ABU DHABI – Lewis Hamilton has sent out a statement of intent during practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by finishing as the quickest driver in both sessions on Friday, beating Mercedes teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton heads into the final race of the 2014 Formula 1 season with a 17-point lead over Rosberg at the top of the standings, and even with double points on offer for the final round, a top two finish will be enough to secure the Briton the title.
After topping the daytime FP1 session on Friday, Hamilton’s good form continued once the sun had set at Yas Marina, posting a fastest lap time of 1:42.113 to finish just eight-hundredths of a second faster than Rosberg.
The season-long game of cat and mouse looks set to continue in Abu Dhabi, with both drivers trading fastest lap times during their qualifying simulations before switching to high-fuel long runs for the second half of the session.
After finishing third in FP1, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso had hoped to follow the Mercedes drivers home once again, but a complete electrical failure on his Ferrari brought him to a halt on just his second lap. As a result, he finished at the bottom of the timesheets without posting a time.
Instead, it was McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen who rose to third place in FP2, finishing seven-tenths of a second adrift of the Silver Arrows at the front. Sebastian Vettel finished fourth despite lamenting a lack of rear grip, with Williams’ Valtteri Bottas making up for the time lost in FP1 by finishing fifth.
After a disappointing first run for Caterham in FP1, F1 debutant Will Stevens improved in the second session to finish within the 107% time of Hamilton at the front, meaning that he should have no problem meeting the qualifying criteria on Saturday.
In the battle for the championship, though, the heat is well and truly on. As Hamilton continues to push at the front, Rosberg knows that he must dig deep if he is to stand any chance of winning the title in Abu Dhabi. Given that the chasing pack is far behind the Mercedes drivers, the chances of a driver finishing between the German and Hamilton look slim, making the Briton’s life much easier.
Be sure to join us for FP3 on Saturday at 5a ET tomorrow on NBC Sports Live Extra, with qualifying airing at 8a ET on NBCSN.