Sebastian Vettel restored Red Bull’s superiority over McLaren in Friday evening’s second practice session ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton had a sizeable advantage earlier in the day but the world champion found more time on the soft tyres in FP2 to outpace the Briton by a tenth of a second.
Hamilton set a fastest of 1:43.285 in first practice but such was the track evolution, Vettel was inside that within ten minutes of the second session. Many would’ve been forgiven for fearing another display of Red Bull domination once Vettel hit the front but the McLarens responded by joining him in the 1:42s, with Hamilton and Jenson Button within a tenth of the ultimate pace on medium tyres.
While his teammate dived into the pits, Hamilton stayed out to set a 1:42.095 and move half a second ahead of Vettel but the soft tyre runs were still to come, an area McLaren were found wanting in India. Button’s initial pace on the options suggested that weakness hadn’t been eradicated as it took him a number of flying laps to improve, halving the gap to Hamilton, but Red Bull and particularly Lotus were having no such problem as Vettel broke into the 1:41s to go fastest while Romain Grosjean jumped up to fifth behind Mark Webber.
Hamilton was able to join Vettel in the 1:41s, albeit 0.168s slower, but certainly appears strong enough to keep the championship leader on his toes this weekend while Button and Webber were also closely matched in the sister cars, finishing third and fourth. The Australian was unable to complete any race preparation though as a suspicious water leak appeared late on, forcing him to park his RB8 in the garage.
Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen completed the top six for Lotus, meaning Ferrari only had the fourth fastest car at the end of Friday, surely a concern to Fernando Alonso who was seventh quickest. Teammate Felipe Massa was eighth with Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez rounding out the top ten.
Bruno Senna was eleventh in the second Williams with both Mercedes’ and both Force Indias trailing behind him. The evening session also saw Vitaly Petrov, Charles Pic and Narain Karthikeyan return to their cars but only Petrov was able to beat his teammate before night fall.