Sebastian Vettel fastest in practice for the Abu Dhabi GP ahead of Mark Webber
Red Bull pair complete another one-two with Hamilton third
By Mike Wise
Last Updated: 04/11/13 8:28am
Ditto Red Bull, who enjoyed their seventh P2 one-two of the season as Mark Webber lapped 0.155s slower than his team-mate. Lewis Hamilton led the pursuit in his Mercedes to set the third fastest time ahead of last year's winner, Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen, who raised the prospect that he is very much in contention once again by also appearing impressive on longer runs.
Aided by the safety car, Raikkonen one-stopped his way to victory at the Yas Marina Circuit 12 months ago and the prospect is that he will try the same again. Whether that means he can earn a repeat success remains to be seen, of course, with all the usual Friday practice caveats applying, but the initial hunch is that Lotus could provide Red Bull's sternest challenge this weekend.
Doubtless Hamilton and Mercedes will have something to say about that but the Briton later admitted to Sky Sports News that, as far as he is concerned, the World Champions are once again favourites. "I will push as much as I can, and hopefully I will find a little more time, but I anticipate they will be quickest," Hamilton, winner in 2011, said.
Team-mate Nico Rosberg was fifth fastest while their closest rivals in the battle for second place in the Constructors' Championship, Ferrari, were in the lower reaches of the top ten courtesy of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.
Separating them were the McLarens of Sergio Perez and Jenson Button, who were sixth and seventh fastest respectively. With time running out if they are to score their first podium finish of the season, it seems the Woking team are trying different tactics in their attempts to wrestle a half-decent result out the MP4-28.
Friday saw them running low-downforce set-ups - the thinking, presumably, would be to try and make gains under DRS on the two long straights. Whether they'll continue with the 'skinny' rear wings remains to be seen, although Button seemed happy enough with his car's handling.
"The car's feeling okay round here. On the soft tyre on one lap, it feels good. I got it on my first lap, which most people didn't. So I'm happy about that," he said afterwards.
Button also lost time after suffering what McLaren first thought was a puncture. It turned out to be a sensor problem - the resulting "funny smell" spreading as far as the pursuing Vettel's cockpit - that cost the 2009 World Champion time.
Paul di Resta's car suffered an actual puncture, although he eventually recovered to finish 13th after Force India's mechanics repaired the wheel damage it caused.
Romain Grosjean, fastest in the morning, also suffered a truncated session - the Frenchman completing less than half the laps team-mate Raikkonen managed after experiencing unspecified issues with his Lotus. The car had already suffered brake problems.
Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg was ninth fastest, two places ahead of Esteban Gutierrez, while Max Chilton ended the session 22nd fastest after his Marussia dropped debris - a brake duct - on the track early on in the session.