Sebastian Vettel has added another twist to the title decider in Abu Dhabi by setting the fastest time in the final practice session. Vettel set a 1:40.775 on the ultra-soft tyre, 0.137s faster than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who came second, and two tenths faster than his team mate Kimi Raikkonen in third.
Title contenders Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg came fourth and fifth as they set their fastest times earlier in the session, before other drivers improved their lap times. The Mercedes pair did go out at the final stage but apparantly opted not to stress their engines or their sets of ultra-softs, which will be the qualifying tyre and, likely, the preferred race tyre as the sun sets and the track cools down.
Daniel Ricciardo came sixth, 1.1s off Vettel as he conducted a different program from his team mate, heading the Force India pair who set the seventh and eighth fastest times for Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg respectively.
Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Gutierrez had a good session on their way to ninth and tenth for Williams and Haas, faring much better than their respective team mates who both suffered from issues across the session. Felipe Massa ran wide a few times, one of which ended with a spin before Turn 7 in the final minutes while Romain Grosjean complained from brake and front-end problems all session, as the pair came 14th and 15th respectively.
Fernando Alonso clocked the 11th fastest time ahead of Jolyon Palmer in 12th and Jenson Button in 13th, a tenth off his team mate and nearly two seconds off the leaders’ pace.
Kevin Magnussen was 16th fastest ahead of Pascal Wehrlein in the Manor and Carlos Sainz, who headed a very dismal session for Toro Rosso following yesterday’s troubles. The Red Bull junior team were not able to set a competetive lap time until the very end as they had to be inspected by the scrutineers following each run to check if the deflation problems they suffered from yesterday were fixed.
Sainz’s team mate Daniil Kvyat came a very lowly 21st, trailing Sauber’s Felipe Nasr in 19th and Manor’s Esteban Ocon in 20th, while Marcus Ericsson brought up the rear in the Sauber.
Qualifying picks up at 17:00 local timing (GMT +4)
Image via XPB Images