With the newly crowned Constructors' Champions, Red Bull, still reeling from their success of securing their first Formula One title for 2010 in Brazil a week ago, both of the team's drivers seemed to initially continue their winning streak, when...
With the newly crowned Constructors' Champions, Red Bull, still reeling from their success of securing their first Formula One title for 2010 in Brazil a week ago, both of the team's drivers seemed to initially continue their winning streak, when Sebastian Vettel got the top spot, in first practice ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. However, Lewis Hamilton soon spoiled the party when he headed the final practice timesheets.
Hamilton seemed very pleased with today's run in practice, but still remains cautious about the threat his closest rivals may pose in qualifying.
"We've been hoping for some time to improve our revised rear wing. It hasn't really been working fully since we first tested it at Suzuka, so we've not been able to use it to its fullest extent. We knew that it had potential though-and to have it finally working properly is a huge plus for us. The car feels good, so I'm hopeful for a good qualifying result tomorrow afternoon. Of course, it will be tough, because the Red Bulls tend to pull out half a second in Q3, but our pace is closer to theirs than it's ever been. Of all the weekends this year, this time I feel like we really do have the right package to challenge the fastest cars. I think we can fight for the front row.", explained Hamilton.
The McLaren driver had a shaky start to the final session of the day, when he narrowly missed a collision with the Hispania of Bruno Senna, by a whisker in the early stages. The 2008 World Champion, later went on to set the fastest time of the session with a final lap time of 1:40.888s. Vettel was two tenths of a second behind, and took second place. Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who currently leads in the hunt for the Drivers' title, improved from sixth place in the morning's practice, to secure third position at the end of the day.
Vettel's Australian team mate, Mark Webber, finished in fourth position, and just a leapt in front of Renault's Robert Kubica in fifth place. Alonso's Brazilian team mate, Felipe Massa, who experienced a miserable home race in Brazil, faced more bad luck to start his race weekend. Sadly Massa was forced to abandon his car out on the track, after he reported to the team that he had run out of fuel. He stopped at Turn 10 on the Yas Marina circuit, where he was a kilometre and a half away from the pit lane. Massa managed to land himself in sixth position, despite the problems that occurred.
The defending World Champion, Jenson Button, who now finds himself out of the fight to retain his title, had a fairly good day on the track. During the first part of the day, the Briton launched himself into third position. The last lap time of the day that Button set in the sister McLaren, meant that he completed practice in eighth position overall.
Vitaly Petrov seemed to make steady progress in today's free run. The Russian rookie in the other Renault, was able to sneak passed Button to take seventh position.
There was a surprise result for the Force India driver, Vitantonio Liuzzi, who secured a place in the top ten. Unfortunately during the race in Brazil, the Italian driver retired from the race when he crashed and went off the track, which led to a safety car situation. It seemed luck was on his side as practice came to a close today. Liuzzi ended the day with a very impressive finish, to secure ninth position for himself.
The in team battle between the two German team mates at Mercedes, still appears to be very much alive. At the last race a week ago, the younger driver of the two, Nico Rosberg finished one place better than veteran Michael Schumacher. It seemed to be a similar result for the pair, with the outcome in today's practice. Rosberg was able to pick up the last place, of the top ten most desirable ones. On the other hand, Schumacher ended the session just outside, and was on his team mate's tail, to take 11th place. The World Champion, who is very famous for his successful track record, did get off to a slippery start in this morning's run. The conditions were still slightly damp on track, when the session got off to a wet start after a shower of rain covered the circuit. Schumacher lost grip on the track, but managed to just about keep things together.
Nico Hulkenberg came next in 12th position. The Williams driver was also able to get in front of his older team mate, like Rosberg achieved over Schumacher. Hulkenberg shocked the rest of thee field at the last race when he secure his maiden pole position in Formula One.
Adrian Sutil in the second Force India car, completed practice in 13th position. This being a similar slot to where he ended up, when the chequered flag was waived a week ago. The German driver can now start a fresh this weekend, after the five-place grid penalty from his actions in the Korean race, which hampered his grid slot for the Brazilian Grand Prix last weekend.
The Sauber drivers got quite a bit of attention during the previous race, with Nick Heidfeld ignoring the blue flag, and taking a drive through penalty because of this. His Japanese team mate, was also true to form, when he fought with several drivers for position. Both drivers seemed to be slightly off the pace today, as Kamui Kobayashi completed the second session in 14th position. Whereas, his German team mate, Heidfeld was a bit further down the field in 16th place.
Rubens Barrichello had quite a disastrous home race in Brazil last week. A problem occurred when he made a pit stop for new tyres, then a coming together with the Toro Rosso of Jaime Alguersuari, meant an unexpected visit to the pits was on the cards. The time delay saw him fall down the pack, and he had a disappointing result out of the points. Barrichello was also outperformed by his Williams team mate today, ahead of the race this Sunday. The Brazilian encountered a problem with his car in the second session, which then spelled the end of the day for him. As a result of more bad fortune continuing from his home race, Barrichello completed the day in a Sauber sandwich.
Towards the back of the field, the Toro Rosso drivers had a rather quiet day. The only action causing any problems, came when Alguersuari spun at Turn 19 with only 30 minutes left on the clock to run. The Spaniard did manage to get in front of his Swiss team mate, even with the spin, and took 17th place. Sebastian Buemi was not too far behind though, and he was able to secure 18th position.
Of the new teams in the sport this season, Lotus is still proving to be the best of the rest. The outcome of practice was no different, with Heikki Kovalainen finishing in 19th place, ahead of Virgin Racing's Timo Glock. Kovalainen's Italian team mate finished in a Virgin sandwich, with Lucas Di Grassi the other side of him in 22nd position. At the very back of the pack in the final places though, the Hispania cars resumed their usual positions. Christian Klien was able to jump in front of his Brazilian team mate, Senna. The drivers lined up in 23rd and 24th place respectively.
With the final showdown coming in the race on Sunday, the four remaining drivers battling for the title of Formula One World Champion 2010, are likely to be going all out for the best spot on the grid, as qualifying gets underway tomorrow. The drivers, Alonso, Webber, Vettel and Hamilton, together have already set a record for their achievement so far. For the first time in the history of the sport, there are four still in contention for the ultimate prize, at the last Grand Prix decider of the season. In addition to this, for the fourth time in the last five seasons, there has been one driver or more, still in with a chance of taking the title.
Between all four drivers though, Alonso may be the one to watch in particular. There is no doubt however, that all of the top four drivers, will be hungry for that pole position grid slot. Alonso currently leads his closest rival, second place man Webber by eight points. There are just seven points separating Webber, from Vettel who is in third position. Lewis Hamilton is the fourth and final contender, and is nine points adrift of Vettel.