Hamilton quickest in twilight second practice in Abu Dhabi

Lewis Hamilton at Abu Dhabi - FP2 - December 10 2021
© Mercedes;

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton took control of the times in second practice for the 2021 season finale, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as the sun set over Yas Marina Circuit.

Alpine were also looking strong with Esteban Ocon edging Valtteri Bottas for the runners-up spot and Red Bull pair Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez fourth and fifth ahead of Fernando Alonso.

While others switched back to medium tyres for he final quarter of an hour, Verstappen put in an extended run on the soft compound suggesting that Red Bull might be considering a different strategy for Sunday's race.

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Alpine F1 Team A521. 10.12.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi

The first practice session for the season finale had been pretty straightforward, with Red Bull's Max Verstappen claiming first blood ahead of the two Mercedes drivers. But with the sun now setting over Yas Marina and temperatures having fallen 10C since FP1 it was time for things to get even more tense and serious, as track conditions grew closer to those that will prevail for the crucial qualifying session and Sunday's race.

No one was wasting any time getting back to work, most heading out on the medium compound with Daniel Ricciardo among the last to hit the road. Valtteri Bottas topped the initial times with a lap of 1:25.339s but his Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton quickly shaved two tenths off that before missing the apex at turn 7, with Lando Norris left dividing them in the standings having gone out on a set of soft tyres on the McLaren.

Hamilton improved to 1:24.943s to keep him half a tenth clear of Verstappen's latest as they eased them away from Norris, Charles Leclerc and Fernando Alonso, but the Red Bull's time was deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 16. Bottas' bid to keep pace ended up drifting wide and making light contact with the wall at turn 14 that sent him back to pit lane for a checkover. Meanwhile Nicholas Latifi had a more emphatic moment after a slow slide across the track near the same spot, resulting in a broken rear wing. Fortunately the Williams was still under its own power and able to limp for home.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W12 both called in by the FIA for checks. 10.12.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina

Hamilton unleashed something extra to extend his lead at the top of the timing screens to almost a second with a new lap of 1:24.126s, with Alpine's Esteban Ocon on softs now third ahead of the two McLarens after an even quicker lap for Fernando Alonso fell foul of track limits. Bottas had used his visit to pit lane to take the opportunity to also switch to the soft compound which allowed him to close up on Hamilton with his next run. With Verstappen back in the garage, Bottas had time for another run that put him top by 0.043s.

Now it was Hamilton's turn to change to the red walled compound but his first lap out of the box - while an improvement - was not enough to overtake Bottas after a big slide at turn 1 to avoid traffic. Verstappen was also back in action, and also on softs, but his initial run was a quarter of a second slower than the Finn and only good enough for third ahead of the two Alpines. Ocon then put in an even better time to take the top spot suggesting that Mercedes and Red Bull were yet to show their full potential, as Bottas' latest promising response was thwarted by a front right lock-up at turn 12 sending him into the run-off to avoid another flat-spot. It set a trend, with Haas' Nikita Mazepin following suit moments later also without lasting harm with a breeze potentially nagging at rear stability.

With drivers starting to revert back to the medium tyres for long distance higher fuel runs for the final 24 minutes of the session, Hamilton made a point by taking the top spot from Ocon by a meaty 0.343s. Some drivers including Verstappen, Ocon and Leclerc continued to run on old sets of softs to check for durability, but no one was improving times. It meant Bottas remained third from the Red Bull pair Verstappen and Sergio Perez, bumping Alonso down to sixth ahead of AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda and Ferrari team mates Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. Pierre Gasly rounding out the top ten as the floodlights took over and stood out against the deep orange desert skies.


Just as the chequered flags were coming out, the sole major incident of the session took place at turn 14 when Kimi Raikkonen lost the rear of the Alfa Romeo and crunched into the wall. It inflicted some nasty injuries on the front and rear of the car but fortunately not the driver, who swiftly leapt out after apologising to the team over the radio where the mechanics are braced to undertake rather a lot of repair work overnight.

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