Hamilton edges Rosberg in Abu Dhabi practice
25 Nov 2016 - 23:30
Abu Dhabi: Lewis Hamilton showed he was not going to relinquish his world title without a fight when beating Nico Rosberg in opening practice for the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix yesterday.
The defending three-time world champion clocked a best lap of one minute and 40.861 seconds to outpace the 31-year-old German by 0.079sec.
Rosberg leads Hamilton by 12 points in the 2016 drivers championship and only needs to finish on the podium to claim his first title.
Hamilton must win and Rosberg finish out of the top three to retain his crown.
Both men were running on ultra-soft tyres in a session that was run after dusk and under floodlights at the Yas Marina circuit and concluded with slower long runs in dry, hot and dusty conditions.
Hamilton, also 31, was fastest in the earlier morning practice session and continued to ooze with the confidence that comes from having won the last three races while Rosberg appeared to taking a marginally more cautious approach.
Four-time former champion Sebastian Vettel was third fastest for Ferrari, two-tenths down on the pace, despite suffering a gearbox failure late in the session, ahead of Dutch teenager Max Verstappen in the leading Red Bull.
Both are tipped as having the potential speed and race performance to stop a Mercedes one-two and thereby upsetting the outcome of the championship.
Verstappen ended the session also suffering car problems.
"I can't do a long run like this," he said, after grumbling about a lack of engine power. "There's nothing out of the corner and it feels like a handbrake into the corner."
Australian Daniel Ricciardo was fifth in the second Red Bull ahead of Finns Kimi Raikkonen, in the second Ferrari, and Valtteri Bottas of Williams.
Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India was eighth ahead of German Nico Hulkenberg, in his final outing for Force India before joining Renault, and retirement-bound Brazilian Felipe Massa in the second Williams.
The twilight session started in high temperatures and soon saw Vettel setting the pace before Rosberg and then Hamilton took the initiative. Hamilton was late out to join the fray after lengthy set-up changes were made to his car.