With the first Free Practice session of the 2017 season complete, the Master Class pilots will be going in to Qualifying knowing what could be done to improve their chances of finishing on the podium. We got their thoughts on the highly anticipated Abu Dhabi race...
"I don't feel the pressure of being World Champion, we're more relaxed than last year. There is not a lot of variation in the course, and you need good reactions to do well here. The pilot that can pull the tightest without picking up penalties will win. There is a high chance of picking up a penalty for incorrect level flying at Gate 7 and Gate 14. It's a fast track so the times will be really close together. I was careful in the second session, but you can't take Free Practice too seriously. We'll see what happens tomorrow in Qualifying, nothing is guaranteed."
"Our objective here is to fly the raceplane smooth and learn what we can about the Edge. It's a basic track and the fastest plane will win. There is a high chance of an over G at Gate 3, and for the faster planes at Gate 10, but our raceplane is 32kts slower than the MXS-R, so we're just looking to fly smooth and clean."
"It was nice to be back in the track and I felt part of my raceplane. It's going to be a very tight race for all of us. If you're a little bit late turning into the chicane or coming out of it you'll lose time on everyone else. Gates 6, 7 and 8 are really important, that's where time can be gained or lost. I'm annoyed I pulled more than 10G so I'm going to look back and see how it happened."
"It's good fun in the track, but our raceplane isn't working well, so we'll be working on it tonight. The track is very difficult to control the G at Gate 3, and everyone could over G in this track. I like the track but we need a slightly better set up for tomorrow."
"The trick in this track is to not over G, which three of us did in a row in Free Practice 2. It's a simple track so I think the fastest raceplane will win. Ultimately if you want to be fast and with a chance to win you have to be right on the limit."
"It's so fast up until the first Vertical Turn Manoeuvre that you've really got to be on your G-game and not make a mistake. There is still a chance you could over-G on the second lap as well. It's going to be the person that stays out of the penalties whilst still being right on the edge."
"I flew the first flight well, but when I flew in the second session I was too aggressive, and exceeded the G-limit. You have to be right on the limit to be fast here. You also have to watch for the safety line as well."
"It's one of those tracks that aren't complicated so it's going to be a really close race. To win here you've got to fly consistently at your best. Two or three small mistakes will see you down the timesheet. We are expecting an over-G at some point. We've decided that that we'd rather lose being aggressive in the track than playing it safe!"
"We've had a good start, but as I say to the team, tomorrow and especially Saturday are the important days. I like the track, I feel comfortable in the racetrack. The team has done a good job in terms of setting up the raceplane and track analysis."
François Le Vot
"The track is not especially difficult. I think I was too confident in the first session, and therefore too conservative in the second. But I wanted to use all my time in the track. This evening we will sit down and talk about our strategy tomorrow. We can already see that we are catching up with other pilots, but we'll be able to tell more after Qualifying."
"I'm really pleased that on my second run I made a really good time, and we improved and I think maybe it was my best flight in the Master Class. The changes we've made to the raceplane have seemed to work. It's really smooth, fast, and keeping energy better, it's just a pure pleasure to fly."
"We flew as we predicted we would. We set out a good strategy from the beginning and it's worked. I love the track and we won't change a thing for tomorrow. When you've got a good formula, why change it?"
"I love the track in Abu Dhabi, it's really fast with big turns and a lot of G. I really like that combination. We're just analysing the data and we'll be studying the lines tonight to see where we can improve. We are getting good numbers in some parts of the track, we're slower than the other guys in some sections, but I'm feeling comfortable in the track and that for me is very important."
"I'm happy with the results, today was good. I wanted to fly clean in the track and not exceed the G-limit, and I achieved that. I wanted to have as many runs as possible, so an over-G would stop that. We're in the top half of the table and happy that we're only 0.8s behind the leader, but we will see what happens on Qualifying and Race Day. But we will continue to improve."