The Friday in F1 Qatar GP saw first run at the new circuit as teams and drivers lapped as much to get to grips and understand the nuances.

The Friday in F1 Qatar GP saw drivers learning the new Losail circuit, both in daylight and under floodlights. There were several moments from almost everyone on the field as the fight at the front was evenly matched with a session to each of the drivers.

In general as well, there’s more time to come and more things to learn which opens up the strategy interpretations. Both Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen reckoned they still are not sure about many things and will have to analyse the data to understand.

On their teammates side, while Valtteri Bottas felt better with how things went on his side and Mercedes’ guestimation on set-up, Sergio Perez reckons he certainly needs to find more time. The Mexican was outside the Top 5 in both the F1 sessions.

Hamilton: “I don’t even know how big the gap is, but I’m off, so I’m definitely not close. I’m a little bit slow, so I need to figure that out tonight. Driving-wise, it’s okay. I mean it’s all high-speed corners, so it’s definitely physical, but then the track’s quite nice, no real issues.”

Verstappen: “It was the first time we ran in the evening, so it was important to understand how the car would react. Quite a bit of the change between the medium and the soft tyre I think for me, that’s why on the soft tyre it wasn’t let’s say amazing, but again you know it’s our first time here, so a lot of things to understand. You need to learn the track a bit, but it’s been a lot of fun to drive to be honest. I think it’s a really cool track.”

Perez: “I think we’ve got some work to do. I’m not entirely happy with the balance, so we’ve got some work to do to sort that out hopefully for tomorrow. We had a good start but obviously we’ve done some changes especially going onto the soft tyre that we need to review. And hopefully we can sort it out. Margins are very close, everything is really close around the teams, so hopefully we can be strong come quali.”

While there was Red Bull and Mercedes on the top, AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly makes double P2 appearance in the practice sessions. The Frenchman was super happy with the pace shown, where teammate Yuki Tsunoda was not far off behind too.

Interestingly, McLaren will be happy for Gasly to try and stop Ferrari F1 duo from scoring as much, while obviously hoping that he doesn’t ruin it for their pair. The former did seem a little off with the latter having a mixed run as well in the fight for third in standings.

Gasly: “It’s been great. P2 in both sessions, it’s been a very good Friday, the best of the season so far, so it felt great. Actually inside the car, it’s not that easy in these conditions, so I can’t tell if it feels like we’re flying, but the lap time is really good so that’s a positive. But still, I think in terms of balance, we can do even better for tomorrow, so we’ll try and work on that. Let’s be objective, we know that Red Bull and Mercedes always pick up the pace massively on Saturday and Sunday. They are clearly not the target. We’ll obviously do the best we can, and if we can be in front of them, that will be obviously very pleasant. But the main target for us is Alpine. We’ll try and fight with the McLarens and the Ferraris, but so far we look very competitive, and I’m excited to see what we can do tomorrow.”

Leclerc: “It felt really intense in these cars around this track. Just super quick. I mean the speeds that we are going, it’s difficult to explain to you guys, but it’s crazy. Those high-speed corners are really allowing us to feel the beasts that we are actually driving this year and these last few years and it’s been a bit of a thrill to be honest; you’re also challenging yourself mentally to trust that the thing is going to grip and you are going to carry that many Gs and that much speed into the corners for so many corners like we are doing here. So it’s been a good challenge.”

Ricciardo: “This track’s fun. The initial impressions are that it’s good with it being flowing and pretty fast. We didn’t really progress in the second session. We changed the car a bit to experiment with a few things, but it was probably two steps off, so we’ve still got a bit to find there. Lando was more promising and we can learn a bit from that car. I was a bit off in the first sector so got some work to do there – but I’m not concerned, just a few things to look into tonight. Competitiveness-wise, I think Ferrari will be there tomorrow and Alpha Tauri looked quick. Hopefully we can find a bit more for Saturday.”

