Red Bull’s Max Verstappen returned to duty in second practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and immediately took charge of the timesheets as the sun set over the Yas Marina circuit.
George Russell showed that earlier pacesetters Mercedes were still very much in the running by taking second ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, followed by Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz.
The session saw no significant incidents, but a few drivers went for some wild slides. Sebastian Vettel triggered a brief yellow flag when he suffered a big lock up at turn 7. and Daniel Ricciardo suffered a small oil leak on his McLaren in the final moments.
- 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Free Practice 2 results
The final Friday practice of 2022 got underway with the sun starting to set over Yas Marina Circuit. Earlier, Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and George Russell had been fastest in FP1, but that was in the somewhat different conditions of mid-afternoon, and the session had also featured no fewer than eight stand-in drivers (mostly young drivers still hunting for their big break in F1, plus the redoubtable Robert Kubica). Now at last it was time to get down to the real business of the weekend, with one last trophy of the year waiting to be claimed.
First out on track was Sebastian Vettel followed by Carlos Sainz, the latter having been one of the drivers to have sat out the earlier session and now understandably eager to get some time on track. The rest of the drivers were also quick to get back to work, and suddenly the circuit was busy and noisy everywhere you looked.
Vettel set the initial milestone time of 1:28.120s on medium tires but it wasn’t long before Valtteri Bottas went four tenths faster in the Alfa Romeo despite starting on the hard compound. However these were little more than sighting laps, and Charles Leclerc’s 1:26.045s was the first proper lap time by one of the usual front runner suspects, with Esteban Ocon three tenths further back followed by the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen (another regular driver who had missed FP1) and Sergio Perez. Russell then popped into third albeit eight tenths behind Leclerc, while Hamilton was the only driver not to have immediately headed out during the opening ten minutes, the team working on his car but insisting there was no problem.
While Leclerc’s earlier time continued to top the timesheets, improvements from Sainz, Verstappen and Perez pushed Russell down to sixth before Russell responded to go back in front of Perez and up to fifth. Hamilton made an error on his delayed first lap out of the pits, and he was then baulked by Haas’ Kevin Magnussen on this second before finally posting a proper time to go into P7. Meanwhile Verstappen had switched to soft tires and went fastest with a time of 1:25.449s which he then improved to 1:25.335s – seven tenths clear of Leclerc – despite reporting that “my brake pedal is very bad”.
Russell continued to advance and went third fastest despite being on his original set of mediums. Meanwhile Daniel Ricciardo was the final driver to post a time, after his first run saw him “nearly lose it” at turn 3 forcing him to pit for setting changes before going again. Initially tenth, he improved to P8 with his next run. Meanwhile more drivers were switching to soft tires to make their qualifying runs: Nicholas Latifi was the first to make the change and popped up to P10 as a result.
Verstappen remained top by a quarter of a second despite soft tire improvements from Leclerc, Perez, Ocon, Sainz and Bottas. Then it was Russell’s turn to switch to the red-walled compound, but despite being fastest in the first sector he then had a big slide and backed off for the remainder of the lap. He went again but met traffic and had another slide leaving him 0.152s off Verstappen’s target time.
Hamilton suffered oversteer on his lap leaving him fourth, half a second off the top. The last driver to complete a run on the softs was Fernando Alonso who ended up four thousandths slower than his Alpine team mate Ocon as he slipped into P7 ahead of Sainz, whose latest run was also thwarted by traffic. Meanwhile, a big lock up at turn 7 meant Sebastian Vettel was unable to improve and he remained stuck in P13, but his next effort helped push him up two spots. Ricciardo was also improving and popped into the top ten in P9 ahead of Bottas and his own McLaren team mate Lando Norris.
After some set-up changes in the pits, Verstappen was back in action and was able to improve his time at the top to 1:25.146s. After that the drivers started to return to pit lane, their qualifying fun over for the day as they switched back to medium and even hard tires for some long distance runs. When he went back out, Leclerc locked up and went off track at turn 6 for a third time as he hunted for more pace but he had done no harm as he quickly recovered. Meanwhile there was some consternation at McLaren over a “small oil leak” that left Ricciardo’s MCL36 sending up smoke distress signals. They were also concerned about a slippery patch on the pit lane right outside the McLaren garage at the exact point the drivers pull into the box.
As the sun dipped below the horizon and the floodlights took over, the checkered flag came out with Verstappen firmly on top followed by Russell, Leclerc, Hamilton, Perez and Sainz, then Ocon and Alonso with Ricciardo and Bottas rounding out the top ten.
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