By Daniel Wilson.
Lewis Hamilton laid down the first marker of the weekend as he beat Mercedes rival Nico Rosberg to the fastest times in both Friday practice sessions at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Briton was 0.133 seconds clear of his German teammate in FP1 this morning, but the gap was narrowed to just over eight hundredths of a second in second practice in twilight conditions at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Hamilton leads Rosberg in the world championship by 17 points coming into this final race, but with double points on offer, the title is far from over.
The chasing pack looked miles behind the Mercedes boys, with Fernando Alonso some 1.7 seconds off Hamilton in first practice. The McLaren of Kevin Magnussen was third in the second session, still 0.782 seconds away from the top spot.
The two Red Bull’s of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo were fourth and sixth respectively, and were separated by the Williams of Valterri Bottas.
However, it was a disappointing day for Ferrari at a track which has become their second home with Ferrari World dominating the circuit’s skyline. Kimi Raikkonen was seventh fastest while teammate Alonso suffered an electrical failure early in the second session, meaning his work was done for the day.
Jenson Button also had a difficult day as his run in second practice was delayed because of a hydraulic issue after missing most of first practice.
The Briton’s future is uncertain as McLaren announce they will wait until December to announce who their drivers are for next year. Fernando Alonso is widely expected to join McLaren Honda, leaving Magnussen and Button to fight for a seat. However, as one of the oldest drivers on the grid, Button’s 15-year presence in F1 could end on Sunday.
It was a welcomed return to the track for Caterham after they raised enough money to race for the first time since Sochi, with Kamui Kobayashi in the car and young Brit Will Stevens making his debut.
So, lots of talking points up and down the paddock this weekend with Caterham’s return, reliability concerns and talk about the drivers market, but the main focus remains on Mercedes as Hamilton and Rosberg edge closer to Sunday’s title decider.
Leave your thoughts and comments below about your predictions for this weekend.