Lewis Hamilton has led a McLaren 1-2 in final practice at Abu Dhabi

Lewis Hamilton has led another McLaren 1-2 as the free practice sessions came to a close for this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

But the major talking point was a braking problem that beset Sebastian Vettel, with the championship leader managing just a single flying lap – albeit an effort that proved good enough for third place.

With Saturday’s one-hour session proving to be the hottest conditions the field has experienced this weekend at the Yas Marina Circuit, lap times were down on yesterday evening’s second practice times, despite the field attempting qualifying simulations as they geared up for the all-important twilight qualifying session.

Ferrari broke the mandated curfew restrictions for the second time this weekend as they sought to bring the F2012 more competitiveness. However, unkind media pundits have suggested that this curfew breach was purely accidental – as opposed to yesterday’s first breach – triggered by a team member entering the paddock minutes earlier than permitted.

Hamilton – winner here last year – was dominant throughout the one-hour session, proving quickest of the field on the hard Pirelli tyres, before switching to the softer rubber and repeating the feat with a session’s best of 1:42.130, finishing less than three-tenths of a second faster than team-mate Jenson Button.

Over at Red Bull Racing, however, there was plenty of drama. Vettel failed to emerge from his garage after completing his initial installation laps, and only came back out again in the final five minutes after his mechanics sought to cure an acute brake caliper problem. Once he was back out, his one flying lap was good enough for an impressive third-fastest.

Behind the McLarens and Red Bulls, Nico Hulkenberg was a surprise ‘best of the rest’, clocking the fifth-fastest time in his Force India. The German led the equally impressive Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado, who proved the quicker of the Lotus and Williams driver pairings, respectively.

Fernando Alonso finished the session eighth-fastest, over a second adrift of Hamilton’s lap time as Ferrari opted to try the same straight-line speed set-up idea it used to such good effect on race day last time out at the Indian Grand Prix.

2012 Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 3 Session Times:

Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:42.130   18
2. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:42.420 + 0.290 17
3. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:42.614 + 0.484 7
4. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:42.743 + 0.613 18
5. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:42.750 + 0.620 19
6. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:43.015 + 0.885 18
7. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW34 1:43.064 + 0.934 19
8. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:43.133 + 1.003 15
9. Kimi Räikkönen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:43.184 + 1.054 22
10. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:43.338 + 1.208 19
11. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:43.480 + 1.350 17
12. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C31 1:43.571 + 1.441 20
13. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:43.593 + 1.463 20
14. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:43.635 + 1.505 19
15. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C31 1:44.010 + 1.880 22
16. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:44.025 + 1.895 18
17. Bruno Senna BRA Williams Renault FW34 1:44.071 + 1.941 19
18. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:44.149 + 2.019 19
19. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Caterham Renault CT01 1:45.301 + 3.171 22
20. Timo Glock DEU Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:45.879 + 3.749 19
21. Charles Pic FRA Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:46.036 + 3.906 19
22. Vitaly Petrov RUS Caterham Renault CT01 1:46.261 + 4.131 22
23. Pedro de la Rosa ESP HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:46.554 + 4.424 20
24. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:47.032 + 4.902 22

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.