Valtteri Bottas led Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes dominated Friday practice at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Bottas was 0.203 seconds quicker than Hamilton on the first day of running at the season-closing race at Yas Marina. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third.
Unusually, both Mercedes drivers set their best times on the medium tyre.
Hamilton did surpass Bottas’ time with a lap on the theoretically faster soft but had it deleted for exceeding track limits at the final corner.
The drivers were struggling with the soft tyres overheating in the twisty final sector around the Yas hotel, which contains the majority of the circuit’s corners.
Behind the usual top three, Red Bull’s Alexander Albon was fourth fastest ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris.
The drivers from sixth to ninth – Renault’s Esteban Ocon, Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo – were separated by just 0.003ses.
Ocon was 0.001secs quicker than Perez, who was 0.002secs ahead of Leclerc and Ricciardo, who set exactly the same time.
The lack of pace in the soft tyre suggests that the top teams may be even more determined than in recent races to try to make it through the second session of qualifying on the medium so they can start the race on it.
Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen suffered a big engine fire that brought out the red flag for a few minutes in the middle of the race runs.
And both Perez and Kevin Magnussen will have to start from the back of the grid in their Racing Point and Haas cars after exceeding the permitted number of engine parts for the season.