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
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Honda||0.551s||30|
|6||Alexander Albon||Red Bull/Honda||1.032s||30|
|8||Sergio Perez||Racing Point/Mercedes||1.381s||32|
|9||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Honda||1.395s||34|
|10||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso/Honda||1.514s||36|
|11||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren/Renault||1.578s||32|
|13||Lance Stroll||Racing Point/Mercedes||1.729s||32|
|17||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||2.159s||30|
|18||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||2.208s||32|
HAt Tip: Autosport