Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent
This time it was Lewis Hamilton who for McLaren scored the fastest lap time at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit, the 2008 World Champion lapped the circuit in 1m39.586s, while his team mate Jenson Button completed the McLaren one-two by taking second spot, just 0.199s behind Hamilton. Fernando Alonso took third place despite crashing his Ferrari at Turn 1, Felipe Massa was also quick and was fourth just ahead of Mark Webber who was the fastest Red Bull driver and landed fifth place with a time of 1m40.104s. Vettel, who also crashed at Turn 1 but could later resume practice, recorded the sixth fastest time.
Michael Schumacher scored a seventh time after his disappointing 15th place earlier this morning after conducting a number of tests. This time it was Nico Rosberg who did the testing and after he had spent 41 laps on the circuit ended up on 20th place on the time sheets.
Drivers were again out early to set a time, and Vettel set the benchmark after five minutes with a lap of 1m41.392s, but his time was soon beaten by Webber who took over the leading position. Just another five minutes later Vettel improved his time once again and lapped the circuit in 1m40.514s, taking over the lead from Webber again, both were on the experimental soft Pirellis at the time.
After 20 minutes Alonso set a new benchmark with a time of 1m40.141s and managed to hold on to that fastest lap as others continued to execute some planned tests for this afternoon. He improved his time again and with still an hour to go the Spaniard put in the fastest time of the afternoon with a lap of 1m39.971s, and was the first driver to post a time under the 1m40s.
Both the McLaren and Red Bull drivers at the time were out on the option (soft) tyres and they kept dicing for the leading position, Hamilton again improved his time and recorded a lap of 1m39.586s, which later proved to be the fastest time of the session. Also Button improved his time but could not go quick enough to beat his team mate, and stayed in second position.
But it was not a good afternoon for Vettel as he some 50 minutes into the session during his third run lost control of his Red Bull at Turn 1 and hit the barrier. The 2011 Champion had to abandon his car and his practice was temporarily over just after he had set the fifth quickest time of the moment.
Ferrari’s Alonso was soon to follow the German as he also crashed out of practice at the same point as Vettel after a massive moment of oversteer at Turn 1 - which sent his Ferrari backwards into the barrier - and he also had to abandon his damaged car and for him the second practice session was over.
Felipe Massa did the best he could in his Ferrari and took fourth place just behind Alonso, the Brazilian recorded a lap time of 1m40.980s but could not improve his time after that.
Most drivers spent the remainder of the session testing the car with a full fuel load and practicing starts, and Hamilton’s fastest lap would become the fastest time of the session, and also the fastest time of the day.
Meanwhile, Vettel’s car had been returned to the Red Bull garage and Vettel again ventured out onto the circuit, this time on a set of medium compound tyres. With less than ten minutes to go, the order was: Hamilton, Button, Alonso, Massa, Webber, Vettel, and Schumacher. None of them was able to improve their time and the order was the same when the chequered flag was waved after 90 minutes of practice.
Again a great performance by the Force India drivers, Adrian Sutil took eighth and Paul di Resta ninth position, Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi completed the top ten with a time of 1m41.490s. His Mexican team mate Sergio Perez finished in 11th spot, missing out on 10th place by just 0.075s.
Sebastian Buemi was back in the car after Jean-Eric Vergne had taken over the wheel from the Swiss driver this morning, and Buemi steered his Toro Rosso to 12th place without any problems, while his Spanish team colleague Jaime Alguersuari finished the day in 14th spot.
Russian Vitaly Petrov ended up in a Toro Rosso sandwich as he took his Lotus Renault to 13th place, while Brazilian Bruno Senna, who was back in the car after lending it to Romain Grosjean during the morning session, finished the day in 15th place.
Next two places are occupied by Williams, Rubens Barrichello soon was back in business after he had to abandon the morning session with a fuel pressure problem and he took 16th place, and was followed by his Venezuelan team mate Pastor Maldonado who was just 0.112s slower than the Brazilian and finished in 17th place.
Heikki Kovalainen was once again the fastest of the Team Lotus drivers, and took 18th position ahead of Jarno Trulli who was almost half a second slower than Kovalainen. As said, due to his testing duties Rosberg finished in 20th position, and was followed by both Marussia Virgins of Timo Glock and Jerome d’Ambrosio who were in 21st and 22nd position respectively, while both HRT drivers Vitantonio Liuzzi and Daniel Ricciardo took their usual 23rd and 24th place.
Another 90 minutes of practice awaits the drivers tomorrow morning, as usual the IT boffins will analyze the gathered data overnight and drivers then have a last chance to find a good qualifying and race setup.
Today McLaren dominated the practice sessions, while Red Bull and Ferrari have been dicing for second and third best, and again an impressive performance by both Force India drivers, who are still uncertain about their future. Even worse, their future is now even more in doubt as today reports emerged that Force India’s boss Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher airline emporium is apparently in huge financial problems.