FP2: Max Verstappen sets the fastest time under the Abu Dhabi lights.
In FP2, Max Verstappen jumped back into his Red Bull and set the pace in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix practice.
The World Champion was more than three tenths of a second faster than George Russell’s Mercedes in second place, with Charles Leclerc finishing third – albeit nearly half a second slower than the Red Bull driver’s benchmark.
Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez, and Carlos Sainz trailed their teammates over one lap, with the teams focusing on both short and long-run pace during FP2 in Abu Dhabi.
The full grid was back in action as the sun began to set over Yas Marina, with seven drivers swapping seats for FP1 and teams mostly filling their mandatory ‘young driver’ running at the season finale.
With FP2 starting at the same time as the race on Sunday, the conditions for the drivers as they took to the track on Friday evening were fully representative.
Verstappen was clearly eager to get going, having been seated in his Red Bull cockpit long before the lights went green as he retook his seat for the session, having been replaced earlier in the day by Red Bull junior Liam Lawson.
The initial medium and hard-tyre runs gave the field a chance to get their collective eyes in before qualifying simulations began, though Hamilton pulled alongside Kevin Magnussen on the back straight to express his displeasure after the Dane came right up to the back of the Mercedes under braking for the Turn 6 hairpin, the Dane going much slower than the Mercedes driver had anticipated.
However, Verstappen was the first of the front-runners to post a lap on soft rubber, his 1:25.449 nearly six tenths faster than Leclerc’s best effort – despite later complaining that his brake pedal was “very bad” during the lap.
While others remained on harder compounds, he was able to improve by a tenth, with Mick Schumacher separately urging Haas to check his floor with his car bouncing its way through several corners – seemingly causing a troubled ride through the long Turn 3 right-hander in particular.
The Mercedes duo were the last to set representative soft-tyre times, with Russell navigating traffic in the final sector to clock a 1:25.487 before Hamilton crossed the line on a 1:25.829 after losing time in the final sector after going ‘purple’ in sector one.
As is customary in Abu Dhabi, the fading natural light forced the floodlights to take over for the second half of FP2.
Verstappen improved to a 1:25.146, 0.341s faster than Russell, as the reigning World Champion chose to take an extra flying run before shifting focus to a higher-fuel stint – the lack of FP1 running clearly proving no barrier to the Red Bull driver.
The Red Bull-Ferrari-Mercedes top three was followed by their teammates in positions four, five, and six in FP2, before the Alpine duo of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, and Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top ten in the second half of Friday’s practice running.
1 Red Bull Racing Max VERSTAPPEN 1:25.146
+0.341 George RUSSELL Mercedes
+0.453 Charles LECLERC Ferrari
Mercedes +0.615 4 Lewis HAMILTON
PEREZ, Sergio, Red Bull Racing +0.706
6 Carlos SAINZ +0.786 Ferrari
+0.892 Esteban OCON Alpine
Alpine +0.897 Fernando ALONSO 8
+0.978 Daniel RICCIARDO McLaren
+1.154 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo
12 Sebastian VETTEL Aston Martin +1.249 13 Lando NORRIS McLaren +1.231 +1.333 14 ZHOU Guanyu Alfa Romeo Aston Martin Lance STROLL +1.401 15 TSUNODA, Yuki +1.534 AlphaTauri
16 Williams, Alexander ALBON +1.604
17 +1.693 18 Mick SCHUMACHER Haas F1 Team Haas F1 Team +1.769 Kevin MAGNUSSEN +1.890 20 Pierre GASLY AlphaTauri +2.116 Nicholas LATIFI Williams