will always be much earlier on the throttle.




JA – interesting comment from FA on LH. Everyone has been focusing on tyres but he mentioned the effect of the blown diffusers. Any ideas what this means?


Blown diffusers maintain down force through a corner. Down force has to be at the right level for the car. Too little and grip is lost, too much and excessive tyre wear is the result through elevated temperatures. The McLaren blown diffuser is now very efficient and arguably one of the most contributary. Next year of course it is gone so may be the car will be better for Hamilton in that respect.


DRS Zones

MW, JB (and maybe others) once again say that the DRS zones may not work in Abu Dhabi.

On most circuits they were too short.

In theory, given accurate data, it would be possible to calculate the lenght to a meter.

I suspect the FIA goes not have the data.

They need to do some tests to get it.

They should ‘borrow’ two third drivers in of two middle rank cars to do acceleration runs following each other from one slow and one medium speed corner with the DRS closed / open. This would estabilish base line data of the distance needed to gain say 2, 3 or maybe 4 car lenghts to arrive side by side at the braking zone for next corner.

After that it should be possible to calculate the required DRS distance by just having the exit speed of the previous corner and the lenght of the straight.




The problem with Abu Dhabi is that the corners going into the DRS zones are too slow which leaves too big of an ask on the straights. Let’s hope they do some rework for 2012.


James, there is only one question that is bothering me at the moment – not how drivers perform, etc – I really want to understand what is the typical thinking while building the race track? Are there any specific requirements set..something along the lines of – we need to have xxx number of overtakes, etc?

Looking at the F1 calendar, real overtaking happens on classical tracks (Canada, Spa, Monza, Silverstone, etc) while there is not much going on at Valencia, Singapore, India and Abu Dhabi.

The way I understand it, if you know why there is a lot of overtaking on a specific track…than use this knowledge and make it even better. What is so complex?


Actually thats not really correct.

Many of the classic tracks (Spa, Silverstone, Suzuka, Monza) often feature far less overtaking than some of the newer circuits.

For all the critisism Bahrain got, It nearly always provided more overtaking than the majority of other circuits.


So the question remains – why there is a need for track like Abu Dhabi and why the need to spend 2 billion USD, while there are better tracks for 10 times less money? Tilke must have some ultra strong connections….


Tilke doesn’t decide where the tracks get built or which country’s they get built in, Thats Bernie/CVC’s job.

One reason Tilke gets to design so many is because he offers the whole package. He designs the circuit & all its infrastructure & his copmany’s build everything (Exception been Korea which was outsourced to a 3rd party).


Do not get me wrong, I am saying this with humility. Was there any breathtaking race in Bahrain, Valencia, Singapore, India or Adu Dhabi?

Something on par with Silverstone, Spa or Canada this year.


Not saying there was any truly brilliant races, Just pointed out that Bahrain, Shanghai & Istanbul often featured more on-track passing when compared to many of the older circuits.

Valencia, Singapore, Abu Dhabi & India havn’t featured as much passing & I never used them as examples as a result.

In the years Spa & Bahrain have both been on the schedule only once (2004) has Spa featured more passing & the same is true when comparing Bahrain to Silverstone.


You can’t really compare Valencia and Singapore to any circuits other than Monaco. India was a brilliant track, just too conservative tyres and the aero problem was highlighted after that amazing S2/3 part of the track. Malaysia on the other hand has been brilliant for F1 and we’ve seen amazing racing there, China too.

This track however has been VERY poorly made, with 1st/2nd gear corners leading onto the straights meaning the slower car gets on the throttle before the chasing car.


I am saying something different. India – maybe the track is good, but I fall asleep while watching the race. Valencia – I skip this race at all, never watch. BUT, you always know that Silverstone is going to be great, that German, Italian, Belgian races are going to be awesome. It is the same year after year.

Abu Dhabi cost was 2 billion- wasted money.


Hi James,

can you give us more info about the team meeting about the blown exhaust and engine mapping?

Thank you



Well Well lets see if the Red Bull is 3rd fastest car in qualifying. Unlikely. Lewis for pole and the win Jenson to make it a McLaren 1-2. Shame this will be the first this season, lets hope its the start of an up turn for the British team and drivers.


Too early to write of the Red Bull’s, but a McLaren 1-2 would be good! Good to hear about Alonso’s comments about Hamilton despite their past problems. – Demonstrates the breadth and understanding of the man.