While AlphaTauri is fighting against Alpine, but the latter seemed a bit off pace and more around the fag end of the Top 10 than higher up. In fact, they will have Aston Martin to fight through as well, who looked to be a better shape too.

Behind them, Alfa Romeo seemed a bit off from the mid-pack and more in a standalone scene ahead of Williams and Haas. It seems like it will be tough for them to break into the Top 10, while Nikita Mazepin rues a frustrating early end due to chassis damage.

Vettel: “Today was okay from my perspective, but at this stage it is difficult to understand where we are because everyone is still getting to grips with the track. It takes some time to focus and find your rhythm, but overall this is a very fun circuit to drive. I was not so happy with our pace over one lap and traffic made it difficult to get clean laps, but we have some time in FP3 to work on that further. Tomorrow, everyone will be aiming for the perfect lap in qualifying, but only some will achieve it. I am hoping to be one of them because, with it being so difficult to overtake, securing a good position on the grid will play a major part in our final result.”

Alonso: “The circuit is really great to drive. I love the layout and how the combination of corners really gives you the feeling and ability to maximise the potential in a Formula 1 car. I was enjoying every lap, so it was a fun Friday. The grip levels were good today especially in FP2 and the car also felt solid in both sessions. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow and we need to evaluate everything overnight but our plan will be to target Q3 in qualifying tomorrow. Overall, a happy day for a happy man.”

Mazepin: “I think it’s the fastest circuit I can remember visiting this year in terms of almost no slow corners here, which definitely makes it an interesting challenge. The surface is very smooth which makes it an enjoyable experience and this track is all about what Formula 1 cars bring. I felt something come very close to the bottom of my car. It’s frustrating as I didn’t leave the circuit, I was inside the track limits at the moment it happened, so I think these kerbs aren’t very nice to all the cars. In particular, it hit my car at the wrong angle and it makes for a very careful session and race from now on. I think that the first session we do tomorrow, we will start by being inside the white lines and actually not think about the speed but be careful from the beginning – which is the priority – and then build the pushing from that point onwards.”

The Friday running in F1 Qatar GP was also to learn more about the track limits. The FIA started off with a note warning about certain corners and changed it to whole track with the purple and white kerb being the judge. Now with the two sessions done, they have brought back the monitoring to few corners.

Track limits –

“The track limit on the exit of each corner at this track is defined as when no part of a car remains in contact with the purple and white kerb. For the avoidance of doubt, Drivers will be judged to have left the track on the exit of a corner if no part of the car remains in contact with the purple and white kerb. Should a car leave the track as defined above, the driver may re-join, however, this may only be done when it is safe to do so and without gaining a lasting advantage.

Turn 2 Exit –

a) A lap time achieved during any practice session or the race by leaving the track and cutting behind the purple and white kerb on the exit of Turn 2, will result in that lap time being invalidated by the stewards.

Turn 7 Exit –

a) A lap time achieved during any practice session or the race by leaving the track and cutting behind the purple and white kerb on the exit of Turn 7, will result in that lap time being invalidated by the stewards.

Turn 16 Exit –

a) A lap time achieved during any practice session or the race by leaving the track and cutting behind the purple and white kerb on the exit of Turn 16, will result in that lap time and the immediately following lap time being invalidated by the stewards.

General – Turn 2 Exit, Turn 7 Exit and Turn 16 Exit –

a) Each time any car fails to negotiate Turn 2 Exit, Turn 7 Exit or Turn 16 Exit by using the track as defined above, teams will be informed via the official messaging system.

b) On the third occasion of a driver failing to negotiate Turn 2 Exit and/or Turn 7 Exit and/or Turn 16 Exit by using the track as defined above during the race, he will be shown a black and white flag, any further cutting will then be reported to the stewards. For the avoidance of doubt this means a total of three occasions combined not three at each corner.

c) The above requirements will not automatically apply to any driver who is judged to have been forced off the track, each such case will be judged individually.

Here’s how F1 Qatar GP FP1 panned out

Here’s how F1 Qatar GP FP2 panned out