Valtteri Bottas topped the times in second practice ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Finn set a 36.256 on the medium tyres to pass Red Bull’s Max Verstappen after being the first driver to set a time on the mediums.
Bottas was then followed to the top of the times by Lewis Hamilton, the six-time champion finished the session three tenths down. The Finn has a new power unit which appeared to allow him to build his advantage over Hamilton in sectors one and two.
Bottas was later on a long run when he made a move that was unusually aggressive for a free practice session by diving up the inside of Romain Grosjean’s Haas at the Turn Eleven left-hander. It looks as if the Frenchman appeared not to see the Mercedes.
The collision, which both drivers have blamed each other, saw debris spread all over the track and caused the red flag to be brought out. Bottas returned to the track later in the session.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was third fastest, going six hundredths slower than Hamilton, that was despite him tagging the barrier where teammate Sebastian Vettel had crashed during first practice. Vettel avoided any dramas, however, and was four-tenths off the pace in fourth.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fifth fastest, nearly half a second off the pace and had the same gap to his teammate Alex Albon. Red Bull looks to be on the back foot compared to the top two teams on single-lap pace but has in recent races have been stronger in race trim.
Grosjean was the fastest of the midfield, but that was after his third attempt of a fast lap putting him three tenths behind the dutchman. He set his fastest lap going third fastest early on during the qualifying simulations.
This will be a welcome upturn in form, underlining that the Haas car does still possess a good turn of speed. The team has struggled throughout the season to deliver the race pace, and get points.
This could once again be a close battle between the top three teams, however, both Red Bull and Ferrari will be wary that Mercedes could have more to give. But the gap remains close, all the teams will need to be careful not to overreact following FP3, as the conditions will be warmer.
Racing Point’s Sergio Perez was three-hundredths slower in eighth place, with the Toro Rosso’s rounding out the top ten, with Daniil Kvyat ahead of Pierre Gasly.
The two McLaren’s missed out on the top ten by just over a tenth, Carlos Sainz eleventh going almost a hundredth ahead of teammate Lando Norris, the second Racing Point of Lance Stroll. Kevin Magnussen was fourteenth after he lost time his teammate in both the second and third sectors, just ahead of the lead Renault of Nico Hulkenberg.
Hulkenberg set his fastest time midway through the session, on his second attempt the German ran deep at Turn Seventeen and aborted the lap. That put him ahead of Kimi Raikkonen won the battle of the Alfa Romeo drivers in seventeenth place, half-a-tenth faster than Antonio Giovinazzi.
Giovinazzi made three attempts on his set of softs, the final one coming to an end when he spun at Turn Nineteen, avoiding the wall but returning to the pits.
Williams driver George Russell was Nineteenth, close to a second faster than teammate Robert Kubica.