ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — World champion Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time in the floodlit second practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday. Sebastian Vettel was second. After Vettel achieved a lap record during the first practice in sunny conditions — beating his own mark from 2009 — Hamilton bettered it with 1 minute, 37.877 seconds as nightfall enveloped Yas Marina circuit.
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — World champion Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time in the floodlit second practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday. Sebastian Vettel was second.
After Vettel achieved a lap record during the first practice in sunny conditions — beating his own mark from 2009 — Hamilton bettered it with 1 minute, 37.877 seconds as nightfall enveloped Yas Marina circuit.
Vettel was .149 seconds behind Hamilton, and Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo was .303 back in third.
"It's relatively close still, I like that," Hamilton said. "It's been a good Friday, but I'm happy that it's the last one of the season."
Leading times changed in a brief flurry of activity about one hour into the session.
Hamilton went fastest, but Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas overtook him. Then, Vettel found some extra speed in his Ferrari to eclipse both before Hamilton regained top spot and held it for the remaining 35 minutes.
Ricciardo soon leapfrogged Bottas, who fell to fifth behind Ferrari veteran Kimi Raikkonen.
There is a third practice on Saturday afternoon before qualifying in the evening, and Vettel is optimistic that he can win Sunday's race.
"The car was good. The balance was good straight away. It will be very close," the German driver said. "If we can do the usual step to Saturday and improve the car a little bit, then it should be a good day."
Vettel won the last race in Brazil, but Hamilton clinched his fourth Formula One title — and third with Mercedes — in the race before and faces little pressure in the season finale.
Vettel has won five races this season and 47 in his career. Hamilton has won nine and 62 overall, second only to Michael Schumacher's 91.
"It is important to finish the season on a high," Vettel said. "The better the result, the better the mood."
The second session started at 5 p.m. local time with temperatures cooling considerably as a breeze drifted over the desert track. The conditions are likely to be similar for Sunday's race, which starts at the same time.
"The temperatures here are OK," Bottas said. "It's definitely warm in the cockpit, but we've been to worse places."
P2 was more eventful than P1, with the hard-braking track causing some problems.
Belgian driver Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren), Romain Grosjean (Haas), and Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) all spun off.
Moments before his spin, Grosjean angered Ricciardo with his driving, prompting a sarcastic comment from Ricciardo.
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, meanwhile, complained of steering problems in P1 and rear tire issues in P2, where he was sixth fastest.
Vettel was fastest in P1, .120 seconds faster than Hamilton and .148 quicker than Verstappen.
Hartley was handed a 10-place grid penalty because of extra engine-part changes amid ongoing reliability issues with supplier Renault.