It’s what we’ve seen throughout the year, and today was no different with the Mercedes men securing yet another one-two finish in the final free practice session of 2014. This time it was Nico Rosberg with his name above the rest in Dhabi, to get the better of his team-mate and championship rival by 0.369 seconds.
Going back to Friday, Lewis opened the weekend by topping the first free practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Lewis took the top spot by one tenth of a second to Nico Rosberg, before the German reduced the deficit to his team-mate to just eight hundredths of a second come the second free practice session.
The second free practice session was also a strong session for Kevin Magnussen with the McLaren driver ending the session in third. However, despite finishing in third, Kevin ended the session seven tenths down on Hamilton.
In contrast, FP2 proved to be a disappointing session for Alonso in the Spaniards final weekend with Ferrari. After completing just two laps in the opening minutes, Fernando’s session came to an end when a mechanical problem caused his Ferrari to stop.
But come 2pm in Dhabi, the green light flicked on and the final practice session of the year kicked into gear with Pastor Maldonado leading a handful of drivers onto the Yas Marina Circuit.
Pastor was swiftly followed by Bottas, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Massa and Alonso with the Spaniard posting the first timed lap of the day a few minutes later. Fernando’s early 1:44:581 remained top as more times hit the board, but the marker soon came crumbling down.
A lot of drivers had traded second place in the build up to Alonso’s time being toppled, but the man for that job was the man replacing Alonso at Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel. The German was able to produce a 1:44:547 to put his name on top, but Button would better that by 3 hundredths of a second in his McLaren.
Not so soon after Vettel temporarily returned to the top, but the German’s time was hammered by Alonso. This time, Fernando was out on the supersoft tyres to make up for his lost running yesterday and the fresh rubber resulted in the Spaniard posting a 1:42:653.
As well as being Fernando’s fastest lap of the weekend, it would be his final free practice lap for Ferrari as the Scuderia team brought him back to the garage to change his engine ahead of qualifying. Up until this point they had been using an old engine in order to carry out FP1 & 2 simulation runs before installing the race engine.
Since Fernando was the only man on the supersoft tyres his time took a while to beat but the two Williams found themselves slotting into P2 & 3 soon after. Bottas had momentarily taken second place, but his Brazilian team-mate bettered his time to take second with a 1:43:945.
By now the Silver Arrows were posting times themselves. Rosberg’s first competitive lap could only secure the German in fourth place after Nico slightly ran wide at turn 17. Lewis then bettered his title rival and took third place with a 1:43:435.
However it was not long before Mercedes had a car on top. This time Rosberg was able to hook up a flying lap and topple Alonso’s early flyer, but the margin was just one hundredth of a second.
Over the following handful of minutes the amount of running slowly fizzled out before the track fell silent with quarter of an hour to go. With all drivers in their garages, the teams fitted the supersoft tyres ahead of their final runs.
Teams were leaving it as late as possible before sending their cars back out with enough time remaining for an adequate run. But they had left the circuit for long enough in order for the track temperature to drop slightly and be more representative of the conditions in qualifying later today.
Eventually, with just over ten minutes remaining, Massa returned to the track ahead of the field. As more and more drivers left the pits, Massa began his first flying lap and stormed to the top spot. Massa was able to pound out a 1:42:429, but just seconds later he was smashed out the way by Rosberg who regained the top spot by a full second.
Lewis Hamilton wasn’t even able to challenge his team-mate despite topping both practice sessions yesterday with the Brit slotting into second, just under half a second down on Nico.
On his next timed lap Lewis was able to move closer to Nico’s time but despite going purple in sectors one and two, he lost time in the final sector and ended the lap three tenths down on Nico.
In the end there was nothing Lewis could do as the chequered flag fell to bring the session to an end with Nico on top. The margin between the Silver Arrows was three tenths of a second, the largest gap of the weekend between the two.
Felipe Massa was able to secure P3, despite being a full second down on Rosberg with Fernando Alonso ending the session in fourth place despite his session coming to an end early on.
Unlike yesterday, Kevin Magnussen ended the session outside the top 10 whilst Button secured sixth place behind Vettel.
Formula One’s debutant, Will Stevens ended the session in last place and nine-tenths down on his experienced team-mate Kamui Kobayashi, with qualifying just hours away.
|5||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:42.679||1.255||19|
|7||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:42.773||1.349||14|
|13||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:43.360||1.936||19|
|14||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:43.501||2.077||18|