Lewis Hamilton started the weekend where he can clinch a record-breaking eighth World Drivers’ Championship in good form as he set the fastest time overall during Friday practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver was only third fastest in the morning session at the revised Yas Marina Circuit, although he did lose his best time to track limits.
However, he ended the evening session under the floodlights with the quickest time overall, more than three-tenths faster than Alpine F1 Team’s Esteban Ocon, and more than six-tenths ahead of title rival Max Verstappen.
Looking ahead to the rest of the weekend, Hamilton says Mercedes will work hard overnight to perfect the set-up as he expects a close battle at the front of the field between them and Red Bull Racing.
“It’s been a decent day, I like the changes they’ve made to the track – it’s made it free-flowing and more enjoyable,” said Hamilton. “It’s obviously close between us all and a little unknown in terms of relative pace but I’m sure it’s going to be super close, as it has been in the previous races.
“The car doesn’t feel too bad, it started off in a good place and then got a bit worse in FP1. In FP2, it was little better with some of the changes we made. Now we just need to crunch through the data and try to figure out how we can improve, the target is always moving.
“On my long run, I was trying to follow the car ahead and it still wasn’t easy here but it should be better than in the past. 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.”
“We’ll do important work overnight” – Valtteri Bottas
Team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who will leave Mercedes after the race to join Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN in 2022, ended third fastest in the evening session having finished second earlier in the day.
The Finn had one moment when he clipped the wall midway through the second session, but after a quick check in the pits, he was back out on track and setting competitive lap times.
Bottas says the new layout at the Yas Marina Circuit feels better than it was, and he believes it will offer more chances to overtake on Sunday evening.
“It was nice to get a feel of the modified layout, the track feels better than before with more flow and some increased overtaking opportunities,” said Bottas. “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!
“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, but none of the laps today were amazing so there should still be more to come.
“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. We’ll do important work overnight and be ready for tomorrow.”