Why Leclerc’s bid to beat Perez for second looks more difficult after day one in Abu Dhabi

Max Verstappen He may have missed his chance to end the 2022 Formula 1 season with a streak of five straight wins last time out in Brazil, but he appeared to be in poor form in training in Abu Dhabi, despite his absence from FP1.

The now two-time champion was one of eight regulars in 2022 to make room for a mix of rookie and reserve drivers, although he soon led the FP2, the only practice session that really matters in the event due to the similar twilight conditions of qualifying and racing.

Verstappen is leading the times although his time being lower than his rivals is nothing new, the campaign in particular marked the champion in the lead even with his first lap after a late start to FP1. However, it was the laps scored by those behind that were the most interesting to the remaining stories of the season.

Sergio Perez’s bid for victory will head the bill in Abu Dhabi Charles Locklear to finish second behind Verstappen in the championship. That scrap is charged by Verstappen’s refusal to comply with team orders in Brazil, which would have helped Perez.

Although Leclerc was usually fast in the simulated qualifying courses that decided the standings in FP2 on Friday night, and Perez finished well ahead of Verstappen, scoring speed on the long haul was lackluster from Ferrari. Mercedes He’s also in the big mix in his boldest bid to beat Ferrari into second place in the constructors’ standings.

Verstappen looked in top form for Red Bull, with him fighting for focus

Verstappen looked in top form for Red Bull, with him fighting for focus

Photography: Glenn Dunbar/ Motorsport Pictures

Today’s story

A week after ending a 21-race drought with George Russell winning in Brazil, Mercedes is leading the way in FP1. Under a blazing sun at 2pm local time, the opening Formula 1 session of the weekend got underway, with seven young drivers taking part as several teams completed their requirement to run two rookie drivers in two stagings – one in each of the team’s cars. in Alfa Romeoformer regular F1 Robert Kubica place ran Chu Guanyu.

The pack initially worked the pace in C4 (medium) and C3 (hard) compounds, before Leclerc and Perez traded in the lead after finally running softs for the first time around the halfway point of the one-hour session. Verstappen sat out of FP1 with Red Bull, with Formula 2 race winner Liam Lawson taking his place.

Mercedes left Hamilton and Russell in the stiffer compounds for longer, only switching to the light compounds with 15 minutes of FP1 remaining. This seemed to transform their sessions, as the W13s were sprinting through the long hairpin turn 5 early in sector two noticeably faster than their rivals when they were on the red-walled rubber, Motorsport.com show.

Perez’ bid to beat Leclerc for second in the championship was prompted by Verstappen’s refusal to comply with team orders in Brazil.

Lewis Hamilton led in 1m26.633s, with Russell 0.22s slower and Leclerc and Perez 0.255s and 0.334s behind respectively in third and fourth. FP1 finished without a major incident – Logan Sargeant bar spinning in Turn 1.

In FP2, Verstappen was on the right track straight away. He spent the first part getting up quickly on the media as his teammates did three hours earlier, with Leclerc being quicker than the drivers to run that rubber in the first ten minutes. At this point, Red Bull made an unusually early call to switch Verstappen to softs, which he used to go with the fastest time of 1m25.335s – despite him complaining about a mushy brake pedal.

His opponents couldn’t beat this on qualifying simulation efforts soon after, though that should be noted Carlos Sainz It was a strange thing, as his first soft plane broke down by accident Kevin Magnussen Slow down the racing line. This occurred on the approach to the long left-hand hairpin of Turn 9. Sainz completed a second run, but at the end of a seven-lap period with his tires past their best.

After his first F1 victory, Russell led Mercedes operation on Friday

After his first F1 victory, Russell led Mercedes operation on Friday

Photography: Simon Galloway/ Motorsport Pictures

Russell closed in on Verstappen, despite sliding wildly exiting turn five and having to run through traffic at the final corners, for which his engineer, Riccardo Mosconi, apologised. In response, the 113th and most recent Formula 1 finisher said: “No problem – as long as he’s not around tomorrow!”

This shifted Leclerc into third, with Hamilton fourth after losing most of his time to Verstappen in the third sector. The seven time champion struggled with the W13 balancing more in FP2.

Pérez finished fifth, unable to improve on his personal best despite taking two more finishes. Red Bull also provided that extra pure performance to Verstappen, who has spent all the time since posting 1m25.335s in the pits. After running a new set of soft loops, he duly improved his standard and ended the day with the fastest time of 1m 25.146s.

In the battle for the absolute best behind the top three teams, Alps – who leads by 19 points McLaren In the battle for fourth place in the constructors – Friday ended in a strong position. Esteban Ocon He ran seventh, ahead of his teammate Fernando Alonsowith Daniel Ricardo And the Lando Norris 9th and 11th, either side of Alfa Romeo Valtteri Bottas.

