Hamilton plays down Mercedes' Friday advantage

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W12. 10.12.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina
© XPB 

Lewis Hamilton came out on top after the first day of practice for the 2021 season finale at Abu Dhabi, but he's taking nothing for granted in terms of what it means for his hopes of clinching an eighth world title.

Hamilton set the quickest time of 1:23.691s in the twilight second practice at the newly modified Yas Marina Circuit which is estimated to cut up to ten seconds off existing lap records.

That put him 0.641s quicker than his title rival Max Verstappen who was only fourth quickest in terms of single lap pace. But Hamilton remained cautious about his prospects this weekend.

"It's been a relatively decent day," he told the media after the end of the day's track activity in Abu Dhabi. "It's close between us all, but yeah, we got through our sessions."

"The car doesn't feel too bad, it started off in a good place and then got a bit worse in FP1," he continued. "In FP2 it was little better with some of the changes we made.

"Now we're just gonna crank through the data and try and figure out how we can improve, where we home in," he added. "The target always is always moving.

"Overall I feel good, I feel great in my body and we made some positive steps setup-wise so we'll try to perfect it tonight and come back hard tomorrow.

"I'm sure it's going to be super close, as it has been in the previous races," he insisted."

Having been second quickest behind Verstappen in FP1, Hamilton's Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas was third fastest in FP2 after being pipped by a strong showing from Alpine's Esteban Ocon.

"We changed the car quite a bit from FP1 to FP2 and it felt like a step forward so I'm comfortable overall with the car," he insisted. "But none of the laps today were amazing so there should still be more to come.

Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 W12. 10.12.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina

"We had a decent long run with the medium tyre and the car was pretty consistent, you could feel the new faster corners stressing the rear axle a little more than before."

Bottas also had a too-close encounter with the wall in FP2 after a big slide, but escaped without any major damage to his car.

"When I had a little moment on track, I went off-line where it's very dusty and I was a little too wide on the kerbs before that corner and paid for it in the next one - a nice drift!"

The team's chief race engineer Andrew Shovlin was also happy with how the first day in Abu Dhabi had gone.

"We've covered quite a lot of ground as far as the setup work goes," he said. "In the morning we weren't particularly happy with the single lap work but the long run was well balanced.

"In the afternoon, the single lap was coming quite easily but the long run wasn't great and neither driver was particularly happy with the car," he acknowledged

"We're warming up the simulator in Brackley for a busy night of setup work," he said. "The challenge tonight is to understand the effect of the changes we've been making and to find the right compromise between the low and the high fuel running.

"Hopefully between the work here at the track, and the work back there, we can make some good progress overnight," he concluded. "But we've got a good read on the issues today."

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