The Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team’s Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas set the pace on the opening day of practice for Sunday’s inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the Jeddah street circuit with Hamilton setting a time of 01:29.018s and speaking following the action he said:
The track was rapid – unbelievably quick and with a lot of grip as well. Once you get in the rhythm, it’s beautiful to drive. The grip was very high from the moment we went out and was similar in both sessions. Traffic can be a problem here, it’s Monaco-esque and the closing distances to other cars was definitely getting dangerous. We tried a couple of things with our setup, and although we aren’t rapid on single run pace compared to the others, our long run pace seemed pretty good.
The Medium and Hard tyre both performed well, the Soft is probably a little too soft for the high-speed sections, it feels like the tyre is giving up slightly. I’m generally happy with the setup, we changed a few things in between sessions, and we’ll work with the guys in the factory back home to make sure we have the correct setup for tomorrow.
Valtteri Bottas set a fastest time of 01:29.079s and speaking following the action the Finn said:
The track is really cool, it’s full-gas and close to the walls at high-speed which is exactly what you want and enjoy – it’s an adrenaline rush. In FP1 the track was better than I expected, a little bit dusty but thanks to the other racing categories running here this weekend, it was improving step by step. They have done a nice job with the tarmac here, it was very grippy even though it’s new and with no real bumps, nice and smooth.
It was good to get confirmation of the grip level here, you base your starting setup on the simulations and estimated grip level, and we started in a good place. The biggest surprise today was the tyres – they lasted well and I’m not sure we’ll see many stops on Sunday. All the compounds seemed to work well here, even though you could feel the Softs giving up slightly in the high-speed corners.
Chief Engineer Andrew Shovlin commented saying:
As with any new track, a significant part of the first session is about understanding whether you’ve made the correct assumptions on grip and tyre behaviour, and in the warmer conditions of FP1 we had the car working well. The second session was more of a challenge in terms of single lap pace, we’ve got some ideas on how to tackle that and we’ll be running our simulator in Brackley overnight exploring a few directions. The long run pace seemed competitive, Lewis was a little happier than Valtteri, and we finished the day with quite different setups on the cars so there are some interesting comparisons to draw out of that data. It does seem like the car has good potential around this circuit but we’ve clearly got a bit of fine-tuning to do which will keep us busy overnight.Andrew Shovlin
In a separate development, the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team has confirmed that despite protests from the British government on both sides of the political divide they will continue with their partnership with Kingspan.