Wolff backs Bottas to recover quickly after mistake ends China podium hopes

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Mercedes Formula 1 chief Toto Wolff has backed Valtteri Bottas to bounce back from the mistake in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix that ended his hopes of a podium finish.

Bottas qualified third on Saturday in Shanghai and held position off the line, only to drop back to fifth when Mercedes opted to double-stack its drivers in the pits when changing to dry tires.

Running behind the safety car, Bottas spun his car as he struggled to get heat into his tires, leaving him a lowly 12th.

While the Finn was able to fight his way back up the order and cross the line sixth, he was disappointed to have missed out on a better result.

“I’m very disappointed with today. I made a good start but it didn’t go so well from there,” Bottas said.

“Yes, we lost some time in the pit stop but it was nothing compared to what we lost with my mistake. I was trying everything I could to get temperature in the tyres behind the safety car but went too aggressive and lost control of the car.

“It was entirely my fault. I’m really sorry for the team and the points we lost today.”

Despite the mistake, Wolff is confident that Bottas has what it takes to put it behind him and bounce back next weekend in Bahrain.

“He threw it away behind the safety car. He just needs to recover from that now,” Wolff said, as quoted by the official F1 website.

“It was very slippery out there and he lost it – and that’s when the race was gone. It’s the second race of the season, there are 18 more – analyze and forget it.

“You could see during the race that he had the pace. He was doing Lewis’s lap times at various stages, but once you’re losing so many positions and you’re not in the leading pack anymore, and you have to recover mentally, that is very difficult.

“He certainly has the character to recover from such a situation.”

Hamilton tops second Abu Dhabi F1 practice with new track record

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Lewis Hamilton swept to the top of the timesheets in second Formula 1 practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday evening, beating Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel by one-tenth of a second.

Hamilton trailed Vettel through the daytime-run opening practice session, but managed to strike back by recording a new track record at the Yas Marina Circuit for Mercedes.

Hamilton recorded a fastest lap time of 1:37.877 to finish one-tenth of a second clear of Vettel at the checkered flag, appearing to have an edge across a single lap on the ultra-soft tire.

Red Bull threw its hat into the ring as a possible rival for pole through Daniel Ricciardo, who finished the session third-fastest, three-tenths of a second back from Hamilton at the head of the field.

Kimi Raikkonen ended FP2 in fourth place in the sister Ferrari, finishing within half a second of Hamilton, and managed to edge out fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas, who was a further two-tenths back in P5.

Max Verstappen failed to get in a quick flying lap during FP2, ending the session one second down in P6 for Red Bull.

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon’s tight intra-team fight at Force India continued through FP2 as the pair were separated by just 0.01 seconds, taking seventh and eighth respectively to finish as the leading midfield drivers.

Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso completed the top 10 for Renault and McLaren, with Felipe Massa following in 11th for Williams on his final Friday appearance in F1.

Massa was fortunate to avoid an accident with Ricciardo during the final 15 minutes of the session after a mix up at the hairpin when the Brazilian tried to get a wider line for the back straight.

Running in Abu Dhabi continues with final practice at Yas Marina on Saturday morning from 5am ET on the NBC Sports app, followed by qualifying at 8am ET on NBCSN.