Formula 1 made its official debut at the Algarve International Circuit today and it impressed a number of the drivers, despite the track been quite green and a number of complaints about a lack of grip.
Blind corners, a number of undulations and strict track limits means a cracking weekend of action is surely in store.
Six-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton said: “It’s massively challenging, the undulations are incredible. There’s a lot of places where you can’t see where you’re going.
“The exit of Turn 8, you’re looking at the sky for a period of time and you have no idea what’s beyond the hill. Also into Turn 11, you don’t know where you’re are and all of a sudden it arrives at you out of nowhere.”
Sebastian Vettel declared his appreciation for the circuit: “It’s quite a nice track, I’ve never been here before, my first day. I like it, I think tomorrow will be better just waking up and knowing where you need to go. It’s good. It’s probably proof that we have plenty of tracks that are exciting, we just need to pick the right ones!”
After a strong day in the SF1000, Charles Leclerc called it an ‘’amazing’’ venue: ‘’The track itself is amazing! It took quite a few laps to get into the rhythm because we don’t see any apexes but once you get into the rhythm then it feels very good.”
Despite a dramatic fire on his AlphaTauri in FP2, Pierre Gasly said the track is ‘’really cool.’’
“To be fair it was really cool. The first few laps when I went out I got this feeling you get in the stomach when you’re in a rollercoaster! So after Turn 8, going uphill and downhill I got this same feeling and I was like ‘Whoa!’ – I never felt that in a Formula 1 car!
"I must say it’s quite challenging, a lot of blind corners, high-speed, low-speed, combined braking, so it’s quite unusual in a way. I like it when tracks are unique and I think it is, so it was pretty cool.”
Away from the praise for the track, a lot of drivers were struggling to find the sweet spot with their cars.
After finishing P2 in the opening session, Lewis Hamilton found the afternoon session more difficult. “FP1 was probably the better session for me even though the car didn’t feel that great,” he said.
“Then we made some changes into this one and it felt pretty terrible in FP2. We need to take a few steps back to figure out where we went wrong with the setup and see if we can improve for tomorrow.
“It’s really difficult to get the tyres in the window for the first lap here, even with the Soft. Naturally, they are hard tyres, it’s the hardest range of tyres on the circuit like this, it should be expected I would say.’’
Max Verstappen felt Red Bull improved in FP2 but is looking for further improvements.
“It was quite tricky out there and the new tarmac seems slippery with only one proper line to use as you lose a lot of grip if you run wide. The wind also picked up in the afternoon but overall I think we improved the car from FP1 to FP2 so it all felt a little bit nicer to drive. We will keep trying to improve even further as there are still things we can do better around here.’’
Charles Leclerc finished 4th in both sessions and believes Ferrari are looking good for qualifying.
‘’The grip level didn’t improve much throughout the sessions, which should make for an exciting race.
Today looked quite good for us and, mainly on the qualifying side, it was fairly promising. Let’s wait and see though, as we haven’t had much high-fuel running with normal tyres, as we did some with the prototype-tyres instead. Running with high fuel was actually our weakness at the last race, so it’ll be a bit of a surprise on Sunday and we’ll see where we are."
Fastest man in both FP1 and FP2, Valtteri Bottas had this to say: ‘’It’s been a good day today. The sun was shining, this is a great track for driving; it could definitely be worse! The balance of the car was also pretty good. I was mainly struggling in the slow-speed corners with the rear end of the car but it is not too far away from where I want it, as the lap times would also suggest. But as always, there will be more work to do tomorrow.’’