lewis hamilton f1grandprixabudhabipracticea6_eqhjht9nx-001

Yas Marina FP2: Very little between Hamilton and Rosberg

lewis hamilton f1grandprixabudhabipracticea6_eqhjht9nx-001

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

144Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES1:40.86136
26Nico RosbergMERCEDES1:40.940+0.079s38
35Sebastian VettelFERRARI1:41.130+0.269s31
433Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING TAG HEUER1:41.389+0.528s24
53Daniel RicciardoRED BULL RACING TAG HEUER1:41.390+0.529s33
67Kimi RäikkönenFERRARI1:41.464+0.603s34
777Valtteri BottasWILLIAMS MERCEDES1:41.959+1.098s35
811Sergio PerezFORCE INDIA MERCEDES1:42.041+1.180s35
927Nico HulkenbergFORCE INDIA MERCEDES1:42.264+1.403s36
1019Felipe MassaWILLIAMS MERCEDES1:42.268+1.407s36
1114Fernando AlonsoMCLAREN HONDA1:42.366+1.505s33
1222Jenson ButtonMCLAREN HONDA1:42.823+1.962s24
1321Esteban GutierrezHAAS FERRARI1:43.012+2.151s35
148Romain GrosjeanHAAS FERRARI1:43.108+2.247s17
1530Jolyon PalmerRENAULT1:43.272+2.411s33
1631Esteban OconMRT MERCEDES1:43.600+2.739s35
1794Pascal WehrleinMRT MERCEDES1:43.754+2.893s33
1812Felipe NasrSAUBER FERRARI1:43.903+3.042s36
199Marcus EricssonSAUBER FERRARI1:44.045+3.184s34
2020Kevin MagnussenRENAULT1:44.117+3.256s25
2155Carlos SainzTORO ROSSO FERRARI1:44.478+3.617s5
2226Daniil KvyatTORO ROSSO FERRARI1:45.948+5.087s4