What happens on any given F1 Saturday?

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Practice Day - Abu Dhabi, UAE

11:00 – 12:00: FREE PRACTICE 3

The third free practice only lasts for 60 minutes and does not serve the same purpose as Friday’s 90-minute sessions.

“FP1 is to evaluate aerodynamic parts on the car,” McCullough says. “There is extra instrumentation on the car to check correlation, or test a new front wing, a new nose. The driver may want to have some understanding of the circuit, the tyres… You also set the optimum ride eight, which is different on each circuit.

“FP2 is very much race preparation, it’s all about getting a balance, a car set-up. Initially with low fuel, and then high fuel long runs to see tyre degradation.”


By comparison, the Saturday morning session is focussed on qualifying preparation. Usually, it tends to comprise two short runs on the harder (prime) tyre, and one short run on the softer (option) compound.

“After every run, Nico [Hülkenberg] and Sergio [Perez] have an overlay of their last lap. So, if three quarters of the lap are identical to their team-mate, but one quarter is poor, we will zoom in into the poor sector and put that on the screen, and say ‘OK Turn 18 you brake late or early, try this combination of sequence.’

“But the driver can also take the initiative and say to the performance engineer: ‘on Lap 3, between Turn 6 and 7, I used a different gear, can you have a look at it?’ And the engineer can say ‘yes you are quicker’ or ‘actually no you are slower’; or ‘the same’: very quick information.

“We very rarely run high fuel in FP3, only if we have problems. We work on qualifying set up, bearing in mind that temperatures in FP3 are usually much cooler than during qualifying, with tyres working differently as a consequence. We also practice starts, clutch bite point, etc. You try to tick a lot of boxes on your item list.”

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Practice Day - Abu Dhabi, UAE