Vettel leads Red Bull 1-2 in final practice for Abu Dhabi GP

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Sebastian Vettel has closed out practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as the quickest driver after another strong showing from him and the Red Bull team on Saturday afternoon.

The German driver posted a fastest time of 1:41.349 to finish two-tenths ahead of teammate Mark Webber and the Mercedes pairing of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg as the Silver Arrows look to establish themselves as being ‘best of the rest’ in Abu Dhabi.

FP3 got off to a slow start as drivers only went out to complete their installation laps in order to gauge the conditions, with a head-wind being reported as well as a slight rise in heat. Of course, with FP3 being in the afternoon and both qualifying and the race being at dusk, the conditions meant that there was little value in conducting a great deal of running in this session. Nevertheless, the Caterham duo of Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde went out and were the first to set times on the medium compound tire. However, Kimi Raikkonen soon ended their stay at the top by going almost three seconds quicker, but Sebastian Vettel duly resumed normal service to pull out a second over the Finn. The two traded fastest times before returning to the pits with the German driver in first place.

However, he did not go unchallenged during the first half of the session. Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton both came within one-tenth of a second of his time, and the Briton eventually overhauled Vettel along with teammate Nico Rosberg as the three drivers continually moved around at the top of the timesheets.

However, Ferrari were less impressive. The team decided to remove a new 360° camera from the car as they felt it was an aerodynamic disadvantage, but their poor form from Friday continued as Fernando Alonso struggling to break into the top ten. Adrian Sutil was also having problems, complaining to his team that the car was “undriveable” and languishing down in seventeenth place as a result.

Jules Bianchi’s session came to an abrupt end after losing control through turn one, spinning onto the grass and making contact with the wall, giving Marussia a bit of repair work to do ahead of qualifying. With the track improving constantly though, the remaining twenty-one runners had a chance to stick on a set of option tires and put together one final run in the final ten minutes of the session after the Marussia had been cleared.

Jenson Button was the first driver to set a time on the option tire, immediately going fastest by over 1.5 seconds. However, Alonso continued to struggle, only mustering a lap good enough to put him in fourth place initially behind Button and both Sauber drivers. Lewis Hamilton proved Mercedes’ pace by moving up to P1, but he was soon displaced by Vettel at the top. Mark Webber posted a late lap time to move up into second place ahead of Hamilton with Nico Rosberg finishing the session in fourth ahead of Lotus’ Romain Grosjean.

As his imperious streak continues, the signs suggest that Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull are poised to pick up yet another pole position in qualifying later today.

You can watch qualifying live on CNBC from 9am ET.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III