Sebastian Vettel is optimistic his Red Bull Racing team will be competitive at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after a solid start to the weekend.
Vettel, now looking to secure the runner-up spot in this year's championship, finished the afternoon session in fourth position, less than three tenths of a second behind pace-setter Heikki Kovalainen. The German driver, who has been in a difficult situation over the use of engines, praised the Renault unit for having made it until the final race of the season.
"So, that was the last Friday practice of this year," said Vettel. "I'd like to say thanks to Renault – many people didn't believe that we'd succeed without having to change an engine, but here we are having completed a lot of miles on another Friday without a single problem.
"Abu Dhabi is a new circuit, so new conditions – including starting driving in the daylight and finishing the session at night, which is quite exciting. Obviously, the circuit was very green and slippery to begin with, but overall it's quite a thrill to drive, with some good corners.
"It's also pretty special to go under a hotel! Performance wise, we're looking quite good. We didn't know what to expect around here, but it seems as though we're quite competitive, although we will have to wait to see how competitive. Even though it's a new track, it was a normal Friday practice and we were testing which tyre works best."
Teammate Mark Webber had an engine change between the morning and the afternoon sessions, but the Australian did not lose any track time and finished in seventh place.
"A productive first day at a new track," said Webber. "We had an engine change between P1 and P2 – the guys did a brilliant job to get the car turned around in time. Other than that, we got on with the normal tire comparisons and other tests we do on a Friday – so, although a new track, a normal Friday.
"The track's pretty good – it's not Spa, but it's also not Bahrain! It's not bad. There was a difference in clarity between driving in the afternoon for P1 and in the early evening during P2 – it's a different atmosphere when the lights are on, but we're used to that from Singapore."