Hamil­ton happy it’s F1’s fi­nal Fri­day

Pretoria News Weekend - - SPORT -

ABU DHABI: Four-time world cham­pion Lewis Hamil­ton kept Mercedes on top in the last Fri­day prac­tice of the For­mula One sea­son with Fer­rari’s Se­bas­tian Vet­tel close be­hind.

Hamil­ton, chas­ing a 10th win of the year af­ter wrap­ping up the cham­pi­onship in Mex­ico last month, lapped the flood­lit Yas Ma­rina cir­cuit in one minute 37.877 sec­onds in the evening ses­sion.

“It’s been a good Fri­day, but I’m happy that it’s the last one of the sea­son,” said Hamil­ton.

“We got lots of laps in to­day and made good progress with the bal­ance of the car. We have a bit of work to do, but I feel like we’re quite com­pet­i­tive here. It’s rel­a­tively close still, but I like that.”

Vet­tel, who had set the pace in the af­ter­noon with a lap of 1:39.006 and looked quick on long run pace, ended the day 0.149sec slower and also ex­pected a close bat­tle in to­day’s qual­i­fy­ing.

The Ger­man is set to be­come the first non-Mercedes driver of the last four years to fin­ish in the top two of the cham­pi­onship, lead­ing Valt­teri Bot­tas by 22 points go­ing into the fi­nal round.

Both Hamil­ton and Vet­tel, a quadru­ple world cham­pion with Red Bull, are three-time win­ners in Abu Dhabi although Fer­rari have yet to triumph there.

Red Bull were third in both ses­sions, with 20-year-old Dutch driver Max Ver­stap­pen tak­ing that place in the first and Aus­tralian Daniel Ric­cia­rdo in the sec­ond.

Fer­rari’s Kimi Raikko­nen and Mercedes’ Bot­tas were fourth and fifth.

Brazil­ian vet­eran Felipe Massa, pre­par­ing for his last For­mula One race with Wil­liams, was 11th fastest.

“I didn’t feel that any­thing was dif­fer­ent or strange to­day com­pared with any other Fri­day, but maybe when we get to the first race of next sea­son I will miss this, the com­pe­ti­tion, and ev­ery­thing else,” Massa said.

“I’m ready for that and I think it’s the right time.”

The tight bat­tle for sixth place in the con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onship be­tween Toro Rosso, Re­nault and Haas, with just six points sep­a­rat­ing the three teams, is another fo­cus for the week­end.

Nico Hulken­berg and Car­los Sainz were ninth and 13th re­spec­tively for Re­nault with Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly 15th and the two Haas drivers Kevin Mag­nussen and Ro­main Gros­jean 16th and 20th.

Bri­tish young­ster Ge­orge Rus­sell, tak­ing part in first prac­tice only, was 11th fastest in Este­ban Ocon’s Force In­dia and less than a sec­ond off the pace of the team’s Mex­i­can driver Ser­gio Perez.

Rus­sell also took part in first prac­tice in Brazil, and looks set for a re­serve role in fu­ture.

With both cham­pi­onships wrapped up, Mercedes hav­ing clinched their fourth suc­ces­sive con­struc­tors’ ti­tle in Texas last month, most teams used the open­ing ses­sion as an early test for 2018.

Some also tried out the “halo” head pro­tec­tion de­vice that will be in­tro­duced next year. – Reuters

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