Nico Rosberg has finished the season’s final practice session atop the timesheets ahead of this afternoon’s all important qualifying showdown at the Yas Marina Circuit.

The German moved ahead of teammate and early weekend pace-setter Lewis Hamilton, clocking a 1:41.424 time on the Pirelli Super Soft rubber to finish four-tenths of a second clear of the championship leader.

Hamilton – who has a 17-point lead over Rosberg and needs to finish the race in second place to guarantee himself the title – actually looked set to claim top spot, posting purple sector times through the first two-thirds of his lap before suffering a scrappy final sector.

Barring a massive surprise, qualifying will be a showdown between the two championship protagonists as the Silver Arrows once again showed their class around the circuit.

Felipe Massa headed the ‘best of the rest’ brigade, over six-tenths adrift in his Williams. The Brazilian wound up ahead of former Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso, who finished fourth-quickest on his final weekend as a driver for the Scuderia. After losing out on valuable track mileage in yesterday’s second practice session thanks to an electrical malfunction, the Spaniard clocked just 8 laps in FP3 to save engine mileage for qualifying and Sunday’s race.

Alonso’s soon-to-be replacement, Sebastian Vettel, finished fidth-fastest in his Red Bull Racing entry. He and teammate Daniel Ricciardo sandwiched Jenson Button’s McLaren on the timesheets.

Valtteri Bottas suffered a massive lock-up on his Super Soft run and could do no better than eighth-fastest in the second Williams, while the top ten places were rounded out by Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen – the latter had a number of off-track moments in this session.

Caterham debutant Will Stevens once again brought up the rear behind Kamui Kobayashi, although the Englishman will head into qualifying with some confidence after slashing his deficit to the Japanese driver to just under one second.

Saturday’s qualifying session gets underway at 17:00 local time (GMT + 4).

2014 Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 3 Results:

Driver Team / Entry Time Gap Laps
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05 1:41.424 19
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05 1:41.753 + 0.369 17
3. Felipe Massa Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36 1:42.429 + 1.005 18
4. Fernando Alonso Scuderia Ferrari F14T 1:42.653 + 1.229 8
5. Sebastian Vettel Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10 1:42.679 + 1.255 19
6. Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes MP4-29 1:42.768 + 1.344 20
7. Daniel Ricciardo Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10 1:42.773 + 1.349 14
8. Valtteri Bottas Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36 1:42.794 + 1.370 19
9. Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9 1:42.809 + 1.385 20
10. Kimi Räikkönen Scuderia Ferrari F14T 1:43.038 + 1.614 14
11. Kevin Magnussen McLaren Mercedes MP4-29 1:43.112 + 1.688 13
12. Jean-Éric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9 1:43.352 + 1.928 20
13. Sergio Pérez Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07 1:43.360 + 1.936 19
14. Nico Hülkenberg Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07 1:43.501 + 2.077 18
15. Esteban Gutiérrez Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33 1:43.643 + 2.219 24
16. Pastor Maldonado Lotus F1 Team Renault E22 1:43.718 + 2.294 17
17. Romain Grosjean Lotus F1 Team Renault E22 1:43.778 + 2.354 18
18. Adrian Sutil Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33 1:44.022 + 2.598 22
19. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05 1:45.044 + 3.620 16
20. Will Stevens Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05 1:45.959 + 4.535 21

Image via XPB Images

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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.