Mercedes Valtteri Bottas was fastest in the second practice for this weekends season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Finn who hasn’t won since this race last year edged out the Red Bull by four-hundredths of a second.
Red Bull had looked very strong in the afternoon session, but under the twilight condition’s Bottas proved that Mercedes had the edge. Daniel Ricciardo wasn’t far off his teammate a tenth behind the Mercedes Bottas in third, a tenth off Bottas.
Bottas’s teammate Lewis Hamilton was fourth fastest, meaning that the top four could be close. The five times world champion, however, appeared to be stronger on race pace and tyre management, although most of the drivers struggled with the ultrasoft tyre life.
Ferrari appeared to struggle with outright pace, with Kimi Raikkonen leading Sebastian Vettel by a tenth off a second, while he was two tenths off Bottas’s outright pace. However, Red Bull lead the way when it comes to long run pace.
However, Ferrari will be expected to have more in qualifying. Tomorrow’s session could be a very close battle between the top three teams as there was on three tenths between Bottas in P1 and Vettel in P6, however, there was a huge gap to seventh.
A number of drivers made mistakes at Turn Twenty, where a new exit kerb has been introduced. Verstappen grinded his Red Bull over the kerb early in the session, with the car bottoming out so that he was unable to brake or turn before he was shot into the ample run-off area.
Charles Leclerc had a similar moment later in the session, also avoiding any serious damage to his car, but the location of the kerb. The Monacan finished the session fifteenth.
There were no major incidents in the session after Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson spun and dinked his front wing in the earlier first 90 minutes.
Romain Grosjean was best of the rest in seventh, with his Haas over half a second behind Vettel. The Frenchman lead Nico Hulkenberg by almost two tenths, while his teammate Kevin Magnussen was ninth. Esteban Ocon was tenth fastest in the Force India ahead of the Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly and the second Renault of Carlos Sainz.
Gasly, however, showed that Toro Rosso may he has strong pace on the ultrasofts early on, before slipping down the order.
One of the talking points tonight will be the exit kerb at turn twenty after a number of drivers were caught out. Verstappen was one, the Red Bull went over
Heading into what could be his last weekend in F1, Fernando Alonso put his McLaren thirteenth. Alonso was just over two tenths faster than the Renault of Carlos Sainz, who will replace him next year. Sergio Perez was fourteenth ahead of the fastest Sauber of Charles Leclerc and the second Toro Rosso of Brendon Hartley.