FP2: Bottas puts Mercedes in charge in Abu Dhabi

Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 W09.
© XPB 

Valtteri Bottas was fastest in Friday's night time practice for the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with the Mercedes setting a time of 1:37.236s in conditions much closer to those expected for qualifying and the race.

FP1 pacesetter Max Verstappen was just 0.044s behind Bottas, with his Red Bull team mate Daniel Ricciardo pipping Lewis Hamilton for third on the timesheets. Ferrari were next best, with Kimi Raikkonen faster than Sebastian Vettel.

The sausage kerb at the penultimate corner continued to cause problems for drivers, with both Verstappen and Sauber's Charles Leclerc among those to suffer slight damage to their cars after running wide at turn 20 during the session.

2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Free Practice 2 times

1Valtteri BottasMercedes1:37.236s36
2Max VerstappenRed Bull1:37.280s+ 0.044s31
3Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1:37.428s+ 0.192s30
4Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:37.443s+ 0.207s34
5Kimi RäikkönenFerrari1:37.461s+ 0.225s39
6Sebastian VettelFerrari1:37.569s+ 0.333s38
7Romain GrosjeanHaas1:38.060s+ 0.824s29
8Nico HülkenbergRenault1:38.230s+ 0.994s35
9Kevin MagnussenHaas1:38.318s+ 1.082s29
10Esteban OconForce India1:38.402s+ 1.166s32
11Pierre GaslyToro Rosso1:38.506s+ 1.270s31
12Carlos SainzRenault1:38.511s+ 1.275s36
13Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1:38.725s+ 1.489s34
14Sergio PérezForce India1:38.806s+ 1.570s30
15Charles LeclercSauber1:38.831s+ 1.595s32
16Brendon HartleyToro Rosso1:38.957s+ 1.721s34
17Marcus EricssonSauber1:39.502s+ 2.266s35
18Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren1:39.938s+ 2.702s17
19Lance StrollWilliams1:40.046s+ 2.810s32
20Sergey SirotkinWilliams1:40.935s+ 3.699s38

Marcus Ericsson (SWE) Sauber C37.

With the sun setting, track temperatures were falling rapidly as cars headed out on track at Yas Marina for the second free practice session on Friday. Lance Stroll was first into action on hypersoft tyres, followed by his Williams team mate Sergey Sirotkin who had reclaimed his seat from FP1 stand-in Robert Kubica.

Stroll's initial laptime of 1:41.081s was soon swept aside by Kimi Raikkonen's 1:40.224s on supersofts, with his Ferrari team mate Sebastian Vettel soon slipping into second just 0.046s back from the Finn. The two Haas drivers of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean were also looking up to speed in third and fourth ahead of Sauber's Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson after the early initial runs.

Renault's Nico Hulkenberg had just moved the goalposts to 1:40.170s as the Mercedes drivers came out to play. Valtteri Bottas immediately carved a second and a half off the top time with his first run on ultras, with Lewis Hamilton second but a lot slower on used supersofts.

Hamilton subsequently went off-roading at the end of the second long straight as drivers continued to test the limits of the circuit. Stoffel Vandoorne had already bounced over the formidable kerbs in the McLaren early in the session, and Hulkenberg locked up and ran wide at turn 1 a few minutes later.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing.

By now, early afternoon pace setters Red Bull were also back up and running. However Verstappen clattered over the sausage kerbs in the penultimate corner which sent him wide in the final turn as a consequence, forcing him to pit for a check and running repairs to the RB14 before returning to duty.

His team mate Daniel Ricciardo managed to go top with a time of 1:38.582s just before the first half hour mark, 0.018s faster than Bottas. Raikkonen responded for Ferrari by taking a new set of hypersofts and vaulting to the head of the times with a lap of 1:37.461s, Vettel once again following in his tyre tracks to go second quickest.

With time running out before teams switched to long distance tyre and fuel runs, Bottas switched to hypers and returned to action to take back the top spot with a lap of 1:37.236s, two tenths faster than Hamilton's latest. Verstappen was also back in action and was fast enough on the pink tyres to displace Hamilton for second.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W09.

As nighttime took hold at the halfway point of the 90-minute session, Bottas was out in front ahead of Verstappen, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Vettel, Ricciardo, Grosjean, Hulkenberg and Magnussen, with Esteban Ocon rounding out the top ten in his final weekend for Force India. Ricciardo subsequently improved to third place, just 15 thousandths faster than Hamilton.

By now, Leclerc had fallen out of the top ten. His latest attempt to improve his situation ended up in an encounter with the increasingly notorious sausage kerb at turn 20, with left the Sauber team checking the car for possible damage. By now, race engineers were busy telling their drivers to stay away from the kerb altogether, and teams were directing calls to race control to do something about the obstacle for future sessions.

The established running order didn't change significantly for the remainder of the session, as teams got down to the less exciting but nonetheless critical work of gathering data for the race. Vettel was soon on the radio complaining about graining on his front tyres, stating: "Tyres are gone!"

By contrast, Sergio Perez was telling the Force India pit wall that "the rear tyres have capacity to help the fronts." Verstappen also seemed to be having little problem with tyre degradation but complained that his battery wasn't recharging fast enough, while Mercedes were sounding positively gleeful as they told Hamilton: "Degradation was better than some competitors - Ferrari were particularly bad!"

However the newly crowned five-time world champion - racing here with a gold helmet and the number 1 on his car - was brought down to earth with a bump at the end of FP2 when he was told to report to race stewards for crossing the white line separating the track from pit entry during the early afternoon session, which may earn him a fine and a penalty point or two.

Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1.

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