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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 17 January 2021

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Valtteri Bottas fastest around eerily empty circuit

The Finn managed to stay ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton after the Englishman suffered technical issues

Valtteri Bottas posted the fastest time on the first day of the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, managing to stay 0.2 seconds ahead of co-driver Lewis Hamilton and 0.77 seconds clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

The Finn, who had earlier managed a second place slot in the first of Friday’s two sessions, sped round the eerily empty Yas Marina Circuit in just over a minute and 36 seconds.

Verstappen’s team-mate Alex Albon posted the fourth fastest time.

McLaren’s Lando Norris, who is carrying engine-related grid penalties, ended up fifth, just ahead of Renault’s Esteban Ocon.

Last week’s Sakhir winner Sergio Perez, who is also carrying engine-related penalties and will start Sunday’s race from the back, was seventh for Racing Point.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was eighth ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the Renault, and Lance Stroll in the other Racing Point car rounded out the top 10.

In the first session, Verstappen was quickest ahead of Bottas and Ocon. Hamilton could manage no better than fifth after a faulty brake sensor forced him back into the pit for an extended period.

The racing was interrupted with 17 minutes still to go when Kimi Raikkonen's Alfa Romeo caught fire after he pulled over to the side of the track.

The Finn, whose nickname is The Iceman, was unhurt and, after getting clear of the burning vehicle, helped firefighters to put out the blaze, pointing an extinguisher at the flames and then advising track marshals where to aim.

When the session restarted with five minutes left, Hamilton encountered a problem with his gears and could not get his car moving. The Mercedes mechanics had to remove the vehicle because it was stuck in front of the Haas area, preventing their two cars from entering the pitlane.

There will be a third practice session on Saturday ahead of qualifying under floodlights at the Yas circuit.

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Video: Preparing Yas Marina Circuit

Updated: December 11, 2020 09:27 PM

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