Lewis Hamilton has kept himself on top of the timesheets in final practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday afternoon, surviving a session bizarrely interrupted by a parasol flying onto the circuit.
While the afternoon’s weather would not be an adequate comparison to the cooler conditions expected for qualifying under floodlights, it didn’t stop Hamilton from lowering his Friday practice lap record time by a quarter of a second.
In an omen of what could be expected in qualifying, Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas made it a Mercedes 1-2 on the timesheets. The Finn finished 0.27 seconds slower than Hamilton’s benchmark time of 1:37.672 thanks to late flying lap after ruining an earlier attempt with a mistake at the final corner.
Ferrari finished third- and fourth-fastest, although both cars were around half a second off Hamilton’s ultimate pace. Kimi Räikkönen was quicker than teammate Sebastian Vettel for the first time this weekend.
Red Bull Racing slipped to the position of the third-fastest team, unable to extract more power from their engines as qualifying draws near. Daniel Ricciardo led teammate Max Verstappen on the stopwatch.
The session was bizarrely disrupted at its midway point when a parasol blew over the circuit’s safety fencing and landed on the track at Turn 8. A Virtual Safety Car was deployed so a marshal could retrieve the offending piece of sun protection.
Behind the top six cars, there was a large gap back to the rest of the pack. The two McLaren-Hondas surprisingly led the ‘best of the rest’ charge, with Fernando Alonso ahead of teammate Stoffel Vandoorne.
Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. and Force India’s Sergio Pérez broke the Noah’s Ark formation on the timing screens in ninth and tenth respectively, ahead of Williams’ Felipe Massa and the Sainz Jr.’s teammate Nico Hülkenberg.
Esteban Ocon was a relatively lowly 13th-fastest in the second Force India, finishing ahead of the Haas Ferrari duo of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean.
Pascal Wehrlein impressed by getting his Sauber Ferrari as high as 16th, lapping quicker than Williams’ Lance Stroll and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly. The German’s teammate Marcus Ericsson was 19th-fastest as Brendon Hartley rounded out the field and was slowest overall.
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