2023 Abu Dhabi GP Qualifying Preview – JP
2023 Abu Dhabi GP Qualifying Preview
It is going to be a busy couple of days for James Punt. He has already penned an outright betting preview for this race, see that here. His 2023 Abu Dhabi GP qualifying preview is below.
2023 Abu Dhabi GP Qualifying
It has been a strange weekend so far. First practice saw no less than ten drivers sitting the session out to allow for their team’s rookies to have an outing. The second session was hit by two red flags and there was very little running for anyone.
This morning’s session saw the teams having to cram in as much running as possible, probably splitting set ups and fuel loads across the two drivers to try to get the data needed to finalise their set up for qualifying and the race. The result was a strange pecking order at the session end.
It is almost as weird as Vegas, with one driver high up and their teammate near the back. George Russell was fastest. He is one of the drivers who drove in FP1 so he has had a good amount of track time.
Lando Norris was only 0.095 off Russell’s time. Encouragingly, his teammate Piastri was third, so the McLaren looks to have competitive pace here, as expected.
Lewis Hamilton was way back in 12th in the other Mercedes. More fuel, or just off the pace? He had been running a lower downforce set up than Russell, so that might explain it.
Bouncy Red Bull
Red Bull? Who? There is a car painted like a Red Bull but it isn’t driving like one. Verstappen has been complaining about the car bouncing all weekend and he spent a lot of time in the pits having settings changed. By the end of the session, the car looked more settled, but slow.
Verstappen was 0.735 slower than Russell. That is a huge gap. Perez being 0.841 off the pace just confirms that Rd Bull are lost. Can they sort it out between FP3 and qualifying? I doubt it. Usually, if they struggle on Friday, they have it sorted by FP3 (unless it is a sprint race weekend).
Ferrari did a lot of long runs today, they need to have an idea of tyre deg for race day, but when they put on new softs for a qualy sim they were 0.681 behind with Leclerc, while Sainz, who smashed up his car yesterday, was plumb last.
The two Williams were 4th and 8th having been nearer the back in FP2. Is that real pace, or just that others are off the boil, or lugging heavy fuel loads?
It is a confusing picture.
Russell has not qualified on pole this year. He has had three front rows. Mercedes have only had the one pole position in 2023. That was in Hungary, which is a bit of an outlier, high downforce track. It would be something of a surprise if Mercedes got pole in my opinion.
If Ferrari and Red Bull are just off the pace, and it seems that is the case, Mercedes’ chances are greatly improved. But there is McLaren to consider.
The McLaren is finishing the season as the second best car. They have not had a pole position in 2023 but Norris has had three front rows, Piastri one. Very much like Mercedes’ record.
McLaren are at their best on tracks with long, fast corners, of which this isn’t one. However, they have been widening their sweet spot as the season has gone on and the car is more of an all-rounder these days.
The odds for this qualifying session are strange. Verstappen is 2.75 to be the fastest qualifier. This is the man who has taken twelve pole positions in 2023. George Russell is 5.00, as is Lando Norris.
Russell has had a very good weekend so far. He has driven in all three sessions, has found a good setup, was very consistent on his longs runs and is right in the frame.
Will Norris, in the better car, be quicker? Norris sat out FP1 and didn’t get much running in FP2, but he has been second quickest in both the sessions he has taken part in, by less than a tenth in both.
This is a car track and the McLaren is the better car. Hopefully he won’t end up second for this session.