Amol Gokhale from Abu Dhabi
It was a three-way battle between top three teams on Friday as Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton topped the first and second practice sessions respectively in the last round of the Formula One World Championship here on Friday. Hamilton has already sealed the title.
As the Yas Marina Circuit came to life with the raving of the engines with one eye on 2018 season as the teams experimented with the updates and much talked about driver protection device – Halo installed on the cars.
In the first practice session, new world champion Hamilton dominated the pace for the first hour with 1m 39.120s on the ultrasoft Pirelli tyres, comfortably ahead of team-mate Bottas and early pacesetter Raikkonen.
Red Bull then joined the act as Dutchman Verstappen posted 1m 39.154s with 32 minutes to go in the session. But it was Vettel who had the final say with 1m 30.006s with 18 minutes left on the clock.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen pipped his compatriot Valtteri Bottas for the fourth place, while Force India’s Sergio Perez was sixth with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo off the pace, who was only 10th.
Only incidences where drivers went off the track were Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg had a spin, Hass’s Romain Grosjean’s touched the wall and Antonio Giovinazzi, who was testing for Hass, also went off, but session remained mostly incident free.
GP3 champion George Russell was another tester in Force India and finished 11th in the timesheet.
Hamilton leads the way
The second session, as the Sun went down over the 5.5kms circuit, Hamilton once again set the early pace with 1m 38.912s, until his team-mate Bottas edged him with a lap of 1m 38.537s as the first hour closed.
Vettel then beat the Mercedes duo with 1m 38.026s on the set of ultrasoft tyres, only to see Hamilton respond immediately with 1m 37.877s, the fastest-ever lap of the track.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo who was off the pace in the first practice, kept his team in the mix with the 1m 38.180s lap.
There was a sense of normality as Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen all completed the top six.
Close battle between Force India’s
After sitting first practice out, Force India’s Esteban Ocon was on the pace straight away as he was eighth fastest mere one-hundredth of a second behind his team-mate, Sergio Perez, hinting at another close battle between the two.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso completed the top 10.