Sebastian Vettel kept control of the free practice timesheets, with the quickest lap of final practice in Abu Dhabi, the champion elect ending the session two tenths clear of Red Bull Racing team-mate Mark Webber. The Mercedes pairing of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg took third and fourth places respectively.
A straightforward session saw the opening 45 minutes run on the medium Pirelli tyre, a phase in which the Red Bulls traded quickest times with the Mercedes duo. It was the German marque that came out on top in that duel, with Rosberg recording a lap of 1:43.465 to eclipse Webber by just 0.054s. Behind the Australian, Vettel was ahead of Hamilton, with Kimi Raikkonen fifth and Lotus team-mate Romain Grosjean sixth.
The session’s only real incident then occurred as the field began to filter back towards pit lane to prepare for the move to the option soft tyre.
Marussia’s Jules Bianchi lost control into Turn Two and slid backwards into the barriers where he first shipped damage to the rear left of his MR02 and then, as the car bounced back, to the front wing. The Frenchman’s session ended there.
Once his car had been recovered and the track cleared, McLaren’s Jenson Button was the first to sample the option tyres and the 2009 champion promptly slashed 1.5 seconds off the session’s quickest prime tyre time.
It signaled a frantic end to the session as the entire field took to the track for their performance runs. However, when the chequered flag appeared it was Vettel in charge, the German posting a time of 1:41.349. Team-mate Webber, who had crossed the start line just before the flag dropped, then popped up with a lap of 1:41.571 to take P2, 0.222 adrift of his team-mate.
Hamilton, then, took third place, 0.231 behind Vettel, and Rosberg was fourth. Grosjean took fifth place for Lotus, with Button slotting into sixth place. The Saubers of Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez were seventh and eighth respectively, and Kimi Raikkonen in the second Lotus finished ninth, ahead of Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne.
A low key session for Ferrari saw Fernando Alonso set the 11th quickest time, 1.1s off Vettel’s, and Felipe Massa finish in 14th place.