Bottas Sets Abu Dhabi F-1 Pace

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Valtteri Bottas was fastest in Formula One practice Friday in Abu Dhabi. (LAT Images Photo)
Valtteri Bottas was fastest in Formula One practice Friday in Abu Dhabi. (LAT Images Photo)

YAS ISLAND, Abu Dhabi – Valtteri Bottas led the way during Formula One practice for the season finale at the Yas Island Circuit on Friday.

Bottas topped the second practice and the overall practice charts with a fast lap of 1:36.276, leading his returning Mercedes teammate and seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton by .203 seconds.

“It was a decent Friday. The car felt good from the get-go, but there’s still a lot of work for us to do,” said Bottas. “The main focus will be to get the balance right throughout the entire lap, as I was struggling with the front end in some corners and with the rear end in the others. I also couldn’t really get the Soft tires into the window; I didn’t have any grip on my first lap, so I think they were too cold, but in the following lap they were already overheating, so there’s clearly some work to do. The Medium actually felt like a better tire for me, but that’s because we weren’t able to extract everything from the Soft today. It’s been a decent first day on track, but I’ll take it lap by lap and my targets are clear for the weekend ahead. I’m happy Lewis is back with us again this weekend, it’s nice to see him back with the team and in the car.”

Hamilton sat out last weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix after being diagnosed with COVID-19. He was cleared to compete in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

“I’m grateful to be back with the team and back in the car. I missed doing what I love last week, so I was very happy to arrive at the circuit this morning,” Hamilton said. “It’s taken a good session and a half to get back into the flow even though it’s been such a short amount of time that I wasn’t in the car. The car didn’t quite feel the same as I had left it, so I’m now working my way back to feeling more comfortable balance-wise.”

Max Verstappen, who topped the first practice for the Red Bull squad, was third fastest overall based on his speed from the second practice. He was followed by teammate Alexander Albon on the overall charts, with McLaren’s Lando Norris next in line.

Kimi Raikkonen and George Russell both dealt with mechanical issues during the second practice, with Raikkonen bringing out a 10-minute red flag after his Alfa Romeo caught fire. The Finn helped put the flames out himself after grabbing a fire extinguisher.

Mick Schumacher, set to make his Formula One race debut for Haas next year, replaced Kevin Magnussen during the first practice session and was 18th fastest in the session.