Formula 1

FP2: Bottas leads Hamilton under the lights in Abu Dhabi as Verstappen takes P3

Valtteri Bottas headed Free Practice 2 for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by 0.203s from his returning Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen taking P3, seven-tenths adrift – although that picture might not be quite as clear as it seems, after issues for all three drivers during the session.

Bottas, Hamilton and Verstappen’s fastest times from FP2 were all set on the medium tyres, rather than the softs, with Hamilton and Verstappen having times deleted for track limits infractions, while a mistake from Bottas on his soft push lap meant that, once the session was concluded, the Finn’s 1m 36.276s lap stood as the quickest under the floodlights at Yas Marina.

FP1 Highlights: 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Hamilton had a faster 1m 36.097s lap deleted, leaving the five-time Abu Dhabi winner 0.203s off Bottas’ time from his fastest medium tyre lap, while Verstappen lost a 1m 37.029s, with Red Bull seemingly a step behind Mercedes on pure pace, as the Dutchman ended up 0.770s adrift, having led FP1.

There were worries for Hamilton at the end of the session though, with the seven-time champion stopping briefly in the pit lane five minutes from the end, complaining of having no gears, before apparently finding one and setting off again.

FORMULA 1 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX 2020

Practice 2 results

POSITION TIME
1  Valtteri BOTTAS Mercedes 1:36.276
2  Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.203s
3  Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing +0.770s
4  Alexander ALBON Red Bull Racing +0.987s
5  Lando NORRIS McLaren +1.162s

After his spin in FP1 this morning, Alex Albon tucked into P4 behind his team mate Verstappen, two-tenths off the Dutchman. Behind the Thai driver, though, a fierce battle was raging in the midfield, with just 0.122s separating McLaren driver Lando Norris’ time for P5 from Racing Point’s Lance Stroll’s P10 effort.

READ MORE: Russell, Grosjean, Leclerc and Vettel reveal one-off helmet designs for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Renault’s Esteban Ocon, fresh off his maiden podium last week, was the closest to Norris in P6, while Racing Point’s Sergio Perez was an impressive P7, despite setting his fastest time on the medium rubber – Sakhir GP winner Perez’s pace slightly academic, however, with the Mexican and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen due to start from the back of the grid after taking engine penalties.

There might be penalties coming for Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen and Williams returnee George Russell, meanwhile, with both drivers’ cars spitting flames after failures – Raikkonen forced to stop out on track with fire licking around his C39 and bringing out a 10-minute red flag, with the Finn having set the 14th fastest time, while Russell was 18th quickest – Raikkonen’s red flag hampering the teams’ long run plans.

Behind Perez, Charles Leclerc was eighth-quickest for Ferrari, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo – back on track after his fuel pressure issue in FP1 – and Stroll. Both AlphaTauris made the top 10 in FP1, but couldn’t manage a repeat in the cooler conditions of FP2, Daniil Kvyat going 11th to Gasly’s 13th – the Frenchman having made an error on his first push lap on softs and spinning at Turn 1 – with the AlphaTauri pair sandwiching the second McLaren of Carlos Sainz.

MUST-SEE: Fernando Alonso drives his 2005 title-winning Renault R25 at Abu Dhabi

Behind Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel found himself nearly 2s off the ultimate pace on his final weekend as a Ferrari driver, finishing 15th ahead of Magnussen. Rounding out the top 20 came the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi in 17th, Russell in 18th, while Haas’ Pietro Fittipaldi was 19th, ahead of the second Williams of Nicholas Latifi.

So that was the state of play on Friday evening. But with a significant loss of time after Raikkonen’s red flag, several important laps deleted, and with the teams having given up eight timed laps to test the 2021 C4 Pirelli compound during the session, the picture is far from clear ahead of Saturday’s qualifying in Abu Dhabi.

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