It’s an interesting technical challenge and it also means that the second part of the second 90 minutes of track action is the time that most accurately reflects the conditions everyone will encounter in tomorrow’s qualifying and Sunday’s season finale. In the Toro Rosso camp, it was definitely a busy day with Daniil Kvyat completing a huge 70 laps and Jean-Eric Vergne running 14 fewer. The Russian ended the day ninth fastest, the Frenchman was fourteenth.
In the title fight between the two Mercedes drivers, Lewis Hamilton has set the standard, fastest in both sessions today, ahead of Nico Rosberg, with Kevin Magnussen rounding off the top three for McLaren at the end of FP2.
If you imagine that there can’t possibly be anything new at the final race of the Formula 1 season, then you are underestimating this sport’s ability to keep moving forward and trying new things. For starters, let’s welcome back Caterham! Today they were back with regular driver Kamui Kobayashi joined by newcomer, Englishman Will Stevens. This morning there were two other new names on the time sheet, with European Formula 3 champion Esteban Ocon taking over Romain Grosjean’s Lotus in FP1, while over in the Sauber garage, Adrian Sutil sat on the toolbox while GP3 racer Adderly Fong was given a run. Incidentally, the return of Caterham means the qualifying knock-out system changes again tomorrow evening. For the last few races with 18 cars taking part, only four cars have been eliminated at the end of Q1 and Q2 but this weekend, with 20 runners, five cars will be cut at the end of these sessions.
A keen observer in the Toro Rosso garage was Max Verstappen. Our 2015 man is going to have to wait until next week’s test to sample the Yas Marina circuit but the Dutchman found today a useful experience. “Even if I wasn’t driving today, it is always useful to be with the team, in the garage, listening in on the radio and following what is happening on the track,” he said. “I see it as part of the preparation for the test session that I will be driving here next week. I’m particularly looking forward to running a race distance if that’s possible with our programme, as I have never done that in a Formula 1 car yet. This morning I was just seeing what was happening on track and in the garage. I have never driven at this circuit, so I will also be studying a lot of the onboard footage. We don’t drive in the dark during the test so that is an experience that will have to wait until next year. But it means it will be very warm all day in the car!”