Abu Dhabi GP | Vettel goes top as Hamilton edges Rosberg again in FP3

Final Practice at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix topped by Sebastian Vettel.

While sunlight still dominated the Abu Dhabi sky, the 22-strong Formula One field hit the track for the final practice session of the year. The final 60-minutes of running before the floodlights illuminate the Yas Marina circuit for qualifying at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. A qualifying session Sebastian Vettel goes into as the fastest man around the 5-kilometre track.

From day one, session one, Lewis has had the better of his championship-leading team-mate to top the timesheets across Friday practice at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Edging his German stable-mate by three-tenths in first free practice, before Nico fought back to reduce the margin to less than a tenth in FP2. A story Nico carried into Saturday, as the Mercedes pilots came out on super-soft tyres with three-tenths of a second splitting the pair.

Then when ultra-soft tyres were first bolted onto the Silver Arrows, not even fastest sectors in one and three could demote Lewis from P1. With Nico’s fastest time on the fastest rubber still a tenth down on what Hamilton was capable of. Two-tenths of which swung in Hamilton’s favour through the middle sector.

Prior to the Mercedes’ running the ultra-soft tyres, though, problems arose with both cars. As Hamilton’s car suffered a sudden power loss the team noted as an “unexpected de-rate” in the engine harvesting. While for Rosberg, the championship leader noted his car had “a little bit of pull to one side when I’m braking”.

Prior to the Mercedes’ running as well, Sebastian Vettel moved top as he crawled out the pits first on the ultra-soft tyres. But after being initially down on his team-mate, Raikkonen bettered Vettel by a quarter of a second.

An order Vettel would later change as he returned on another set of fresh ultra-softs to move top by three-tenths to Hamilton. Lewis, coincidentally, later returned for one final run but aborted as he requested his brakes were checked.

While Hamilton sat in the pits, Verstappen moved to within a tenth of Vettel’s benchmark time. And Raikkonen took third to demote the Silver Arrows to fourth and fifth.

Daniil Kvyat, on the other hand, ended the hour down in 21st place after accumulating 12-laps on the board following two left-rear punctures across Friday practice.

The two punctures Kvyat suffered saw both cars kept in the garage during FP2 on safety grounds and comes after Carlos Sainz suffered two punctures during final practice at the US Grand Prix.

While the team were not 100% sure of the cause of Kvyat’s Friday punctures, both cars were able to run on Saturday morning despite Kvyat reporting early on “there is some vibration under braking” as he set the first time of the day.

An overnight sandstorm also brought a lot of sand and dust onto the track surface. Leading to a lot of build up just off the kerb, which caught a few drivers out across final practice.

One driver caught out by the lower grip levels was Carlos Sainz as he spun under the hotel. Carlos had run slightly wide over the exit kerb before the spin. But due to the quiet spell in the session, he could pull back over the track to turn around in run-off opposite.

Pos Driver Team Laps Time Gap Interval
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 16 1’40.775
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull 21 1’40.912 0.137 0.137
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 14 1’40.999 0.224 0.087
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 15 1’41.065 0.29 0.066
5 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 19 1’41.168 0.393 0.103
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 20 1’41.831 1.056 0.663
7 Sergio Perez Force India 19 1’41.885 1.11 0.054
8 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 13 1’42.067 1.292 0.182
9 Valtteri Bottas Williams 19 1’42.076 1.301 0.009
10 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 15 1’42.354 1.579 0.278
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren 14 1’42.585 1.81 0.231
12 Jolyon Palmer Renault 17 1’42.616 1.841 0.031
13 Jenson Button McLaren 15 1’42.664 1.889 0.048
14 Felipe Massa Williams 20 1’42.683 1.908 0.019
15 Romain Grosjean Haas 17 1’42.805 2.03 0.122
16 Kevin Magnussen Renault 17 1’43.057 2.282 0.252
17 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 17 1’43.145 2.37 0.088
18 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso 10 1’43.301 2.526 0.156
19 Felipe Nasr Sauber 21 1’43.417 2.642 0.116
20 Esteban Ocon Manor 15 1’43.733 2.958 0.316
21 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 13 1’44.105 3.33 0.372
22 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 20 1’44.238 3.463 0.133