29 October 2013
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Maldonado - This is a track that suits me
Both Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas have good memories of the Yas Marina circuit, but will they help transform Williams' fortunes in the 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?
Pastor Maldonado will be hoping to give the Williams team a welcome points boost as he returns to one of the venues that served him best in 2012.
The Venezuelan, whose future at the Grove squad is said to be in doubt amid the usual 'silly season' rumours, produced a sterling qualifying effort under the lights in Abu Dhabi, before following up a second row start with a strong race, which saw him overcome technical gremlins to add ten points to both his and the team's tally.
Sadly, the 2013 F1 campaign has not been as kind to Williams, with Maldonado's 2012 victory in Barcelona now a distant 18-month memory as the team struggles to breach the top ten and add to the solitary point the Venezuelan achieved in Hungary ahead of the summer break. Despite that, the former GP2 Series champion remains upbeat ahead of the final eastwards 'flyaway' of the year.
“I had a good weekend here [in 2012], qualifying in P3 and finishing P5 despite not having KERS available in the race, so this is a track that suits me and I have good memories of it,” he insisted.
“I like the track's first sector in particular, as it is very quick, particularly turns two, three and four, and the final sector is very picturesque. We have made some progress in recent weeks, and the car felt better in India, so we will be looking to continue moving forwards as we approach the final few races of the season.”
Williams focus, as always when F1 heads for a hotter climate, will be on thermal tyre degradation, and chief race engineer Xevi Pujolar is well aware of the unique factors produced by racing into the night at one of the sport's more visually-attractive venues.
“The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is a unique race, starting under the glare of the sunshine and ending as the sun goes down,” he confirmed, “Tyre degradation can be an issue due to the high temperatures and changing track conditions, and this could be especially important in the race regarding strategy and the order in which you run on each compound.
“The Yas Marina circuit is different to most for tyres. Lateral tyre energy is low, whilst longitudinal energy is high due to the severe braking and traction demands. Furthermore, the track surface not only improves over the weekend, but the track evolves between and even within sessions, with sometimes significant drops in track temperature.”
For Valtteri Bottas, this weekend presents another new venue to race on, although he has plenty of prior experience, having first tasted F1 there in 2011 and posted a fine ninth-best time in Friday morning practice during his 'learning year' in 2012. The Finn finished a lapped 16th in last weekend's Indian GP and is hoping for better in Abu Dhabi.
“I have good memories of the Yas Marina circuit, as this is where I drove a F1 car for the first time in 2011 with Williams,” he noted, “We had a strong result here last year as well, which should prove useful for this weekend when setting the car up.
“Abu Dhabi is very different to recent tracks, as the corners are quite short with lots of chicanes and big braking zones, so we will need to set the car up differently. You need good traction when exiting the corners to minimise wheelspin and your car needs to be good at taking kerbs. We are not expecting the track to be too severe on tyres, although because the ambient and track temperatures are quite high the tyres can degrade thermally quite a bit so we will need to manage that.”
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