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.