Bottas leads Hamilton in fire-interrupted Abu Dhabi practice

Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Bottas leads Hamilton in fire-interrupted Abu Dhabi practice

Formula 1

Bottas leads Hamilton in fire-interrupted Abu Dhabi practice


Valtteri Bottas resumed control of the time sheet for Mercedes in the crucial evening practice session at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which was briefly interrupted by a fire that struck Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo.

The Finn went fastest with a lap of 1m 36.276s ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton, who was 0.203s adrift. Both drivers set their best laps on the medium tire. Bottas wrote off his soft lap with a twitchy moment through the first turn, while Hamilton had a time that would have been good enough to top the session by 0.2s deleted for exceeding track limits out of the final corners.

Bottas eclipsed the returning Hamilton…but only because the world champ had a faster lap deleted. Zak Mauger/Motorsport Images

Max Verstappen was third quickest for Red Bull Racing, the Dutchman also on the medium tire. He too was on track to lead the session with the soft compound after setting a purple first sector and a personal best time at the second split, but he was held up by slower cars on long-run simulations in the final sector, ruining the lap.

Verstappen’s still-unsigned teammate, Alex Albon, was fourth fastest and a further 0.2s adrift as the fastest driver on the soft tire.

The second practice session in Abu Dhabi is crucial to setting up the car for the cooling twilight conditions of qualifying and the race, but teams suffered a disrupted 90 minutes as the sun set on the Yas Marina Circuit.

Drivers first had to set at least eight representative timed laps on Pirelli’s proposed C4 compound for 2021 — the same compound as this weekend’s medium, albeit with a new construction — which almost all of them got out of the way as their first order of business.

Teams then resumed what would be a more typical second practice program, with short stints on the medium or hard tire before undertaking qualifying simulation runs on the softs.

Long-run simulations then ensued until Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo burst into flames as he exited Turn 7 with around 18 minutes remaining. His stricken car triggered a 10-minute red flag suspension, the session resuming with approximately seven minutes on the clock and warnings of possible oil on track from the combusted power unit.

Only Russell was unable to avail himself of the previous final minutes of running, the Briton’s Williams having succumbed to a suspected MGU-K problem moments before Raikkonen’s failure. Combined with Daniel Ricciardo’s power unit problem during FP1, it was the third example of stressed practice engines reaching the end of their life expectancies at the last round of the season.

By the time the checkered flag flew at the end of the session McLaren’s Lando Norris was quickest of the midfielders in fifth place and 1.6s off the pace. He headed a group of eight drivers down to 12th split by just 0.28s.

Esteban Ocon followed in sixth for Renault, the Frenchman having dangerously balked Albon on the back straight during those final frantic laps after the red flag.

Sergio Perez was seventh, his best time set with the medium tire. The Mexican eschewed completely the soft compound, focusing instead on race performance knowing he will start from the back of the grid with penalties for using too many power unit parts.

Charles Leclerc was the best-placed Ferrari driver in eighth ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the second Renault, as places six to nine were spread over just 0.003s. Lance Stroll completed the top 10 for Racing Point ahead of AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz.

Pierre Gasly was 13th for AlphaTauri ahead of Raikkonen’s stricken Alfa Romeo.

Sebastian Vettel was 15th in his final FP2 for Ferrari ahead of Kevin Magnussen, returning to his Haas cockpit after Mick Schumacher commandeered the car for FP1.

Antonio Giovinazzi was 17th for Alfa Romeo ahead of George Russell’s Williams.

Pietro Fittipaldi complained of brake problems aboard his Haas machine in 19th, but still finished the session ahead of Williams rookie Nicholas Latifi in 20th.


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