Lewis Hamilton responded to Sebastian Vettel’s early pace in FP1 by setting a new track record in Abu Dhabi to finish top of the pile in FP2.
Hamilton set a 1:37.877 on the ultrasoft tyres, one tenth quicker than Vettel and three tenths faster than Daniel Ricciardo who rounded off the top three.
Vettel’s team-mate Raikkonen was four tenths off the pace, with Bottas a couple of tenths further back. Max Verstappen struggled to get into any sort of rhythm and was just over a second behind in P6.
As the sun began to set and temperatures cooled, the conditions were much more representative of what is to come in Sunday’s race and led to a hive of activity throughout the second practice session.
Hamilton got the better of the early exchanges, setting a 1:38.912 on supersoft tyres with Ricciardo, four tenths behind, the nearest rival.
Bottas, Vettel and Raikkonen were all eight tenths off the pace on the same tyre before they headed back into the pits for the first time.
Turn 20 proved problematic for both Lance Stroll in the Williams and Stoffel Vandoorne in the McLaren as the rear of their cars snapped away from them and were spat out onto the wide run-off area.
With just over an hour of the session remaining and darkness continuing to creep in, the qualifying simulation programmes got into full flow.
Ricciardo’s first hot lap on the ultrasofts was disrupted by an idling Romain Grosjean, who was shown the middle finger for his troubles.
The Aussie eventually improved to P3 after finally getting a clean lap together, but it was Hamilton who remained out in front by setting a 1:37.877 – a new track record – on the ultras.
Vettel was a tenth behind in P2, yet he was the driver who improved the most after finding 1.7 seconds from supersofts to ultrasofts.
The clock ticked down and inside the second half of the session, meaning attention turned to the race simulation programmes.
Hamilton’s run on the ultrasofts ended a little earlier than scheduled after he locked up at Turn 17 and flat-spotted his tyres, forcing him to switch back to the supers with 30 minutes remaining.
The race simulations went by without any major incidents; Brendon Hartley, who has another 10-place grid penalty to contend with this weekend, the only other driver to spin off on entry into Turn 1.
Mercedes had the pace advantage on both sets of tyres, with Hamilton’s fresher engine which was put in at Brazil no doubt having a big impact on the long-run data.
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:37.877 US
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:38.026 0.149 US
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:38.180 0.303 US
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:38.352 0.475 US
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:38.537 0.660 US
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:38.894 1.017 US
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1:39.323 1.446 US
8 Esteban Ocon Force India 1:39.333 1.456 US
9 Nico Hulkenberg Renault Sport 1:39.529 1.652 US
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:39.559 1.682 US
11 Felipe Massa Williams 1:39.635 1.758 US
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:39.671 1.794 US
13 Carlos Sainz Renault Sport 1:40.201 2.324 US
14 Lance Stroll Williams 1:40.329 2.452 US
15 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1:40.694 2.817 SS
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:41.128 3.251 US
17 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1:41.270 3.393 US
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:41.302 3.425 US
19 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 1:41.496 3.619 US
20 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:41.560 3.683 SS