Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas set the pace in the second free practice session for this weekend’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in a session that was red-flagged when Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo caught fire.
The opening phase of the 90-minute session was devoted to running on a prototype Pirelli C4 compound tires with drivers completing a mandatory eight laps on the development rubber.
But all three leading drivers failed to set their best times on the soft compound tire as a Turn 1 off, track limits and encountering slower traffic cost the trio respectively.
When teams moved back to the compounds on offer this weekend, Lewis Hamilton quickly moved to the top of the timesheet with a lap of 1:36.479s set on medium tires.
Bottas usurped his returning team-mate, however, with a lap of a 1:36.276s on the same compound and it was a lap that remained the benchmark until the checkered flag.
Hamilton moved to the soft compound for a qualifying simulation but his best time on the red-banded tires was deleted for a track limits infringement in the final corner.
Bottas then went out for his run but his flying lap was also compromised when made a small mistake in the first corner and ran wide.
The mistakes presented the first session’s fastest man, Max Verstappen, with an opportunity to score a day one double but during his flying lap he came across the slower Racing Point car of Sergio Perez who was on a longer run.
Verstappen did manage another run on softs but this time he too had the time deleted for running wide at the final turn.
The teams then switched to long runs but those were interrupted with 20 minutes left on the clock when Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo caught fire midway through a lap. The Finn pulled over but the rear of his car was swiftly engulfed in flames and the red flags were shown.
The session was halted for more than 10 minutes and when it was restarted there were less than five minutes on the clock. Hamilton exited his garage for another short run but he stopped in front of the Haas garage with a clutch problem. With the aid of his mechanics he was able to get going again but there was little to gain from the remaining minutes.
With the top three of Bottas, Hamilton and Verstappen all having set their best times on medium tires, the best of the soft tires runners was Alex Albon. The Red Bull driver also had a number of laps deleted for track limits violations but he eventually posted a best time of 1:37.263 to take fourth place ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris.
Renault’s Esteban Ocon took sixth ahead of Pérez, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll rounding out the top 10.
There was trouble in the session, too, for George Russell. The Williams had had to bring his Williams back to the pitlane with a suspected MGU-K problem.
2020 FIA Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Free Practice 2
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:36.276 28 207.677
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:36.479 0.203 30 207.240
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1:37.046 0.770 30 206.030
4 Alexander Albon Red Bull/Honda 1:37.263 0.987 33 205.570
5 Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 1:37.438 1.162 29 205.201
6 Esteban Ocon Renault 1:37.505 1.229 30 205.060
7 Sergio Pérez Racing Point/Mercedes 1:37.506 1.230 35 205.058
8 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:37.508 1.232 31 205.053
9 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:37.508 1.232 29 205.053
10 Lance Stroll Racing Point/Mercedes 1:37.560 1.284 29 204.944
11 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri/Honda 1:37.596 1.320 32 204.869
12 Carlos Sainz McLaren/Renault 1:37.616 1.340 31 204.827
13 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 1:37.900 1.624 32 204.232
14 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:38.068 1.792 28 203.883
15 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:38.198 1.922 32 203.613
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1:38.504 2.228 35 202.980
17 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:38.564 2.288 31 202.857
18 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1:38.817 2.541 24 202.337
19 Pietro Fittipaldi Haas/Ferrari 1:39.027 2.751 25 201.908
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 1:39.132 2.856 31 201.694