08.12.22 NL Blog
Abu Dhabi GP: The story behind my weekend
The Bahrain GP is just around the corner and there’s excitement and anticipation in the air. A new chapter in F1 history is about to be written and it feels cool to be part of that.
During the two seasons that I’ve been in F1, we’ve been racing evolutions of the previous year’s cars. There hasn’t been anything particularly new or revolutionary. But this year, there’s huge change for everyone and that’s brought a real buzz to the paddock.
There’s been a lot of curious eyes wandering up and down the pit lane. You can see lots of different cars and philosophies, which hasn’t always been the case in previous years. That’s something that, personally, I’ve found quite fascinating. It’s crazy to see the different design routes the best minds in F1 engineering and aerodynamics have chosen to take. Only time will tell which is the best direction!
So, what can I say about our new FW44 car? First, the platform is very different to the cars I drove in 2020 and 2021. The most striking thing I noticed is just how heavy the car is – a legacy of the rules dictating a weight increase of just over 40kg.
Also, the ride is a bit harsher because the cars tend to be stiffer with the way the teams have to run them, and the tyres appear to be much more sensitive this year so that requires a new understanding of how they should be driven. Overall, there’s been a few interesting challenges to overcome and a lot for us to learn during testing in Barcelona and Bahrain.
It’s clear the car requires a slightly different kind of driving approach – mainly because of its weight and particularly in the slower corners – but this is something we expected and have adjusted to as we’ve turned the laps in testing.
One of the positives I’ve noticed on track is that the ability to follow other cars has improved a lot, which was the whole reason for this fundamental change in F1 car philosophy. So that’s great and a job well done for the people that wrote the new rules. Hopefully it will bring some more excitement to the races.
From a personal perspective, it was unfortunate that we had the brake issue and fire on the second day of testing in Bahrain and lost important track time. We had to fly some parts out from Grove and then the day and night crews worked hard to make sure we could maximise our running on the third day. The team did a great job to react so quickly to that situation.
I recovered 124 laps on the final day and that was pleasing from my side. Going into a race weekend without a good last day wouldn’t have been good for the confidence. But I think I now have a much better feeling with the car on the Bahrain track.
There’s definitely some unknowns going into this weekend’s race. We know we will have some challenges and our focus will be on building the learning of this car. This is only the first race of 23. There’s a lot for all the teams to understand.
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