Bottas leads practice as Hamilton explores limits in Abu Dhabi

Valtteri Bottas led the second Free Practice session for this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix but it was interesting to watch his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, explore the track and press his car in ways he hasn’t in 2019.

With his 6th title secured, Lewis has had some breathing room to try different setups and different driving styles. One of the things I enjoy about the Friday practice sessions over a race weekend is watching Lewis explore each corner and each line in order to establish his Saturday and Sunday performance.

You may see Lewis run wide here or brake too late there on a Friday session but it’s how he explores the track and come Saturday and Sunday, he doesn’t make those errors. In fact, those “errors” on Friday aren’t really errors, they are part of his race craft. This weekend, he’s exploring even more.

“I’m definitely hoping to unlock something, utilising a couple of different tools I haven’t touched during the year because it never really worked before.

“But I’m trying to see if I can get it to work. It’s a pre-emptive thought process for next year.

“Even though next year’s car is going to be different, there still might be things I might be able to apply.

“I am having to take everything with a pinch of salt at the moment.”

This weekend the teams were trying out new components and parts that are pointed to next year’s evolution and Lewis is taking time to evolve his driving style with those components and parts.

“I’m pushing the car into a different place in these last two races just to explore.
“It’s easy to go too far, but I’m sticking with it hoping that it works.

“We already know what does work and I’m just not keen to do what does work, I’m really trying to see if there’s anywhere else I can exploit the cars and tyres.

“That’s making it more erratic and not as smooth flowing and as simple as my driving side.”

It’s a part of the art of racing that I love to watch. Lewis isn’t the only one who does it but he is one of the better drivers at it. His Friday works generally begets terrific Saturday and Sunday performances because he takes the time to explore the limits.

Practice Times from Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

1Valtteri BottasMercedes1m36.256s29
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes0.310s33
3Charles LeclercFerrari0.386s30
4Sebastian VettelFerrari0.435s28
5Max VerstappenRed Bull/Honda0.551s30
6Alexander AlbonRed Bull/Honda1.032s30
7Romain GrosjeanHaas/Ferrari1.345s17
8Sergio PerezRacing Point/Mercedes1.381s32
9Daniil KvyatToro Rosso/Honda1.395s34
10Pierre GaslyToro Rosso/Honda1.514s36
11Carlos Sainz Jr.McLaren/Renault1.578s32
12Lando NorrisMcLaren/Renault1.662s32
13Lance StrollRacing Point/Mercedes1.729s32
14Kevin MagnussenHaas/Ferrari1.824s31
15Nico HulkenbergRenault1.866s29
16Daniel RicciardoRenault2.144s26
17Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo/Ferrari2.159s30
18Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo/Ferrari2.208s32
19George RussellWilliams/Mercedes3.256s32
20Robert KubicaWilliams/Mercedes4.199s32

HAt Tip: Autosport

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