Panasonic Toyota Racing got the final race weekend of its 2009 Formula 1 season underway today at Yas Marina Circuit with the opening practice sessions for the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. With qualifying and the race taking place at twilight, which means starting in daylight and ending under artificial lights, the drivers had the chance to experience both conditions today. Practice began in hot sun, with air temperatures hitting 35°C. The initial task for Jarno and Kamui was to learn the 5.554km circuit and adapt to its smooth track surface, which offered little grip at the start of the morning session. As more rubber went down, conditions improved and the team began its programme of set-up evaluations. Second practice also began in natural light but the sun soon set, leaving the artificial lights to take over. Having used only the medium compound Bridgestone Potenza tyre in the opening session, second practice gave the drivers a chance to experience the soft options while also fine-tuning set-up. The team will analyse the data gathered today to realise the TF109's full performance potential in qualifying and the race.
"I must say that was an enjoyable day for me and it was interesting to drive on the new track for the first time. It was good fun and I am looking forward to racing here. They have done a great job with the facilities and the track is really well built, so I am impressed. The first laps were difficult because there was just no grip, but that is normal for a new circuit like this and as the day went on the situation improved. Driving during twilight was a new experience for me and the view does change a little, with some shadows, but generally it is similar to Singapore so it's not a problem. All in all, the car seemed competitive and well-balanced so if we can improve again tomorrow we can have another strong weekend."
"Today went well and it was interesting to drive on this track for the first time; it is a fantastic venue. This is the second time in two weeks I have had to learn a new circuit so it is becoming a familiar experience. I learnt a lot from the Brazil weekend which has already helped me here in Abu Dhabi. It will also be helpful to have a completely dry weekend so I can really become familiar with the car and tyres on this track; that didn't happen in Brazil but I am confident it will this weekend! We have quite a lot of data from today and that will allow us to find areas to improve. I believe we can make another step in terms of performance before qualifying and then I will do my best to start as high as possible."
Dieter Gass, Chief Engineer Race and Test "First of all, big congratulations to the organisers who have created a really extraordinary and exciting facility here at Yas Marina. It is a pleasure to see the cars running around this track. For us it was pretty much a trouble-free day during which we focused initially on getting all the necessary information on the new track and allowing the drivers to get used to it. Everything went well and we also did some aerodynamic comparisons, mainly in the first session. In the evening session we looked more at the tyres and the results were largely as we expected; both compounds seem to be in a workable range so we can expect a consistent race. In terms of performance, as usual it is difficult to evaluate on a Friday but that is particularly true here because the effect of carrying more or less fuel is quite pronounced."