Abu Dhabi 2019: Master Class FP1 and 2 reactions
With the first Race Day of 2019 just round the corner, the pilots of the Master Class are relishing every moment they can spend in the Abu Dhabi track. Here’s their thoughts after Free Practice…
“We’ve had four sessions in the track and everyone knows the trajectory and there are 12 people within 1.5s so it’s been really tight. It will be the same tomorrow and Saturday it will be a game of nerves. We have little minor things to change on the raceplane, but we always have little changes to make after each session, but they are just minor things so we should be fine for Quali.”
“It’s the same track, but it’s a different style change with the rule change. With the new G it’s almost like having a major engine change in a Formula One car, you've got to use the energy of the aircraft differently. It’s been interesting watching everyone on the over-G penalties today; people need to get that sorted before Race Day. For us, we’re creeping up on it. We’re not pulling a heap of G out there yet, every now and then I’ll get right up close to it, but we’re still flying cleanly on that side of things.”
“We had a couple of small electrical issues in the final session today, which we’re working though right now. Other than that we’re just trying to get the VTM perfect. We need to get the electronics working so we can collect the data, which will help us in the VTM. I think we’re OK."
“It’s amazing to fly over Abu Dhabi, it’s so beautiful. We thought that the low sun in the late afternoon could have been a problem, but it wasn't. From a performance perspective, we did think we were losing time in the VTM in Free Practice 1, so I kept the lines as I wanted on the track but changed the VTMs and it seemed to work, but we can still improve a little bit.”
“It felt good, normal. Like 2017. It was because I’m flying good, the plane feels good, and we prepared well. We’re finding simple solutions, and that works for now. This track is the same as last year. Everybody knows the track, but the rules are different, so maybe it’s difficult to find the best line for the new rules. Maybe when we look at things tonight we can learn a little bit more from today, shave off another two-tenths or so and go a little bit ahead of where we are so far."
“We did pretty good on the last run, we’re still just trying to tweak a couple of things on the line. I think there’s some places where if you’re not really careful that you can scrape a lot of energy off the raceplane. I was actually doing the more difficult thing earlier which was slower, when I realised what was easier, I thought I’d do that."
“I’ve really enjoyed it today, obviously the track is the same layout as last year so we weren’t taken by surprise. We had a good first session and came away with a few things we wanted to try, and in FP2 we were unable to maximise that, which was a little disappointing but tomorrow is another day. It’s a level playing field this year as it’s the same track, but we’re just competing against ourselves, so I’ve got to knock off at least 0.5s, so tonight we’ll be trying to figure that out.”
“Same track as last year, but it’s not a discovery flight to find what the fastest line is, although you see a little bit of exploring. I’m happy with how the aeroplane is handling, I feel good in the track, we’re just working on systems and getting everything going as it’s the beginning of the year. Tonight we’ll be looking at the data, but it’s going to be a tight race because everybody’s got a lot of data on how to fly this race.”
“In the later session I was pushing the limits a little more and I got a few penalties, but the net times were very good, so I’m not worried at all. I had a couple of over-Gs and some incorrect levels at Gate 7, but the flying was good and we’re going fast.”
“My feeling in the plane was better in the second session, I wasn’t making so many mistakes, compared to the previous flight. At the end I could see that I was really slow compared to my other flight. I was 1.5s slower, but I felt good in the plane and I can see that I have to take more risk on the last two gates.”
François Le Vot
“This morning it was really a question of going hard and finding things after the good sessions yesterday. We found the limit and decided to play safe in the second Free Practice flight and consolidate and it worked. We are consistent and I’m happy in the plane, so tomorrow we can try and push the limits a little more.”
“We used today to test and try things. I have a gameplan and I hope it works. It worked in only one flight today – so now we know it works and I’m sure we'll be able to do that tomorrow and Saturday, that's the plan at least. Everyone has the same issue with the new G rule and we saw a lot of people getting penalties, I went over 12G, so my raceplane is being inspected now and that cost me two more runs, but I’m pretty optimistic.”
“With our new engine everybody was expecting us to rock in and fly the fastest time, but we need to break it in first. Because of the Pope’s visit we lost some training days and we were going to do some long flights to break in the engine, so we’re doing that now and not leaning the engine too much. It’s the first race with the new engine we can’t melt it down, we have to keep it running and keep to procedures. But we’re flying the good lines and we’re getting to where we want to, but the engine isn’t broken in properly and it won’t be for this race. It’s crucial that we get time after Abu Dhabi to break it in.”
“We worked really hard between Indy and Fort Worth and we implemented the winglet – that has brought us a big improvement, especially in the VTMs. The winglets have changed how the plane handles and I have worked on it. We have made a lot more changes and they’re starting to work. This afternoon’s flying was a great example of that.”