Successful first day for McLaren at Yas Marina

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina Circuitae

It was a very busy and successful day for the McLaren Mercedes Formula One Team at the Yas Marina Circuit where the first free practice sessions of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend were scheduled. The team finished both sessions on top with Hamilton in the morning and Kovalainen in the afternoon.

Heikki Kovalainen

P1 programme 20 laps 1m45.123s (10th)
P2 programme 35 laps 1m41.307s (1st)

“The whole day was pretty good. We’d already done some good work in Woking preparing for this circuit, so we had a good balance right from the start this morning. However, we had a brake issue during first practice which we couldn’t sort out during the session.

“This afternoon, we got it sorted and were able to improve considerably, with both tyres working well. The circuit is cool – it’s very smooth with good grip and the kerbs are nice. Turns Two and Three are not easy-flat, but, with the good balance of the car, they’re fun.

“On the straight, KERS gives us an additional benefit. We can use it for maximum performance and it’s worth three-and-a-half to four tenths.

“The light is no problem with our slightly tinted tear-off visors, which we could remove once the sun had set.”

Lewis Hamilton

P1 programme 18 laps 1m43.939s (1st)
P2 programme 34 laps 1m41.504s (2nd)

“It looks like we might be quite competitive here – our long runs appear to be good, the car feels great and the track is great – it’s quite interesting coming from daylight into nighttime, you don’t notice the difference through the twilight.

“They’ve done an incredible job here. It’s a really nice circuit to drive – there are a lot of technical corners, where braking stability is important. It’s a great track and I really enjoy driving it. The only bit I don’t like is the tunnel – but it’s a challenge!

“We’ll have to see what happens tomorrow, because the track conditions are always changing, but we feel quite comfortable with the pace we have. Our car seems to behave quite well over the kerbs, we’ve got the balance feeling quite good today.

“Our car is probably driving better than it has all year – it’s just been getting better and better. In a way, it’s been an excellent year: it’s a bit like a race when you start from the back of the field and fight back to the front – that’s what our season has been like.

“And I’m extremely proud of everyone in our team, they’ve done a fantastic job all year and I’d like to finish on a high for all of them.”

Martin Whitmarsh, Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: “I think everybody in the Formula 1 paddock has been overwhelmed by the scale and ambition of the Yas Marina circuit – it sets standards within our sport that I think will be almost impossible to eclipse. It is a truly fantastic facility, and a fine testament to the incredible vision of our hosts here in Abu Dhabi, who have treated everyone in our team with enormous warmth and hospitality.

“To finish the second practice session in first and second positions on the timesheets is, of course, highly encouraging, but we are aware that there are a number of closely matched teams who will be working hard to win this race.

“Both Heikki and Lewis did a fantastic job today. Now, our efforts will shift towards maximising our performance and ensuring we are fully prepared for a thrilling qualifying session tomorrow.”

Norbert Haug, Vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: “An exceptional new racetrack with fantastic facilities. Sincere compliments to the hosts in Abu Dhabi for establishing the new benchmark of new grand prix racetracks. The atmosphere here – especially at night – is absolutely fascinating, and I am sure this will become even better during tomorrow’s qualifying and Sunday's race.

“Our performance on this new track was very good today. Both Lewis and Heikki posted very competitive lap times during their race simulation long runs on both tyre compounds.

“I guess this was our most competitive Friday performance of the whole season.”