Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Day 1

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Thursday is usually the most interesting day on a major race weekend, as it is less crowded and we generally have more access to the facility and the drivers, teams and cars. The Abhu Dhabi Grand Prix was no exception. The grandstands weren’t even open on Thursday, so we spent much of the day in the paddock area, watching the teams prepare for race weekend, press interviews with the driver, and several end-of-season team photographs.

Below are trip highlights from November 23rd, 2018 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at mvdirona.com/maps

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The local hotels have increased security for the Grand Prix. An X-Ray machine and metal detector were installed in the lobby of our hotel yesterday—anyone entering must first pass through security.
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Driver’s Seat
James in the driver’s seat of an F1 demonstration car just inside the entrance on the first day of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
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On the Track
On the track for day one of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Thursday is usually the most interesting day as it is less crowded and we generally have more access to the facility and the drivers, teams and cars.
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Pirelli tires color-coded by softness ranging from hardest at the front to softest at the far end.
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Beautiful McLarens street cars being prepared for on-track events.
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Tire Balancing
Pirelli personnel balancing tires. At the start of the weekend, all Formula 1 teams bring their wheels to the Pirelli garage to get their allocation of new tires for the weekend.
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The teams were just setting up as we walked down pit lane. Here the Mercedes AMG Petronas team is readying their car communications and monitoring station.
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Sporting events like these bring out the big lenses.
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Tire Delivery
Tires being delivered after the balancing we watched earlier. Each team’s race weekend tire allocation consists of 13 sets of dry-weather tires, 4 sets of intermediate tires and 3 sets of wet tires. Pirelli offers three tire hardness levels at each track that the teams can select from.
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Red Bull 3
The Red Bull team setting up Daniel Ricciardo’s ride.
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Mercedes 44
Lewis Hamilton’s car number 44 in the Mercedes garage being prepared for practice tomorrow.
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The left front wheel hub, break and suspension assembly on Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. Note the carbon fiber brake disk and brake pads, the elaborate ducting to cool the brake assembly, and the single central wheel bolt that allows under-two-second pit stops.
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Ferrari 7
Jennifer, at the right side of the frame, standing back to allow Kimi Raikkonen’s crew to bring his Ferrari down the pit lane to scrutineering.
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James in front of Brendan Hartley’s Toro Rosso car number 28, with the crew beyond getting ready for a voluntary scrutineering check prior to practice tomorrow. Behind the Toro Rosso car is Kimi Raikkonen’s number 7 Ferarri with Sergio Perez’s Force India car number 11 to the left.
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Carbon Fiber
Close-up to Sergio Perez’s Force India car number 11. Modern Formula 1 cars are the product of hundreds if not thousands of hours in the wind tunnel. Every year the fins and ducting get more complex.
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Air Gun
The air guns used to remove and replace the wheels in under two seconds.
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Yas Marina
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix track circles around Yas Marina, pictured here with the W Hotel in the background. The hotel actually straddles the track—cars will pass under the bridge connecting the two parts of the building and continue to the right between the hotel and the marina.
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George Russell
Formula 2 champion George Russell, who was the GP3 champion last year, at a driver press event. Russell will be driving for the Williams team in the 2019 Formula 1 season.
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Lewis Hamilton
Five-time and current Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton interviewing with the press.
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Fernando Alonso
Two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso, talking to the press. He will be retiring after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final race of the 2018 season. We’re hopeful he either goes Indy car racing or changes his mind and returns to Formula 1. In the interview, one of the questions he was asked is “Might he return?” And he said if he really missed racing, he might.
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Daniel Ricciardo
Ever-ebullient Daniel Ricciardo track-side. The Australian-native was hugely popular at the Melbourne Grand Prix we attended in 2015.
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Team Ferrari
Scuderia Ferrari’s end-of-season team photo with former Formula 1 champions Kimi Raikkonen on the left and Sebastian Vettel on the right.
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Helmet Toss
While the Red Bull team was gathering for their end-of-season photo, ever-playful Daniel Ricciardo was tossing his helmet around and lobbed it over to this person arranging the photograph.
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Helmet OK
Unsurprisingly, there eventually was a slip and Daniel Ricciardo’s helmet hit the tarmac. Team-mate Max Verstappen, far left, and the rest of the Red Bull team are concerned while Daniel shows his helmet only has minor scratches.
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Team Red Bull
Team Red Bull’s end-of-season photo with Daniel Ricciardo on the left and Max Verstappen on the right.
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Pit Stop Practice
Team Sauber practicing pit stops on Thursday evening. It’s not often you can be this close to a Formula 1 team practicing pit stops. Here’s a video of one of their many practice stops: https://youtu.be/coIFil773X8.
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Pit Lane
All quiet on pit lane at the end of the day.
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Bridge over Track
Yas Marina on the left and the W Hotel on the right, viewed from a bridge over the track as we return back to our hotel after the first day of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

