F1 notes and quotes: Abu Dhabi Test Day 2

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The final day of two at Formula One’s last day of running at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi is in the books. This also draws the curtain, officially, on 2014’s on-track running.

Here’s a quick round-up of more notes and quotes from the team releases after Wednesday’s session:

  • McLaren (see Tuesday report here): A second straight day of issues plagued McLaren’s running with its interim MP4-29X1/H1 chassis and Honda engine. An electrical issue from the off cost them the morning, and while Stoffel Vandoorne began a four-lap run in the afternoon, the car shut down. Nevertheless, Eric Boullier said better now than later. “It’s useful to discover these issues pre-Christmas, as it allows us to deepen our understanding of the complex integration between power-unit, ancillaries and the car,” he said. “And, to be honest, I’d rather be ironing out these problems here in Abu Dhabi, than discovering them in Jerez, next February.”
  • Mercedes (Tuesday report): Beyond the aero and tire work, Mercedes was also able to try some new parts good for the 2015 regulations. Reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein acquitted himself nicely in his first on-track day after simulator work prior to that.
  • Ferrari: Raffaele Marciello took over from Kimi Raikkonen and like the Finn on Tuesday, ended second. But more than the result, or the 91 laps, the simple fact of being an Italian in a Ferrari made his day.
  • Red Bull (Tuesday report): Daniel Ricciardo took over from Carlos Sainz Jr. The Australian banked 87 laps before stopping early due to a mechanical failure, bringing back memories – or nightmares – of the team’s troubled preseason testing earlier this year. It was still a productive day for the smiling Australian, who also worked on starting procedures.
  • Toro Rosso: After a troubled Tuesday where a suspension failure in the morning cost Max Verstappen half the day, today was much busier for the Faenza-based Toro Rosso crew.  Explained chief race engineer Phil Charles, “We had a very productive day, especially in the morning, when we ran continuously, even squeezing in an extra run before lunch. However, at the start of the afternoon, a technical problem kept the car in the garage for around three hours. The mechanics worked really well to get the car back out on track and we even woke up some of our nightshift guys to come and help! Thanks to their efforts we managed to give Max a further three runs.”
  • Lotus: The only team to run two drivers on the same day, and three for the week, brought out Esteban Ocon for the morning for 34 laps, and Alex Lynn in the afternoon for 52. A fluid leak scuppered Ocon’s program early. Having had an FP1 under his belt though, Ocon was more comfortable for his second run. Lynn expressed thanks for the opportunity and was pleased with the car’s reactions.
  • Force India (Tuesday report): Spike Goddard completed 89 trouble-free laps in his testing debut. “The VJM07 is a massive step up from my Formula 3 car so the first part of the day was devoted to adjusting to the new machinery,” he said. “The power and downforce of these cars is something on a completely different level; it was a massive shock to the system, but I got used to it fairly soon.”
  • Williams: The Tuesday leaders swapped Valtteri Bottas out and brought reserve driver Felipe Nasr in for one final day for the Brazilian leaves for Sauber. Aero and tire testing was the focus over his 83 laps. Said Nasr after his last day with the team: “It’s always nice to drive the FW36 and to have the chance to drive it on the final day of 2014 was very enjoyable.”
  • Sauber (Tuesday report): Marcus Ericsson led all runners with 112 laps completed on Wednesday, and like others was focused on aero and tire work. The test for him was more about integrating into a new team. “I had a good time getting to know the people within the team, and starting to work with everyone,” said the Swede. “Starting to drive the C33, building my feeling for the car, and giving my input for next year’s car was important.”
  • Caterham (Tuesday report): Another 76 laps for Will Stevens capped off his and the team’s running for 2014, and did himself good work over the last few days. “We cannot complain about the reliability here in Abu Dhabi, it’s been a trouble-free week. I’ve learned so much over the weekend and the past two days, I’ve got to the point where I now feel very comfortable in the car. Ot’s been a great week and I want to thank both the team and the fans for giving me this opportunity. Now let’s wait and see what the future brings.”

IndyCar drivers say Thermal Club could host race after successful opening day to test

IndyCar Thermal race
Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY Sports Images

THERMAL, Calif. – The “motorsports country club” passed the first test (figuratively and literally) with NTT IndyCar Series drivers pleased enough to proclaim The Thermal Club as race-eligible after its debut.

