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Hamilton blitzes remodelled Abu Dhabi track to put Verstappen on the backfoot

Hamilton blitzes remodelled Abu Dhabi track to put Verstappen on the backfoot

F1 News

Hamilton blitzes remodelled Abu Dhabi track to put Verstappen on the backfoot

Hamilton blitzes remodelled Abu Dhabi track to put Verstappen on the backfoot

Lewis Hamilton set a demanding pace around a remodelled Yas Marina Circuit to take the honours at the end of Friday practice going into Sunday's winner-takes-all F1 title showdown with Max Verstappen.

With the two drivers level on points going into the final race of a campaign for only the second time in the sport's history, they know whoever finishes ahead at the end of the 58 laps will be crowned champion.

Red Bull driver Verstappen drew first blood at the end of FP1 that was run during the day with a time of one minute 25.009s.

But with the sun setting and under the lights in second practice, with the conditions more representative of what the drivers will face in qualifying and the race, it was seven-time champion Hamilton who finished comfortably clear in his Mercedes.

Hamilton finished with a lap of one minute 23.691s, 0.343s clear of surprise package Esteban Ocon in his Alpine, the Frenchman sandwiching the Mercedes drivers, with Valtteri Bottas third quickest, 0.392s adrift.

As for Verstappen, he finished 0.641s down around a track Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has claimed now suits Mercedes given its changes.

Since last year's visit, and the constant complaints about its sterile nature and the lack of overtaking opportunities, the Yas Marina Circuit has undergone a major reprofiling.

What was once turn seven, that was approached by a slow chicane at turns five and six, has been replaced by a wide, fast hairpin that leads on to the long back straight.

The major change has seen the removal of four 90-degree corners, with a sweeping, 'parabolica-esque' corner in its place that also has a five per cent positive camber.

The final changes have been made around the hotel section, often criticised due to the slow nature of the corners.

The radius of the corners under the hotel, and the penultimate corner, have all been opened up to create a much faster and flowing section of track.

To appreciate the difference the changes have made, last year's leading time in FP2 from Bottas was a one minute 36.276s lap, almost 13 seconds slower than Hamilton's best on this occasion.

Behind the leading quartet, Sergio Perez was fifth quickest in his Red Bull, seven-tenths of a second behind Hamilton, and only 0.068s down on Verstappen.

Fernando Alonso in his Alpine, along with AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda and Charles Leclerc for Ferrari, were the only other drivers to finish within a second of Hamilton.

Carlos Sainz in his Ferrari and the second AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly completed the top 10, the latter 1.249s off the pace.

McLaren pair Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris remained outside the top 10, as was the case in FP1, finishing 11th and 13th either side of Antonio Giovinazzi in his Alfa Romeo, whose team-mate Kimi Raikkonen ended the session in spectacular fashion.

On his final outing in FP1 this weekend, Raikkonen lost control of his car coming out of the section that runs underneath the hotel, rear-ending a barrier, with the impact spinning him round and leading to additional damage to the front.

George Russell, who had given way to Williams reserve driver Jack Aitken in FP1, was 17th, 1.858s down, with Nikita Mazepin again at the bottom of the timesheet, 2.645s back.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix second practice results

1. Lewis Hamilton [Mercedes] 1:23.691

2. Esteban Ocon [Alpine] +0.343

3. Valtteri Bottas [Mercedes] +0.392

4. Max Verstappen [Red Bull] +0.641

5. Sergio Perez [Red Bull] +0.709

6. Fernando Alonso [Alpine] +0.804

7. Yuki Tsunoda [AlphaTauri] +0.841

8. Charles Leclerc [Ferrari] +0.886

9. Carlos Sainz [Ferrari] +1.153

10. Pierre Gasly [AlphaTauri] +1.249

11. Daniel Ricciardo [McLaren] +1.268

12. Antonio Giovinazzi [Alfa Romeo] +1.417

13. Lando Norris [McLaren] +1.482

14. Sebastian Vettel [Aston Martin] +1.504

15. Lance Stroll [Aston Martin] +1.694

16. Kimi Raikkonen [Alfa Romeo] +1.749

17. George Russell [Williams] +1.868

18. Nicolas Latifi [Williams] +1.996

19. Mick Schumacher [Haas] +2.093

20. Nikita Mazepin [Haas] +2.645

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