This weekend looks like being a fight between the championship leader Sebastian Vettel and the two McLaren drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, with Vettel and Hamilton in particular squaring up for a fight for victory.
Vettel was faster on the soft tyres in FP2, after Hamilton had set the pace on medium tyres in FP1. Last weekend in India we saw the Red Bull faster in the opening stint of the race on the soft tyres but giving something up to the McLarens and Ferraris on the hard tyre. It will be interesting to see whether that pattern repeats this weekend.
This afternoon the long run pace of the top three teams on the soft tyres was comparable, as in India on Friday, but this turned out to be deceptive in India, so some caution is needed.
Qualifying will hold the key as Abu Dhabi is a tough track on which to pass and Red Bull has had a qualifying advantage since it perfected its double DRS system.
But Hamilton has been on the front row in Abu Dhabi at each of the three races and has a very strong record on the track, as does Vettel, who clinched his 2010 world title with a win on the circuit.
Ferrari brought a new wing among other updates but Fernando Alonso ended the day 0.8s off the Red Bull. In qualifying last weekend he was 0.5s behind, so there is more to come from the updated Ferrari.
Vettel said, “Overall we got a good lap on the soft tyres, but in general pace the McLaren’s were quick and seem competitive, so they’re the ones we need to look out for and beat. We need to improve the car overnight to qualify as high as we can tomorrow.”
This is a track where Vettel’s team mate Mark Webber has always struggled so there is a clear opportunity for a front row start for Hamilton, who has nothing to lose at the start on Sunday as he is out of the championship race. Webber suffered another KERS problem, following on from the one he had in India last weekend.
[More to come]
ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX, Yas Marina Circuit, Free Practice 2
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m41.751 33
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m41.919s + 0.168 33
3. Jenson Button McLaren 1m42.412s + 0.661 35
4. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m42.466s + 0.715 21
5. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m42.500s + 0.749 33
6. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m42.532s + 0.781 27
7. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m42.587s + 0.836 30
8. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m42.823s + 1.072 32
9. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m42.998s + 1.247 36
10. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m43.106s + 1.355 35
11. Bruno Senna Williams 1m43.191s + 1.440 33
12. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m43.200s + 1.449 35
13. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m43.255s + 1.504 33
14. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m43.267s + 1.516 31
15. Paul di Resta Force India 1m43.578s + 1.827 33
16. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m43.689s + 1.938 31
17. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m44.260s + 2.509 26
18. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m45.073s + 3.322 18
19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m45.245s + 3.494 35
20. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1m45.782s + 4.031 32
21. Timo Glock Marussia 1m46.589s + 4.838 34
22. Charles Pic Marussia 1m46.671s + 4.920 30
23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1m46.707s + 4.956 25
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m47.406s + 5.655 34