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Vettel happy to answer Ferrari’s critics with Abu Dhabi podium

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Sebastian Vettel was happy to answer Ferrari’s critics by finishing third in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, rounding out the 2016 Formula 1 season with a podium.

Vettel and Ferrari had been expected to take the fight to Mercedes after an impressive first year working together in 2015, only for the pace of the SF16-H car to leave the Italian marque third in the pecking order as Red Bull moved ahead.

Vettel qualified fifth in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, but made a risky strategy work well to go on a late charge with the super-soft tires fitted, battling his way up to third place in the closing stages.

Vettel was in with a shot of taking Ferrari’s first win in over a year as race leader Lewis Hamilton tried back Nico Rosberg up in a last-ditch attempt to claim the championship, only to fall 1.4 seconds shy at the checkered flag.

“It was tough out there, the last couple of laps. I didn’t want to be in his shoes,” Vettel said, referring to newly-crowned champion Rosberg.

“I was trying to get close and have another go. I thought why not pass both of them if Lewis is going that slow in front! It was difficult, my tires were also dropping towards the end.

“Bit stuck at the beginning of the race. I was starting to get a bit frustrated. Once I had clean air, I could really unleash the pace that we had today.”

For Vettel, the result acted as an answer to many of his own and Ferrari’s critics in a season that has seen the Italian marque come under fire for not pushing Mercedes at the front.

“I think the whole team deserves the podium today. We’ve worked so hard,” Vettel said.

“We’ve had so much criticism this year, sometimes right, sometimes not justified. That’s how it goes, it’s a tough game. We’re fighting really tough opponents.

“It’s been a tough year but obviously it’s nice to finish on a high. We take that momentum into next year.”

The result also clinched fourth place in the drivers’ championship for Vettel, beating Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by eight points in the final standings.

Hamilton tops second Abu Dhabi F1 practice with new track record

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Lewis Hamilton swept to the top of the timesheets in second Formula 1 practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday evening, beating Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel by one-tenth of a second.

Hamilton trailed Vettel through the daytime-run opening practice session, but managed to strike back by recording a new track record at the Yas Marina Circuit for Mercedes.

Hamilton recorded a fastest lap time of 1:37.877 to finish one-tenth of a second clear of Vettel at the checkered flag, appearing to have an edge across a single lap on the ultra-soft tire.

Red Bull threw its hat into the ring as a possible rival for pole through Daniel Ricciardo, who finished the session third-fastest, three-tenths of a second back from Hamilton at the head of the field.

Kimi Raikkonen ended FP2 in fourth place in the sister Ferrari, finishing within half a second of Hamilton, and managed to edge out fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas, who was a further two-tenths back in P5.

Max Verstappen failed to get in a quick flying lap during FP2, ending the session one second down in P6 for Red Bull.

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon’s tight intra-team fight at Force India continued through FP2 as the pair were separated by just 0.01 seconds, taking seventh and eighth respectively to finish as the leading midfield drivers.

Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso completed the top 10 for Renault and McLaren, with Felipe Massa following in 11th for Williams on his final Friday appearance in F1.

Massa was fortunate to avoid an accident with Ricciardo during the final 15 minutes of the session after a mix up at the hairpin when the Brazilian tried to get a wider line for the back straight.

Running in Abu Dhabi continues with final practice at Yas Marina on Saturday morning from 5am ET on the NBC Sports app, followed by qualifying at 8am ET on NBCSN.