Abu Dhabi: Lewis Hamilton piled on the pressure on Mercedes teammate and Formula One Championship title favourite Nico Rosberg by edging him in both first and second practice in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit yesterday.
The Briton, trailing by 12 points behind Rosberg, completed the clean sweep in the practice sessions clocking the fastest lap time of 1:40.861, which was 0.079 seconds faster than Rosberg.
“It’s been a great day,” said Hamilton, smiling. “Generally very smooth with no real issues. The first run in FP2 wasn’t ideal as there was so much traffic and I didn’t get to do a flying lap. But after that I managed to get a decent time in. Not perfect, as I was still feeling where the car was, but good enough. We got a lot of work done both on the short and long runs.”
The Brit has now firmly set his sights on getting pole position.
“I’m really happy with the car and we’re in a good position,” he said. “Pole is the goal. I haven’t managed it at this track for a long time but I know I’m quick here, the car feels great and there’s still some time in it, so that’s my absolute focus right now.
Teammate Rosberg insisted that it had been a “decent start to the weekend”.
“Straight away the car started off with a balance that was in the right area,” he said. “It’s always interesting going from hot conditions to cooler ones between the afternoon and evening sessions. Adapting to that and knowing what to expect can be a challenge but our car was working well in both conditions, on low and high fuel. Graining on the front tyres when they’re cold is the main thing we need to get to grips with in preparation for the race.”
Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari also made the most of Pirelli’s new-to-Abu Dhabi Ultrasoft compound and was first to go faster, clocking 1:41.130 for third. However, the German later suffered a gearbox failure with 10 minutes remaining and stopped on the track.
The Red Bulls, comprising Dutch teenager Max Verstappen and Australian Daniel Ricciardo, both who could play a major role in making the title race more exciting by getting in between the Mercedes drivers, were close behind. Verstappen 0.528s off the top spot and just 0.001s ahead of Ricciardo.
However, Verstappen wasn’t happy after ending the session suffering car problems.
“I can’t do a long run like this,” he said, after grumbling about a lack of engine power. “There’s nothing out of the corner and it feels like a handbrake into the corner.”
Kimi Raikkonen was sixth fastest in the second Ferrari following a mistake on his flying lap.
Williams’ Valtteri Bottas came seventh ahead of the two Force India drivers and teammate Felipe Massa. Force India currently enjoy a 27-point lead over Williams in the constructors’ championship.
The retiring Felipe Massa, in his 250th and final F1 race, completed the top ten. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button settled for 11th and 12th spot respectively.
Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix free practice times on Friday:
1. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes-AMG 1:40.861, 2. Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes-AMG 1:40.940, 3. Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari 1:41.130, 4. Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull 1:41.389, 5. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull 1:41.390, 6. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari 1:41.464, 7. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams 1:41.959, 8. Sergio Perez (MEX) Force India 1:42.041, 9. Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India 1:42.264, 10. Felipe Massa (BRA) Williams 1:42.268, 11. Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren-Honda 1:42.366, 12. Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren-Honda 1:42.823, 13. Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Haas 1:43.012, 14. Romain Grosjean (FRA) Haas 1:43.108, 15. Jolyon Palmer (GBR) Renault 1:43.272, 16. Esteban Ocon (FRA) Manor 1:43.600, 17. Pascal Wehrlein (GER) Manor 1:43.754, 18. Felipe Nasr (BRA) Sauber 1:43.903, 19. Marcus Ericsson (SWE) Sauber 1:44.045, 20. Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Renault 1:44.117, 21. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Toro Rosso 1:44.478, 22. Daniil Kvyat (RUS) Toro Rosso 1:45.948
1. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes-AMG 1:42.869, 2. Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes-AMG 1:43.243, 3. Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull 1:43.297, 4. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull 1:43.362, 5. Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari 1:44.005, 6. Sergio Perez (MEX) Force India 1:44.155, 7. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari 1:44.556, 8. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Toro Rosso 1:44.685, 9. Felipe Massa (BRA) Williams 1:45.039, 10. Marcus Ericsson (SWE) Sauber 1:45.168, 11. Alfonso Celis (MEX) Force India 1:45.476, 12. Romain Grosjean (FRA) Haas 1:45.600, 13. Felipe Nasr (BRA) Sauber 1:45.778, 14. Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Haas 1:45.925, 15. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams 1:45.940, 16. Jolyon Palmer (GBR) Renault 1:46.219, 17. Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Renault 1:46.372, 18. Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren-Honda 1:46.379, 19. Pascal Wehrlein (GER) Manor 1:46.458, 20. Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren-Honda 1:47.127, 21. Jordan King (GBR) Manor 1:47.558, 22. Daniil Kvyat (RUS) Toro Rosso 2:01.989