Lewis Hamilton fastest in 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix practice ahead of qualifying

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton at the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. [Picture: Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG]

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton at the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. [Picture: Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG]

Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton went fastest in practice today ahead of 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix qualifying.

The 32-year-old Mercedes F1 driver from Hertfordshire ended the first day of the Abu Dhabi GP race weekend on top of the time sheets – and in good shape to battle for pole position on Saturday.

The Silver Arrows showed promising pace in Friday practice at the Yas Marina Circuit ahead of the final grand prix of the 2017 season.

Four-time world champion Hamilton finished the morning session in P2 behind Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel, with Mercedes colleague Valtteri Bottas in P5.

Hamilton clocked 1m 39.126s in the morning, with Bottas recording 1m 39.741s in FP1.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton on track at the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. [Picture: Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG] Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton on track at the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. [Picture: Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG]

Bottas ran the SuperSoft and UltraSoft compound tyres in first practice, with Hamilton using the Softs and UltraSofts.

In second practice, both Mercedes drivers used the SuperSoft and UltraSoft compound tyres, with Hamilton going quickest with a lap of 1m 37.877s ahead of Saturday’s qualifying session.

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

“We got lots of laps in today and made good progress with the balance of the car.”

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton on track at the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. [Picture: Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG] Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton on track at the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. [Picture: Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG]

Looking ahead of qualifying, Hamilton added: “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.

“Especially for this weekend, I’ve got a helmet with gold leaf for the World Championship, which I’m really grateful for.”

Bottas said: “We dedicated the first practice session to testing for next year.

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas at the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. [Picture: Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG] Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas at the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. [Picture: Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG]

“We ran different kinds of mechanical and especially aero tests.

“So we didn’t learn that much for this weekend in FP1, but definitely a lot for next year.

“The second session was more straightforward. I was missing a bit of time in the last sector, so as a team we need to work on that.

“The temperatures here are OK. It’s definitely warm in the cockpit, but we’ve been to worse places.

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas on track at the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. [Picture: Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG] Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas on track at the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. [Picture: Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG]

“Overall, it’s been a pretty good day, we just need to find some more pace from my side for tomorrow.”

Mercedes chief race engineer Andrew Shovlin explained today’s running.

“A busy day for the drivers and everyone in the garage,” he said.

“We had a large development programme focused on 2018, this required both cars to devote the entire P1 session towards this work but despite the ambitious programme, we managed to get through it all successfully.

“The track cools significantly into the evening session and our focus shifted towards qualifying and race preparation.

“The car seems to be working reasonably well although we’ve got plenty of areas we can look to improve overnight.”

Shovlin added: “Valtteri in particular was not comfortable with how the car was handling on a single lap so we have a bit of work to do there.

“Lewis found the car more predictable on low fuel but there are still some areas that we can find a bit of time.

“The long run balance was quite consistent but it’s difficult to know where everyone is as there seemed to be a lot of traffic out there today and many cars were struggling to string clear laps together.

“We are expecting another tough battle for pole tomorrow, having seen strong times posted by both Red Bull and Ferrari through the sessions, but we are determined to finish the season on a high and will make sure we give it our best shot.”

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