The Formula 1 drivers and teams got their first taste of Losail today, the latest arrival on the calendar. There was one free practice session in the early afternoon, held in the heat of the day, followed by a second session after dark, which was more representative of qualifying and race conditions.
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas set the best time of the day in FP2 (1m23.148s) while Red Bull's Max Verstappen was fastest in the morning: on each occasion using the P Zero Red soft C3 tyre. All three available compounds were used in each session, with the teams focussing on data collection over this challenging new track.
The crucial FP2 session got underway with 28 degrees centigrade ambient and 30 degrees on track, with moderate wind gusts up to 25kph. The track temperature in FP1 was around 15 degrees higher than in FP2.
The track was slippery and 'green' throughout the day, especially with sand blowing onto the track from the surrounding desert. A few drivers also went off, dragging more dirt onto the surface. There was a high degree of track evolution seen throughout each session.
So far, the gap between the P Zero White hard C1 and Yellow medium C2 tyre is around 0.7 seconds, with a similar gap between medium and soft. The lap times were quite fast: already close to those estimated for qualifying.
Mario Isola: "It was a busy couple of sessions today as the teams concentrated on learning as much as they could about Losail in the time available. There was a high degree of track evolution already during FP1, and this is a pattern we would expect to continue tomorrow. In these challenging conditions with a dirty track and high-energy corners, the initial data shows high wear on the left-front, especially for the soft compound: probably also due to the set-up used by the cars on this circuit. It will be interesting to see how that evolves as the weekend goes on. In the warmer conditions of FP1, the hard tyre worked particularly well as we expected, but in cooler and more representative conditions during FP2, the soft and the medium came into their own. As usual with a new track, there will be plenty of data analysis tonight as the teams begin to work out the weekend's qualifying and race strategy based on what they have learned today."
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