Sports Desk, Dec 11 (efe-epa).- Finland’s Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) was the fastest in Friday’s second practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, just ahead of British teammate Lewis Hamilton, back for the season’s final race after missing last week’s event due to testing positive for Covid-19.
While the 35-year-old Briton has already clinched a seventh world championship, Bottas is battling to hang onto second place in the driver standings and to redeem himself after a disappointing performance in the Sakhir Grand Prix.
Seen as the favorite in the absence of Hamilton, the Finn started from pole and watched main rival Max Verstappen (Red Bull) knocked out of the race by a crash on the first lap.
Yet Bottas came in eighth, just one place above the man who replaced Hamilton in the other Silver Arrow, Williams driver George Russell.
At Yas Marina on Friday, Verstappen set the best time in Free Practice 1, outpacing Bottas, who leads the Dutchman by 16 points in the driver standings. Hamilton was fifth.
Mercedes turned the tide in FP2.
Bottas was the fastest with a lap of 1:36.276, 0.203 seconds quicker than Hamilton. Verstappen and Red Bull teammate Alex Albon of Thailand took the third and fourth spots.
Both Hamilton and Verstappen had laps ruled out for exceeding track limits.
Briton Lando Norris (McLaren) was fifth, followed by Frenchman Esteban Ocon (Renault) and Mexico’s Sergio “Checo” Perez (Racing Point), who remains without a ride for the 2021 season despite his victory last week in the Sakhir Grand Prix.
Rounding out the top 10 were France’s Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), Australian Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) and Canada’s Lance Stroll (Racing Point).
A highlight of FP1 was the F1 debut of Mick Schumacher, son of German legend Michael Schumacher, who logged 23 laps in the Hass he will occupy next season.
The younger Schumacher is joining the circuit just weeks after Hamilton matched his father’s mark of seven championships.
FP2 was halted for 10 minutes after Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo burst into flames, forcing the Finn to make a quick exit, though he remained at the scene and even grabbed a fire extinguisher from one of the marshals to save as much of the car as possible.
“No, there was nothing scary about it,” Raikkonen said later when asked if he had been frightened. “It was just a shame it catches on fire and then obviously it gets all messy afterwards with trying to put the fire out. It’s one of those things.” EFE arh/dr