Searching in the dark

Abu Dhabi GP – Searching in the dark

Yas Marina, 1 November – In 2008 we first saw the night lights of Singapore, so obviously when the UAE decided it wanted a slice of the Formula 1 pie it had to come up with something different and so the “twilight” race was born. Just as the first race under the Marina Bay Ferris Wheel attracted speculation that this new idea of electric lighting might be dangerous to race under, so too the thought of drivers adapting from daylight to night time in Yas Marina was seen as potentially tricky. Of course, that has not proved to be the case so far and again today, F1 fans at the track and at home were treated to the sight of daylight retreating and the night settling in very quickly. All it requires is for the drivers to switch to a less tinted visor.

The showbiz setting and timings did little to alter the hard technical realities on track, with the champion elect, Sebastian Vettel certainly not taking it easy five days after securing the Drivers’ crown in India. He was fastest this evening, ahead of Red Bull team-mate, Mark Webber, the only non-world champion in the top four on the time sheet, as in third and fourth places respectively were Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes and Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus.

One has to skip past the two McLarens to find Fernando Alonso in eighth place, two ahead of his Scuderia Ferrari team-mate, Felipe Massa. Both men had a trouble free time, but neither of them was happy with the performance level of the F138. Although conditions are the same for all 22 cars on track, it’s true that the unusual effect of a track temperature that drops as the session progresses, when usually the opposite is true, certainly complicates the task of finding those precious fractions of a second needed to propel the Prancing Horse up the order when it comes to tomorrow’s Qualifying session.

Like today’s final practice, the grid deciding hour also begins under the sun and ends under floodlights. At the moment, there is little doubt that the Soft Pirelli will provide the quicker lap time, by well over a second for most runners. However, unlike a week ago in Greater Noida, there should be no tactical qualifying on the slower Medium, so as to start the race on it, as even the stickiest of the two compounds here should manage a decent first stint length on the marble smooth Abu Dhabi track surface.

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