Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time of the second practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as the top three teams remained closely matched.
With Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton and Max Verstappen having been covered by less than 0.15s in FP1, the evening session – taking place in representative conditions at the same time as qualifying and the race – saw Hamilton just 0.149s ahead of Vettel on the low fuel runs. It was Daniel Ricciardo who was third for Red Bull on this occasions, some 0.303s adrift of Hamilton’s time.
Kimi Raikkonen was also within half a second in fourth place ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen, with the latter a second off the pace as he complained about a lack of feel with the steering. Verstappen’s struggles were evidenced by an off-track excursion at Turn 20 late in the session, but even Hamilton had been off earlier in the session when looking for the limit at Turn 11.
As has often been the case this year it was Force India that emerged as best of the rest, with Sergio Perez in seventh just 0.010s ahead of teammate Esteban Ocon in eighth. Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso rounded out the top 10 in a session that saw larger than usual gaps between the front-runners and the back of the midfield.
While Stoffel Vandoorne in 12th was 0.3s off Perez’s time, the Belgian – who spun at high speed at Turn 20 and had to restart his car before returning to the pits – was well over a second per lap quicker than the Haas, Sauber and Toro Rosso drivers.
Propping up the times was Romain Grosjean, who endured a torrid session for Haas and completed only 12 laps. Having held up Ricciardo in the final sector – leading to a hand gesture from the Red Bull driver and some sarcastic comments over team radio – Grosjean then had his own spin at Turn 20 before his running was ended early by an electrical issue.
Just ahead of Grosjean was Brendon Hartley, with the Toro Rosso driver seemingly focusing on race pace after being handed another grid penalty. All four of Hartley’s F1 appearances so far have featured grid penalties and the New Zealander will drop 10 places as a result of a new MGU-H. He wasn’t without incident in FP2, either, suffering an unusual spin at Turn 1 having caught some oversteer on entry but overcorrected.
While Grosjean was the subject of Ricciardo’s frustrations, Felipe Massa also cut up the Australian at the Turn 7 hairpin late in the session that saw the Red Bull driver have to lift to avoid contact.