YAS ISLAND, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates — Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets of the opening practice sessions Friday at the Yas Marina Circuit. Vettel beat Hamilton in the opening practice session by 0.120, while Hamilton beat Vettel by 0.149 in the second.
“It’s been a good Friday, but I’m happy that it’s the last one of the season,” Hamilton said. “We got lots of laps in today and made good progress with the balance of the car. We have a bit of work to do, but I feel like we’re quite competitive here.”
“It’s relatively close still, but I like that. Especially for this weekend, I’ve got a helmet with gold leaf for the World Championship, which I’m really grateful for.”
Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen headed the field at the 30-minute mark, but after the break at 40 minutes, Hamilton got down to his time. Max Verstappen ran third, 0.148 seconds down.
“The track itself is actually quite interesting, because a lot of corners, they follow up on each other so if you miss one you’re not well positioned for the other one so it’s quite technical in that way,” Verstappen said. “I would have liked it to be a little bit faster, those corners, but it’s a bit like in Mexico, you know, there are quite technical areas where you have to be well positioned for one corner and then the next.”
Valterri Bottas was fifth, 0.735 down. Sergio Perez was sixth, the first in the 1:40s. McLaren had a big day, with Fernando Alonso seventh and Stoffel Vandoorne eighth.
“Today was a solid day of testing for us and I applaud the hard work of the whole team to pull everything together,” McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier said. “We managed to condense a huge amount of work into today’s two sessions, and both were very valuable not only in aiding our preparation for this race, but also informing our end-of-season development work as we look ahead to next year.”
“Both drivers worked hard to refine the balance of the car while the conditions changed significantly over the course of the day. While neither is particularly confident that they’ve found the ‘sweet-spot’ around the Yas Marina circuit yet, we’ve gathered a lot of valuable data which will be processed overnight as we head into qualifying day. On-track sessions at this grand prix are always a unique challenge as the more representative running ahead of the race is done in the early-evening twilight. Therefore, we’ve elected to maximise the earlier sessions each day by performing a useful general test programme, albeit juggling this with all-important race preparation, which is a tricky balance to strike. Today both cars completed full run plans and we’re pleased to report no major issues. Fernando and Stoffel will work with their engineers to get a handle on the data gathered and make the decisions required to see us through to qualifying. I don’t think we’ve seen the maximum potential of our package yet, but today in Abu Dhabi was certainly a good start.”
Felipe Massa and Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top ten in the first session.
In practice two, Raikkonen set the early fast time with a 1:40.224, but Hamilton eclipsed it with a 1:38.912. Midway through the session, the ultra-soft tires were put on, and Bottas jumped to the top with a 1:38.609. The Finn bettered it to a 1:38.537.
Verstappen went faster, setting a 1:38.026, but then Hamilton broke into the 1:37s. Ricciardo went to third with a 1:38.180. With 20 minutes left, no other quick times were set as drivers did race simulations.
Top Ten Results for FP1
1. Sebastian Vettel
2. Lewis Hamilton
3. Max Verstappen
4. Kimi Raikkonen
5. Valtteri Bottas
6. Sergio Perez
7. Fernando Alonso
8. Stoffel Vandoorne
9. Felipe Massa
10. Daniel Ricciardo
Top Ten Results for FP2
1. Lewis Hamilton
2. Sebastian Vettel
3. Daniel Ricciardo
4. Kimi Raikkonen
5. Valtteri Bottas
6. Max Verstappen
7. Sergio Perez
8. Esteban Ocon
9. Nico Hulkenberg
10. Fernando Alonso