FP2 overall ranking

POS driver Team time difference
1 Verstappen Red Bull 1 minute 25.146 seconds
2 Russell Mercedes 1 minute 25.487 seconds 0.341 seconds
3 Locklear Ferrari one month 0.453 seconds
4 I be Alps 1m 26.038 seconds 0.892 seconds
5 Ricardo McLaren 1 m 26.124 sec 0.978 seconds
6 potash Alfa Romeo 1 m 26.300 sec 1.154 seconds
7 Viettel Aston Martin 1m 26.396 seconds 1.249 seconds
8 Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1m 26.680 seconds 1.534 seconds
9 Albon williams 1m 26.750 seconds 1.604 seconds
10 Schumacher Haas 1 month is 26.839 seconds 1.693 seconds
Leclerc may struggle in his battle for second place in the championship against Perez

Leclerc may struggle in his battle for second place in the championship against Perez

Photography: Glenn Dunbar/ Motorsport Pictures

Why Leclerc faces an uphill battle for second place

The high altitude forced in Mexico by Ferrari. He had to lower the turbo speed, which limited his appetite for air in order to better keep the engine running. This reduced its drivers at six-tenths of the speed. Scuderia was determined to make another comeback in the final two races of 2022 to prove that this was just a fleeting moment that arrives in exceptional circumstances.

It’s true that the gap between Red Bull and in-form Mercedes closed dramatically last time out in Brazil to just tenth or two. Overall, though, the red cars were once again not the winning threatening force they were back in the season. The signal from the relatively short race taking place in practice two in Abu Dhabi is that the same applies to the season finale.

A set of medium C4 Pirelli tires were favored by the leading teams in the long-term simulations in the last 15 minutes of FP2. Only Sainz tried briefly, but he was quick to air his grievances, pitting the Spanish team onto the yellow-walled rubber.

With the level playing field established, Verstappen was once again the leading light. His seven-lap stint in the complex returned with an average lap time that was 0.35 seconds faster than Mercedes’ lead runner Russell. Perez was only a hundredth behind the first-time Grand Prix winner. The bad news for Maranello was that its lead was headed to Sainz (+0.6s), with Leclerc down a full 0.85 seconds on Verstappen, according to Motorsport.com calculations.

“We struggled a bit with the pace because of the degradation of the tyres, which was to be expected. The pace in qualifying was a little better, but it looks like our competitors are taking a step forward.” Charles Locklear

With the championship titles long decided and Mercedes must lead Ferrari by 20 points this weekend to deny them second place, the main unresolved issue is the battle between Leclerc and Perez for second place. Not least because Verstappen didn’t fall behind his teammate as he was instructed to give up sixth place on the last lap in Brazil.

Long runs on race-favorite medium tires should give the Mexican some confidence at the start, given the margin he has in Monegasque. Running a slightly fatter rear wing to provide more downforce than its teammate will also help the RB18 avoid cornering too hard through the wide range of corners and speed at Yas Marina Circuit after its re-track in 2021. It’s also understood that the Red Bulls weren’t running in Its higher engine modes, too.

A look behind the timing screens should also indicate that it’s not all sweetness and lightness for Leclerc. He was struggling with massive stops at the Turn 6-7 chicane while his medians were tied up. He locked on the left inside tire repeatedly, including a series of three straight laps. This led to his race engineer asking why the Ferrari was so slow. The response was not encouraging: “Our pace is not great at the moment.” But this one at least owned the malaise.

A morsel of relief is provided by tire degradation, with sources suggesting that F1-75s hold their grip longer than Mercedes. But, in the end, when it comes to Perez vs. Leclerc, she is behind the Red Bulls in that regard as well.

Red Bull seems to be the favorite in Yas Marina

Red Bull seems to be the favorite in Yas Marina

Photography: Glenn Dunbar/ Motorsport Pictures

Average tire averages over the long term

POS Team time job assignment
1 Red Bull 1 minute 30.477 seconds 7 laps
2 Mercedes 1 minute 30.825 seconds 5 laps
3 Ferrari 1 minute 31.098 seconds 7 laps
4 Alps 1 m 31.458 sec 7 laps
5 AlphaTauri 1 month and 31.886 seconds 6 laps
6 Aston Martin 1 month is 32.028 seconds 9 laps
7 Haas 1m 32.856 seconds 9 laps
8 Alfa Romeo 1 month 32.889 seconds 10 laps
9 williams 1 month 32.905 seconds 5 laps

what are they saying

Verstappen thinks: “I’m really happy with the way that session went, and I think the car came together really well. During qualifying, we have to be competitive in quality and racing.”

Perez recalled: “The car was good today. It was a couple of very enjoyable sessions – very different in the morning than in the afternoon. This morning was a bit challenging with the temperatures, which means the afternoon session is the one we really have to pay attention to, Because it will be the most representative of the weekend. We’re just exploring the balance around the car. We’re competitive in the long term, but we have a little bit of time to find it in the short term.”

Leclerc said: “Overall, our laps were good. We struggled a little bit with the pace of the race due to tire degradation, which was to be expected. The qualifying pace was a little better, but it looks like our competitors are taking a step forward.”

Can Leclerc pull off a turnaround after a tough opening day?

Can Leclerc pull off a turnaround after a tough opening day?

Photography: Andy Hone / Motorsport Pictures

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