Yas Marina FP2: Very little between Hamilton and Rosberg

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Lewis Hamilton landed an early psychological blow ahead of Formula One’s Abu Dhabi title showdown by lapping faster than Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg in both Friday practice sessions.

The Briton, 12 points behind the championship favourite going into the final race, lapped the Yas Marina circuit with a quickest time of one minute 42.869 seconds in the early afternoon, when he also had a harmless spin.

The triple world champion then clocked 1:40.861 in the floodlit evening practice.

Rosberg, who need only finish in the top three on Sunday to be sure of his first championship after being beaten in the last two years by Hamilton, was second in both sessions – 0.374 slower in the first and 0.079 off in the second.

Hamilton reported a strange feeling with the gearbox in the evening session but Mercedes said it was one used only on Fridays and of no significance for the race.

The Red Bulls of Dutch teenager Max Verstappen and Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who could play a major role in deciding the title outcome by getting between the Mercedes drivers, were close behind in third and fourth in the first session.

Verstappen was fourth after dark, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel third despite pulling over 10 minutes from the end.

“I think I have a gearbox failure,” said the German.

Hamilton, who has to finish in the top three to even have a chance of becoming Britain’s first four-times champion, and Rosberg have each won nine races this season.

A collision between the two in the day-to-night race, as happened in Spain in May, would instantly hand the championship to Rosberg, although both have played down the chances of that scenario happening.

“It’s going to be a weekend like any other where I’m going to go for the race win and do what it takes to get that,” Rosberg told reporters on Thursday.

He added that his driving would be “within the limits of what’s acceptable, of course.”

Although the underdog, Hamilton has won the last three races and can count on strong support judging from the banners around the circuit.

Brazilian Felipe Massa, preparing for his 250th and last race, was ninth and 10th fastest for Williams while Britain’s 2009 world champion Jenson Button was 12th on the timesheets for McLaren. Button’s car required a power unit change following a troubled afternoon session.

Toro Rosso’s Russian Daniil Kvyat suffered two punctures, with a big spin in the second session.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit – Friday, Free Practice 2

1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:40.861 36
2 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 1:40.940 +0.079s 38
3 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:41.130 +0.269s 31
4 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:41.389 +0.528s 24
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:41.390 +0.529s 33
6 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:41.464 +0.603s 34
7 77 Valtteri Bottas WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:41.959 +1.098s 35
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:42.041 +1.180s 35
9 27 Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:42.264 +1.403s 36
10 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:42.268 +1.407s 36
11 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:42.366 +1.505s 33
12 22 Jenson Button MCLAREN HONDA 1:42.823 +1.962s 24
13 21 Esteban Gutierrez HAAS FERRARI 1:43.012 +2.151s 35
14 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:43.108 +2.247s 17
15 30 Jolyon Palmer RENAULT 1:43.272 +2.411s 33
16 31 Esteban Ocon MRT MERCEDES 1:43.600 +2.739s 35
17 94 Pascal Wehrlein MRT MERCEDES 1:43.754 +2.893s 33
18 12 Felipe Nasr SAUBER FERRARI 1:43.903 +3.042s 36
19 9 Marcus Ericsson SAUBER FERRARI 1:44.045 +3.184s 34
20 20 Kevin Magnussen RENAULT 1:44.117 +3.256s 25
21 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO FERRARI 1:44.478 +3.617s 5
22 26 Daniil Kvyat TORO ROSSO FERRARI 1:45.948 +5.087s 4