GRANDPRIX247 Formula 1 News Website Title Partner BCGAME

Morning After: Bottas’ Time to Rise and Shine?

Yet to record a win in 2018, Valtteri Bottas got his weekend off to a promising start by topping the Friday FP2 timesheets in Abu Dhabi.

Looking to avoid the ignominy of being the first Mercedes driver to winless in a season since Michael Schumacher in 2012, Valtteri Bottas made sure to put his best foot forward on Friday.

And sure, maybe that factoid is a little disingenuous given his lost win in Sochi, but you can bet the Finn is extra motivated all the same, and unlike in Russia, he can expect to have his team’s full support behind him.

That said, it’s certainly no given that his 0.044s advantage continues to hold up. Red Bull have been surprisingly strong here (especially given their deficit on the straights), Lewis Hamilton certainly isn’t going anywhere (0.207s back), and Ferrari remain in reach while seemingly lining up a different tyre strategy to their rivals.

Indeed, the conditions could prove a significant leveller, as it was interesting to see a complete lack of comparable running between the big three teams. With Ferrari opting strictly for supersofts, and Mercedes and Red Bull running different ultrasoft programs (Bottas averaged a 1:43.756 to Daniel Ricciardo’s 43.308 – I doubt they’re that slow!) we might see some radically different strategies come Sunday, and maybe, just maybe, one final barn-burner to close out the 2018 season.

Friday Figures

  • #1. The number applied to Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in FP1, in lieu of his usual #44. Done so the rest of his team “will have a picture somewhere that they can be really proud of that we were number one”, it was a nice gesture from the champ.
  • 10. Maximum number of laps recorded on the hypersoft in FP2 by any driver, via Pierre Gasly. It will be very interesting to see how that affects strategy over the course of the 55-lap race distance.
  • 1.499s. Deficit to Lance Stroll for Robert Kubica in FP1. Obviously it’s great to have him back, but it appears there’s still a ways to go before he’s back to being the same driver who won a race with BMW-Sauber.

Quick Hits

  • Very interesting tidbit from Toto Wolff vis-à-vis his team’s decision to not run their controversial wheel spacers at the last three races, yet their willingness to risk a protest here. It says a lot about the team that they can wrap up both championships while leaving some performance gains (however slight) on the table.
  • Speaking of Wolff, suffice to say he is not a fan of Christian Horner’s stand-up!
  • Sensible move from Zak Brown, keeping the door open for Fernando Alonso to test for McLaren in 2019. I’m sure Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz would benefit from his guidance, particularly in finding the right words to criticise the car with.