Abu Dhabi: Team boss Toto Wolff has called for humility after his Mercedes duo led the Ferrari pairing at the end of Friday’s practice session at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
With six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton finishing over three-tenths away from teammate Valtteri Bottas, the next two positions were left for the Reds with Charles Leclerc (1:36.642) and Sebastian Vettel (1:36.691), while the Red Bull of Max Verstappen came in just behind in fifth with a time of 1:36.807.
“Honestly, this doesn’t mean all that much as it’s just the practice sessions,” Wolff told Gulf News.
“What we need to do now is to take this with a lot of humility and that’s the way forward for everyone. There are still two more days remaining,” he added.
Bottas’s quickness in the two practices can be explained from the fact that he is running the latest spec Mercedes engine. But that only means that the Finn will start the race from the back of the field, thanks mainly due to the grid penalties incurred. Hamilton’s run too was not entirely trouble free as the British driver suffered a sensor issue during FP1, forcing him to activate ‘limp’ mode in his W10 car.
But the two Mercedes held their own during second practice even though the six-time world champion failed to get a fully clean flying lap in. Bottas was pleased with the way the car was shaping up for the remainder of the weekend. “I think that was a pretty good first few laps despite talk of dusty conditions,” Bottas said.
“The engine too was fresh and things went the way they did for me. I think the car can only get better tomorrow. And then came that minor crash with Grosjean and I am lucky as it could have been worse,” he added.
“A bit of an unusual Friday to be honest. It is an easy track and at the same time there are the challenges lying out there,” Hamilton admitted.
“The main thing now will be to just sit myself back and get my rhythm for tomorrow. There was a huge difference between the hard tyre and the soft tyre and that explains my struggle to get my rhythm. I am really pushing the car into different places just to explore and see if I can get something different to work. We already know what does work, but now I want to explore the car and tyres to see where else things can work for us,” he added.
There was plenty of action during the course of the two practice sessions. First, it was Daniel Ricciardo pulling over with an apparent power unit failure and then it was Vettel losing the rear end of his car rather tamely while spinning into the barriers at Turn 13. Later during FP2, Bottas and Romain Grosjean collided and spun bringing out the red flags, after which Leclerc celebrated a personal best in the first and second sectors by kissing the barriers out of Turn 19 — at the exact same spot where his teammate had crashed during first practice. Leclerc went on to abort his lap and pull into the pits to get the car checked.
Winner of the last round in Brazil, Verstappen was satisfied with the way the car has progressed during the two practice sessions. “Of course, we would have loved to be a bit faster and ahead. But the huge positive here is that we can see a definite progress being made and the aim will be to continue from where we left off in the Interlagos,” Verstappen said.