Though there were a few minor incidents on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile permanent road course east of Palm Springs in Southern California’s Coachella Valley, there was no significant damage for the 27 full-time cars that turned 1,119 laps Thursday.

Perhaps more importantly, drivers seemed to enjoy the ride around the track, which is unlike anything on the current circuit.

“I would love to race here,” said Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Marcus Armstrong, who posted the 10th-quickest time (1 minute, 39.9077 seconds) in the No. 11 Dallara-Honda that he will race on street and road courses after coming from the F2 Series. “I think it’s awesome. Would have to do a lot of neck training prior to the race because it’s much like a European circuit, quite demanding on the neck, towards the end of the lap anyway.

PRACTICE SPEEDS: First session l Second session l Combined

‘AN AMAZING PLACE’: IndyCar and its big plans for Thermal

“I think it’s cool. Very flowing, banked corners, banked high-speed corners. In terms of racing, it could be potentially not a lot of overtaking. You’d have to commit hard (in) maybe Turn 1. It wouldn’t be the easiest place to overtake. As a whole facility and circuit, it’s very enjoyable.”

Juncos Hollinger Racing No. 77 Chevrolet driver Callum Ilott, another F2 veteran who is entering his second year in IndyCar, was seventh fastest. Ilott said Thermal would “set a standard really of what we want to be doing with this series.

“It’s really, really high level, high tech,” said Ilott, whose rookie teammate Agustin Canapino went off course twice but incurred no major trouble. “As a circuit, yeah, it’s got a little bit different corners. I think the overtaking — we’ll find a way, we’re IndyCar — someone always sends it down the inside. I think if we can extend the straight and get some overtaking between Turn 6 and 7. It’s definitely a great circuit to drive and good fun and a bit different to the normal winter training we get in Florida. So I like the circuit.

“I think if we could, it would be good to race here once.”

Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta, who turned the fastest lap (1:39.3721) in his No. 26, also was optimistic despite the passing challenges.

“I think it really comes down to tire deg, what people are showing with that,” Herta said. “It will be tough to pass, right? A lot of the good braking zones, you’re coming off of high-speed corners, so it will be hard to follow.

“But you never know. I would say some of the tracks we go to would be terrible for racing, and IndyCar still puts on a great show. You never know until it’s tested and proven right or wrong.”

The possibility of adding an IndyCar race at The Thermal Club has been floated, but there would be some challenges. It likely would be a made-for-TV event given it’s a private club (and filled with multimillion-dollar homes filled with vintage cars). The test is closed to the public and open only to members and VIPs.

There also are some areas that would need to be improved, namely the galvanized steel Armco barriers that ring the track and generally are considered antiquated in motorsports.

“I think the Armco might propose a little bit of an issue,” Ilott said. “Again, it depends on what angle you’re hitting them obviously. It’s a pretty straightforward process to make it a bit safer and a bit more cushiony. I’m not in charge of that stuff. I just drive and try not to hit those things.

“I think it’s a straightforward process. To be fair, everyone has had a little moment today, spun and carried on. That’s a good start. Obviously there are anomalies, these things happen. So far, so good.”

Said Herta: For sure. It probably needs a little bit of work. They’ve already done a lot for us to come here already. It seems like if they do want to have a race here, they’re willing to put the work in and money in to upgrade the facility to make it a little bit safer for us.”

Christian Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was second fastest (1:39.3767), followed by Alex Palou (1:39.3970) and Romain Grosjean (1:39.4826). Will Power was the top Chevrolet driver in fifth (1:39.5690).

Though Andretti had two of the top four times, Herta downplayed the significance other than getting reacclimated to his team.

“Just a lot of knocking the rust off,” he said. “It’s quite a long offseason without being in the car. I don’t know how much we’re really going to learn from running here. It’s really good to get the team back into it, get all the boys working again. Yeah, just get everybody back into the flow of it.

“It could be a huge shake-up when we go to St. Pete and who’s up front and who’s at the back. It is too early to tell. It’s nice just to be back in the car and get lap times down, get everybody working again.

“The track surface is very strange, very different to anything I’ve really felt in IndyCar. It’s seven first-gear corners. We don’t really have that many anywhere we go on a street course. It is quite a bit slower than our natural terrain courses. But I don’t want to be in here and dig it the whole time. It’s a fun track to drive, especially the back section. It keeps you on your toes. It doesn’t really replicate anything else that we go (race).”

The test will continue with another six-hour session Friday.