Verstappen goes quickest in FP1 as Hamilton bounces back to lead second practice in Abu Dhabi

Kimi Raikkonen walks away from hefty crash that red-flagged the FP2 in his last F1 race weekend

By Olivia Kairu

Hamilton was the only driver to break into the 1:23 seconds zone in Abu Dhabi on Friday (Photo: Mercedes/Twitter)

Max Verstappen led the first practice session in Abu Dhabi on Friday with a 1:25.009s lap-time ahead of Valtteri Bottas championship rival Lewis Hamilton.

But the Dutchman lost out in the FP2 to both Mercedes Drivers, only managing to go P4 on the timesheet, six-hundredths off Hamilton’s fastest time of 1:23.691s. The Briton finished 0.343s ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon. Bottas wrapped the top3.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez maintained a top 5 finish in both sessions, coming fourth in the FP1 and fifth in the FP2.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton and 24-year-old Verstappen enter the final race weekend of the season tied on points at the redesigned Yes Marina Circuit.

While Hamilton was the only driver to break into the 1:23 seconds zone, his teammate Bottas, dented the barriers while sliding into Turn 12 before limping back into the pit garage with minimal damage to his right-rear tyre in the FP2.

The Alfa Romeo-bound Finn is in his final weekend with Mercedes after spending five seasons with the German team.

“It doesn’t feel too bad. It started off good but got a bit worse in P1, then started off better in the second session with some changes we made,” said Hamilton in his post-practice interview. “But yes, now we just have to crank through the data and try to figure out how we can improve, where we home in. The target is always moving, but yes.

“Otherwise, I feel good. I feel great in my body,” he added, “and as I said I think we made some positive steps set-up-wise, so we’ll try and perfect it tonight and come back hard tomorrow.”

Verstappen thinks Mercedes is faster on fast laps in the Yas Marina circuit.

“We’re still learning and understanding a few things but of course clearly the short run didn’t go to plan – lacking a bit of pace – but the long runs were quite a bit more competitive so of course, that’s also a bit more important,” Verstappen said, seeming uncomfortable with the balance of his Red Bull.

Alpine and AlphaTauri

The Alpine duo is in good form for the weekend as Ocon split both Mercedes in the FP2 by setting the second-fastest time of the session, a 1:24.034s lap time after previously running in P11 during first practice.

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso stayed in P6 for both sessions but had a 1:24.266s lap time deletion for exceeding track limits.

Yuki Tsunoda of AlphaTauri dropped two spots to go seventh fastest in second practice from an impressive P5 in FP1. His teammate Pierre Gasly lagged behind in P10 1.2 seconds off the fastest time to round up the top ten in second practice.

Ferrari and McLaren

Both Ferrari drivers and McLaren’s Lando Norris are engaged in an intense battle for fifth in the driver’s championship.

Norris briefly held P1 in FP2after setting a flying 1:25.072s lap but lost out due to running outside of track limits, having to settle for a low P13 after suffering front-wing damage.

His teammate Daniel Ricciardo improved from a low P16 to P11 on the timesheet after a stellar P5 finish in last weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. McLaren is running a special livery designed by UAE-based artist Rabab Tantawy.

Ferrari looking to clinch third place in the constructor’s championship after a master recovery throughout the season had both drivers well within the top 10.

Carlos Sainz Jr. and Charles Leclerc interchanged in P8 and P9 finished for both sessions with Leclerc leading in FP1 and Sainz taking over for the second practice. 

Canadian driver Lance Stroll led a fairly quiet Friday, maintaining the fifteenth fastest time in both sessions behind four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, who dropped from tenth in the first session to fourteenth in FP2.

Kittos, Kimi

Antonio Giovinazzi is paying one of the many tributes to fellow Alfa Romeo teammate Kimi Raikkonen, set to retire from F1 after the Abu Dhabi race.

The Italian is rocking a “Thank you Kimi” special helmet design in what is also his final F1 weekend, as he’ll leave the series for Formula E in 2022 after being replaced by his team.

Giovinazzi got P12 in the FP1 from a previous P14 in the first session. Raikkonen had a big crash into turn 14, causing the second practice session to end in a red flag. He dropped three places from an first practice thirteenth to sixteenth on the FP2 timesheet. 

Williams brings in reserve driver

Canadian Nicholas Latifi spun early in the second session incurring damage to his rear wing to finish 18th overall.

His teammate George Russell gave room to Williams while reserve driver Jack Aitken in the FP1, who ran in 17th and ahead of Latifi.

Russell stayed 17th in his final free practice session for Williams as he’ll join Mercedes in 2022.

The Haas duo of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin rounded up the grid as usual with a respective P19 and P20 finish. 

The Abu Dhabi Qualifying session is scheduled for Saturday 8:00 AM EST, 05:00 AM PST and the Grand Prix for the same time on Sunday.

See the full FP1 results below:

See the full FP2 results below:

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