Abu Dhabi (AFP) – World championship leader Lewis Hamilton set a blistering pace ahead of Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in Friday’s practice for the Abu Dhabi season finale grand prix.
“The car felt really great out there today and the team has done an amazing job,â said Hamilton, who hopes to seal his second world title on Sunday.
“It is the best car I have ever driven here at this circuit.”
Hamilton was fastest in the opening sunlit session and in the evening twilight session set a best lap of one minute and 42.113 seconds, 0.083sec ahead of Rosberg.
It was the 15th time in 19 races this year that Hamilton had been the fastest driver in second practice and gave him near-perfect preparation for Sundayâs 55-lap race at the Yas Marina circuit.
Hamilton, who has a 17 points lead over Rosberg, will be crowned champion again if he can win or finish second, whatever his arch-rival teammate achieves in the race.
Germany’s Rosberg has to do the same and hope for some misfortune to hit Hamilton and permit him to out-score him by at least 18 points.
“I’ve just got to drive the way I usually do and what will be will be,” said Hamilton. “I feel good in the car. Undoubtedly, there is more time to find so I’ve got to go and chip away at it tonight.
“It’s just been nice to get in the car. I was so excited to drive the car, like a kid at Christmas.”
Hamilton said he was still working on the set-up of his car for both qualifying and the race.
Hamiltonâs performance boosted his hopes of claiming a third pole in Abu Dhabi, having achieved that feat for both the inaugural 2009 race and again in 2012.
Rosberg is seeking his first pole at the track. His previous best qualifying performance was third place on the grid last year.
“Pole is important for sure,” he said. “That will help a lot for the race, but even being second, there’s still so many chances.
“I try and approach it as a normal weekend. Of course, it’s not, because of the opportunity, but otherwise the approach is the same â¦ I’m just trying to get the job done.
“We need to wait and see. The Williams was looking pretty good at some points today and of course I’m hoping they are closer!â
Dane Kevin Magnussen was third fastest for McLaren ahead of four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel, who on Sunday starts his 113th and final race with the Red Bull team before leaving for Ferrari as successor to two-time champion Fernando Alono.
The Spaniard was out of luck on Friday when his car idled to a halt at the start of the second session with possible electrical problems. It meant he was unable to record a lap time.
Finn Valtteri Bottas of Williams was fifth fastest ahead of Australian Daniel Ricciardo in the second Red Bull, Finn Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari and Briton Jenson Button, who was eighth in the second McLaren.
Red Bull-bound Russian Daniil Kvyat was ninth fastest for Toro Rosso and Brazilian Felipe Massa 10th in the second Williams, as the British team improved following a trouble-hit session earlier in the day.
The session began in bright sunlight, with the sun setting over the nearby city of Abu Dhabi, before the circuit floodlights came on, illuminating the track for the only ‘twilight’ event of the year.