It was a big day for us. We arrived when the track opened and didn’t leave until it closed. We spent most of the day in the pit and paddock area close to the cars, enjoying the opportunity to see in detail how these cars are prepared for a race weekend. The rest of the weekend is going to be much more crowded, so we really appreciated our chance to see all the details without the crush of the big crowds.

Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at mvdirona.com/maps.


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8 comments on “Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Day 1
  1. David Evans says:

    Hello James & Jennifer,
    You guys made the cut for Netflix “Formula 1 Drive to Survive” (S1E10/7:00mins) coverage of the 2018 Abu Dhabi race. You to are hard to miss in coverage of Red Bull’s last team photo with Daniel Ricciardo. Clearly a fun weekend.
    Thursdays are always best! It’s been too long since I went to 24 Hours Daytona.

    • Wow, good eye. Jennifer spotted it when we were watching but I might have missed it. I agree with you that Thursdays at a track are often excellent with far fewer crowds and sometimes better access to drives etc. When we were at the Daytona 500 (https://mvdirona.com/2017/04/daytona-500/) back in 2017, Jennifer and I were on a pit walkthrough on Thursday and Rusty Wallace was walking behind our group shook hands with Jennifer.

  2. Nick Pfeiffer says:

    What an amazing experience!
    One of my most unforgettable experiences in life so far has been attending the USGP back at Indy.

    • Any Formula 1 race is a world class event and Indy is, by itself, legendary. Seeing both together would be a real experience. Jennifer and I hope to eventually see an Indy 500 at the Brick Yard.

  3. Eric Patterson says:

    My favorite is F1. I miss the pre 2015 (I think) engines and remember they incredible sound. It’s amazing the technology but still the drivers reflexes and skill are so important with fractions of seconds from brake to pedal still critical.

    • You are in the majority in wanting louder engines and Formula 1 do plan to make that change. I’m a technology guy so, at least for me, 1.6 liter engine as part of a package able to produce nearly 900 HP is pretty exciting even if it isn’t loud. In the really distant past, I loved the Porsche 917-10 and 917-30 Can Am cars — these beasts produced over 1,500 hp in qualifying trim. It was far faster than the Formula 1 cars on straight stretches and produced a whistling sound rather than a roar as it shot past.

      I wish formula one allowed AWD, no limit on the number of transmission gears, and allowed more turbo and hybrid/electric innovations. And limiting the aerodynamic innovation would be fine with me — millions are spent on wind tunnel time yielding more and more complex body work that doesn’t really improve the sport and, worse, it makes the cars less stable in turbulent airflow reducing passing. A single spec body design that works well in turbulent air would be great from my perspective and would limit the current dominant R&D cost. It would also be nice to see them return to 26+ car fields but none of these changes are planned or likely :-).

      • Eric Patterson says:

        You got me interested and I am watching the Porsche’s on YouTube, Excellent! Love the AWD idea and the transmission. 26+ but I worry the larger budget teams might get more advantage with the transmission.

        • You are right, the budget teams in Formula always struggle to maintain the required investment levels to compete in Formula 1. I agree that anything that brings the field closer together is a good thing. I’m just saying I would rather the R&D investment be in engine and drive line innovation rather than spending another two days of wind tunnel testing yielding 3 more –little carbon fiber micro-winglets that no spectator cares about or can even see unless they can get right up close to the car.

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