Turn 11, Abu Dhabi
The sight: a small, fast dark grey dot – dayglo-striped – streaks through the sunlight. Whooshing through the shadows of the towering grandstands, it bursts out into the light again, now big in the frame. It might be the slowest car down the back straight but the McLaren-Honda is still reaching 190mph before Fernando Alonso is hard on the brakes, his right index finger demanding five – count them – downshifts.
A strong crosswind becomes a headwind as he points the car aggressively into Turn 11 – and it responds. So far, so good, it looks like a competitively fast F1 car.
The sound: then he stands on the gas and that awful popping part-throttle Honda noise lets the whole thing down, the car stuttering its way through there as the turbo fails to generate enough energy to properly feed both the Mgu-H and engine.
The smell: burning rubber as Lewis Hamilton locks an inner front into that turn, his brake-by-wire unable to cope with the extreme demands he’s just made of it and he runs harmlessly across the turquoise run-off. There’s an intriguing story behind this lock-up and the many others he will make here this weekend.
Up at the exit of the Turn 12-13 chicane intense sunlight is bleaching out the colours, so that it’s just impressionist streaks as the cars arc into there, over the crest and on the power, revs flailing, the driver’s hands and right foot busy.
Nico Hülkenberg is desperately trying to keep the momentum he’s carried in there, fighting the car all the way through the exit, impressively acrobatic. Sergio Pérez’s curve through there is much more consistent, inert. And in that comparison is defined the contrasting patterns of those two Force India drivers in qualifying and race, for Sergio is minimising the loads on front tyres that are particularly short-wearing here.