Bottas sets Abu Dhabi Friday practice pace despite late crash

Valtteri Bottas headed teammate Lewis Hamilton at the top of the lap times as the chequered flag bought Friday’s free practice session for the season ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to an end, but only after those attending  were treated to some rare thrills and spills.

The order of the day for free practice is data gathering, practicing qualifying and race runs and experimenting with tyre compounds. But, after Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc spun into the barriers at Turn 19, Bottas dived down the inside of Romain Grosjean’s Haas at the entrance to the chicane at the end of the second straight.

The contact pitched the Haas driver into a spin and shed carbon fibre over the tarmac, causing the session to be stopped for the debris to be cleared – but it didn’t stop Bottas from topping the times from Hamilton. Leclerc, despite his spin, was next quickest ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel as the Ferrari’s quickest times were set on the softer compound rubber.

“It’s been a good day out on track; the car was well-balanced from the get-go,” Bottas is quoted by Andrew Benson on BBC Sport. “The end of my FP2 session was compromised by a minor incident with Grosjean; I thought he had seen me going for the overtake on the inside, but by the time I realised that he hadn’t seen me, there was no way for me to escape anymore.”

With the lap times plummeting as dusk began to settle, the times had a remarkably symmetrical look by the finish, Red Bulls, Toro Rossos, McLarens, Renaults, Alfa Romeos and Williams all going two-by-two. Only the Haas and Racing Points spoiled what would have been the OCD F1 fan’s perfect scenario.

Despite his Friday form, Bottas’ chances of winning another race this season have already suffered a blow as he will start from the back of the grid as the result of excessive engine usage.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.