Not convinced about the circuit despite two DRS zones, but tyre strategies could play a part if tyres last better than expected. – Ferrari are particularly light on their tyres, but I note the flappy front wing is back. I also note that the wing is flexing like the Red Bull one of old as the ends of the wing are much closer to the ground at high speed.


please, today mcLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes all declare they welcome return of Raikkonen. Is the deal already signed and completed?


Didn’t you hear SFW, nothing is signed, they are neogotiating…

Williams may end up with Pastor & Rubens again.


More likely Maldonado plus Sutil. Grosjean an outside chance


thanks Timo

can’t help thinking something’s wrong when you get given money to pay for something then you try and haggle over the price. And tell all the world.

Bit unseemly if you ask me. What does bank of qatar make of our F1 business ethics?

I’m really fearing he’ll end up with rubens…..


Straght from the horse’s mouth — see link to video of Sir FW interview from Abu Dhabi a short while ago. An excerpt: “any businessman worth his salt will argue about the price of things. And there’s an argument going on . . . which is normal”.



James, is the problem Kimi’s manager? thus far We hear qatar are putting up the cash, Kimi himself is keen to trot, where’s the sticking point??

Can’t be williams surely, can turkeys reject a deal to ban christmas for a minimum of one year? doesn’t make sense.

Sutil is a fine driver, slightly faster than old rubens, but is no match for Raikkonen


Doesn’t say much for the aspirations of a team like Williams if they are looking to drivers sacked by lower mid field teams to spur them on to regain past glory!


This is funny….Ferrari were happy to pay a lot of money to see Kimi out of F1:-)


The photograph heading the article is absolutely stunning James. Is it by Darren Heath?


I have put a link further up for the pic


Love that photo!


I just can’t believe that the owners didn’t change the track layout – they should have realised that although DRS helps overtaking it does not always create good racing.


But the problem now is that because of DRS nobody wants to change anything.

Do not forget that ground effects & other changes which were planned to improve the racing were dropped, In part because FOTA see’s DRS as been a massive success.

DRS was supposed to be a stop-gap to be used until the new regulations came in for 2013, However now unfortunately it seems its been looked at as a more permanent solution.

And annoyingly I fear that the longer we have DRS the less likely it is that they will want to drop it & the less likely we will see any real changes to get us back to proper racing.


The McLaren’s looked good, but alas, this is only FP.

Completely off topic, but do you happen to have a high-res version of that image?

Thanks in advance.


Any truth to the speculation that Sky have taken a large team to Abu Dhabi to prepare there coverage for 2012?

Also heard that Sky will be announcing there on-air team at some point this weekend.

Englebert Humpaduck

Silence from JA, has nobody spotted him lurking around the SKY offices at Osterley ?

Very interesting little titbit about SebVet only winning one in 3 with a crashed car, so far.



Sky have around 20 people at the track this weekend. They don’t have there on-screen team there, However they are doing a full rehersal in terms of what tv feeds they will be providing.

Im hearing that alongside the main World-Feed (Which will be avaliable in HD for every session), They will also be providing the In-Car feed & Driver tracker (As BBC currently do for the races) but adding team radio feeds, official timing screens & likely other in-car feeds (Hearing at least 4 extra in-car feeds).

Martin Brundle & David Croft look likely to be Sky’s commentary duo.

The deal gives Sky access to everything FOM produce so Sky are planning extensive analysis & detailed & in-depth features, Some of which are already been filmed & some of which wil make up a series of classic F1 programming to be shown on Sky early next year.

I know that those without Sky still won’t be happy about the UK Tv situation, However everything im hearing regarding the plans for the Sky coverage pretty much guarantee’s that those with Sky are in for the best F1 coverage ever in terms of the overall package (Pre/Post race, Analysis, Features & extra/classic content) & actual race coverage.

Those concerned about the quality of Sky’s coverage need not worry, Trust me!


@GT_Race – do you know if Sky will be screening the support races live next year? It was mentioned in Autosport magazine a few months back, but I notice you haven’t put that in your post.


Anyone know why Mark Webbers back right wheel was able to wobble so badly when he spun? Seems strange for suspension to have that much compliance!

can be seen 40s into this video http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/formula_one/15691028.stm

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