Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix 2018 Qualifying: Results, Times from Friday's Practice

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistNovember 23, 2018

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 23: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB14 TAG Heuer on track during practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 23, 2018 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Valtteri Bottas headed the timesheets in the second practice session at the 2018 Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday, pushing Red Bull's Max Verstappen into second by 0.044 seconds.

The Finn's lap time of one minute, 37.236 seconds saw him finish 0.192 ahead of third-fastest Daniel Ricciardo and 0.207 clear of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in fourth. 

Red Bull had made a fine start to the last race weekend in the Formula One calendar by finishing first practice at the top of the pile, with Verstappen and Ricciardo clinching a one-two. 

And they showed impressive pace again in the evening despite Bottas finishing fastest.

Verstappen was almost half a second faster than any other driver in the first session with a best lap of 1:38.491 at the Yas Marina Circuit.


FP2 Recap

On the basis of the second 90 minutes of practice on Friday, Sunday's race should be tight.

The two Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel finished the session in fifth and sixth, respectively, with just a 0.333-second spread across the top three teams:

Formula 1 @F1

FP2 CLASSIFICATION: Bottas was quickest, but not by much #AbuDhabiGP 🇦🇪 #F1 https://t.co/ptk6piI1AN

There is little to play for this weekend in the final Grand Prix of the season as Hamilton has already been crowned world champion and Mercedes have wrapped up the constructors' championship.

But that could make for a thrilling race as the shackles could well be off for the drivers.

Bottas will be desperate to turn his Friday practice pace into a first Grand Prix victory of the season, and he will take confidence from the fact that conditions in Saturday's qualifying will match those of FP2.

The battle for pole is set to be tight, and whoever ends up on the front of the grid will have an excellent chance of prevailing come Sunday.

Fernando Alonso signed off his final Friday practice session in F1 by finishing 13th fastest, nearly 1.5 seconds down on Bottas.

The two-time world champion's main aim on Sunday will likely be to simply finish the race. He has been forced to retire in two of the last three races but was able to finish 16th last time out in Brazil. 


FP1 Recap

The official Formula One Twitter account provided a look at the classification from Friday's first practice session:

Formula 1 @F1

FP1 CLASSIFICATION (90/90 MINS): A perfect start for @redbullracing #AbuDhabiGP 🇦🇪 #F1 https://t.co/1FfkaVc3Wq

Red Bull had a slight advantage over their competition in that both Verstappen and Ricciardo ran hypersofts.

Channel 4's Karun Chandhok expressed concern for Bottas following one of two runs wide:

Channel 4 F1® @C4F1

It's been a tough year for Bottas, with no victories in comparison to Hamilton's ten 😔 Karun: "I think Bottas is the man under pressure heading into 2019. He has two young Mercedes drivers waiting in the wings.” That mistake at Turn 6 won't improve his mood either 🤔 #C4F1 🇦🇪 https://t.co/w3qHKQzIak

Mercedes appeared to have the edge in the longer straights, whereas Red Bull's specifications seem better-suited to the windier areas at Yas Marina:

Formula 1 @F1

FASTEST SECTORS: @Max33Verstappen's Red Bull is looking quick through that tight and twisty final sector #AbuDhabiGP 🇦🇪 #F1 https://t.co/95PkUczUTz

Hamilton has already sealed this year's championship and will soak in his triumph in the last race of the season come Sunday, with 81 points between him and nearest competitor, Vettel, in the standings.

That's assuming the Briton makes it to the finish line in smooth fashion, however. BBC Sport's Andrew Benson wrote Hamilton is using the same engine that won him the Brazilian Grand Prix last time out.

Ferrari were way down in Friday's first practice. Raikkonen, who will have his last race for the manufacturer this weekend, could only take seventh, one position ahead of team-mate Vettel in eighth.

Alonso, 37, is taking his leave of the sport following Sunday's race. Per Benson's report, he said:

"Right now it's difficult to think about coming back but the door is not closed. The first reason is I don't know how I will feel next year. I've been doing this for my whole life.

"Maybe next year, by April or May, I am desperate, on the sofa, so you know, maybe I find a way to somehow come back. But it's not the initial idea. It's more about myself. If I come back it's not for any particularly or the line or something that has to happen, it's more how I feel in the middle of next year."

Alonso finished 18th in first practice and will require a mighty turnaround if he's to have much of an impact on Sunday's starting grid.