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Bottas sets the pace in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

James Jose/Abu Dhabi
Filed on November 29, 2019
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland during the second free practice at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi. (AP)

Bottas, who has wrapped up second spot in the Drivers' standings behind teammate Lewis Hamilton, set the pace in free practice

It probably isn't the easiest of weekends for Valtteri Bottas, both on the personal and professional front.

The Finn and his wife Emilia ended their three-year-old marriage and the Mercedes driver will start from the back of the grid at the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday following an engine penalty.

But the Finn put those aside to be the fastest man at the Yas Marina Circuit on Friday night.

Bottas, who has wrapped up second spot in the Drivers' standings behind teammate Lewis Hamilton, set the pace in free practice.

Bottas topped the timesheets in the first practice earlier in the afternoon and then, despite a collision with Haas driver Romain Grosjean, the 30-year-old, still couldn't be toppled from the top in the second practice, held in the evening, to mirror race conditions the drivers will encounter on raceday.

Bottas timed 1:36.256 seconds, three-tenths of a second ahead of Hamilton, who had a time of 1:36.566 seconds.

Charles Leclerc was third in the Ferrari with the Monegasque driver coming up with a time of 1:36.642 seconds. The 22-year-old had kissed the barriers at Turn 19, but still managed third spot. He had finished seventh in the first practice.

Leclerc's German teammate Sebastian Vettel, who only arrived in Abu Dhabi late on Thursday night, following the birth of his third child, was fourth 1:36.691 seconds. The four-time world champion too had an excursion and hit the wall at the very same spot as Leclerc was to later, during the first free practice.

Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen was fifth followed by his British-Thai teammate Alexander Albon.

Dutchman Verstappen, who was second in the first session, had a timing of 1:36.807 seconds, while Albon, who has been confirmed for next season after earning promotion from Red Bull's sister team Toro Rosso, timed 1:37.288 seconds.

"Overall, it was a pretty decent Friday," said Verstappen, who used the medium tyres for his stint.

"I'm not entirely happy with the balance yet and there are of course still some things we need to look at and do better but overall I'm pretty pleased. Mercedes look very strong here again and will be hard to beat but I still think it will be close tomorrow. We will analyse the tyre data later today but overall there are no real surprises. The soft is quick over one lap and on race runs it drops off as expected," he added.

Grosjean was seventh, while Racing Point's Sergio Perez was eighth. The Toro Rossos of Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly rounded out the top 10.

The McLaren drivers Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris were 11th and 12th, while Haas' Kevin Magnussen came in 14th.

Nico Hulkenberg, who is without a race seat for next season, was 15th for Renault, while his teammate Daniel Ricciardo finished 16th on the timesheets.

Alfa Romeo's veteran Kimi Raikkonen was 17th followed by teammate Antonio Giovnazzi.

The backmarkers were Williams with George Russell and Robert Kubica in 19th and 20th respectively.

Bottas and Hamilton were on the soft tyres during their stint, while Leclerc used the hard tyres. Vettel's Ferrari was shod with the softs.



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