Lewis Hamilton enjoyed a comfortable advantage when leading a Mercedes one-two in the final free practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
In a slightly disjointed session that takes place in sunshine rather than the sunset conditions that qualifying will be held in, Hamilton posted a 1m37.627s to lead teammate Valtteri Bottas by over a quarter of a second in FP3. Bottas was a little ragged during the session, running wide at the final corner, as both Mercedes drivers set their fastest times later than the Ferraris.
Kimi Raikkonen was third quickest but over half a second adrift of Hamilton, with Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel – 0.027s slower than his teammate – both posting their best attempts on new ultrasoft tires much earlier in the session before carrying out long runs.
With track conditions set to change significantly during qualifying as the sun sets, the teams ran different schedules to a normal FP3 session, making direct comparisons difficult between low fuel runs.
The two Red Bull drivers were the only others to get within a second of Hamilton’s pace, with Daniel Ricciardo fifth and Max Verstappen sixth ahead of the McLaren pair of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne. It was another encouraging session for McLaren, with both cars in the top eight during FP1, but fading slightly in the evening session on Friday.
Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez rounded out the top 10, with Alonso in seventh ending up just 0.3s clear of Esteban Ocon in 13th as the fight for a spot in Q3 looks set to be extremely close in qualifying.
In a bizarre incident, the Virtual Safety Car was required for a brief spell at the halfway point of the session after a parasol blew onto the track at Turn 8. The item was sat on the apex of the corner following the longest straight on the circuit, and the cars were all slowed to allow a marshal to run out and retrieve the item which shades track workers positioned around the circuit.
Soon after the resumption, Vandoorne spun at the penultimate corner in a similar incident to one he suffered on Friday, although on this occasion the Belgian was able to keep his engine running and continue without delay.