Romain Grosjean and Sebastian Vettel were the two drivers to top the timesheets in Friday practice ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Grosjean, who finished on the podium for the third time in as many races last time out in India, left it late in FP1. He knocked the Mercedes driver, Lewis Hamilton, off top spot in the closing stages of the first 90 minute session to go fastest by nearly two tenths of a second.
Rounding out the top four was newly crowned champion Sebastian Vettel, ahead of Mark Webber. It was not a particularly strong start to the weekend for Ferrari however. The Italian team are looking to retake second place in the constructors’ championship off Mercedes, but Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa could only post the twelfth and seventeenth fastest times respectively.
Vettel went fastest in the second session, the Red Bull looking ominously fast on both tyres on short and long runs. A tenth off his pace was team mate Webber, also looking strong, with Hamilton in third, a couple of tenths further off. While Red Bull locked out the first two positions once more, their advantage certainly doesn’t look to be as big as it has been in previous races. Hamilton in particular showed good pace in the final sector of the lap.
Things were not so smooth for some other high profile contenders. The morning’s pace setter, Romain Grosjean, had a torrid time with brake issues in FP2 which disrupted his running. He is therefore classified all the way down in twelfth, with team mate Raikkonen fourth. The Lotus appears to be showing good long run pace again this weekend.
Three British drivers also had separate issues. Jenson Button was pulled into the pits by his McLaren team with a puncture, while a faulty suspension upright caused di Resta’s front left tyre to deflate. He managed to bring the car back to the pits, and soon returned back to complete the session.
Additionally, Marussia’s Max Chilton, the only man to have finished every race this season, suffered a wild moment at turn one as he spun, before almost hitting the barriers as he attempted to spin turn his car.
Ferrari’s pace improved in the second session. Fernando Alonso was classified in eighth place, with Felipe Massa tenth. The pair was split by Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg.
A final one hour practice session takes place at 10am tomorrow, with qualifying commencing at 1pm.