Abu Dhabi, Dec 10 (IANS) Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton topped the second practice in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, ahead of Esteban Ocon with Max Verstappen fourth in a session ended early by a late Kimi Raikkonen crash on Friday. Hamilton who was behind in the first practice took control of the times in the second practice as the sunset over Yas Marina Circuit.
In what is essentially a ‘winner takes all’ season finale, Verstappen struck the first blow by topping first practice but was comfortably outpaced in the second session, finishing fourth and also behind Esteban Ocon and Valtteri Bottas.
Verstappen outpaced Bottas by almost two-tenths of a second with Hamilton opening his weekend on the Yas Marina circuit by finishing more than three-tenths of a second off the pace of his championship rival in the opening exchanges of this title-deciding event.
Verstappen set the early pace in the session, despite complaining to his team that he was struggling with a steering wheel that was badly “right-hand down”. Even so, the Dutchman eclipsed Hamilton by two-tenths of a second in the opening runs.
Hamilton then improved to close to within a tenth but the Red Bull driver widened the gap once more with his next run, posting a time of 1:25.009.
The Mercedes driver went for another flying lap and this time he almost matched the Dutchman but his lap, just 0.033 off the Red Bull driver, was quickly deleted for exceeding track limits at the final corner.
The deletion left the door open for Bottas to edge past his Mercedes team-mate to claim P2. The Finn, competing in his final race weekend for Mercedes before a move to Alfa Romeo next year, ended the session 0.196s behind Verstappen.
Sergio Perez was fourth for Red Bull just 0.008 behind Hamilton, while Yuki Tsunoda made an impressive start to the weekend with fifth place for AlphaTauri. The Japanese driver continued his good form of recent weekends by beating team-mate Pierre Gasly by almost half a second.
The French driver finished the session in seventh place, behind Alpine’s Fernando Alonso. Charles Leclerc finished eighth for Ferrari ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz and the top 10 was rounded out by Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel.