Nico Rosberg topped the timesheets ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton to cap a dominant opening day of practice for Mercedes ahead of tomorrow’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Hamilton had pipped Rosberg to the fastest time in the opening afternoon session. But the German seized the initiative under the floodlights in the evening.
Rosberg lapped the 5.5-kilometer long Yas Marina Circuit in one minute 41.983 seconds – the only driver to dip into the one minute 41 second bracket – to beat Hamilton by just over a tenth of a second.
Force India’s Sergio Perez was the Mercedes pair’s closest challenger in a surprise third, albeit six-tenths of a second slower than Rosberg’s benchmark.
Rosberg heads into tomorrow’s season-finale having hit a purple patch of form. He has started the last five races from pole and, having won the last two races in Mexico and Brazil, is gunning for a hat-trick of wins.
Hamilton, meanwhile, hasn’t won since clinching his third championship crown with victory at last month’s United States Grand Prix in Austin. He goes into tomorrow’s race gunning for an elusive 44th victory in a car bearing the number 44, coincidentally on the same weekend that the United Arab Emirates is celebrating its 44th year since its founding.
Behind the top-three, Daniel Ricciardo set the fourth-fastest time for Red Bull, taking over from teammate Daniil Kvyat who had gone fourth fastest in the afternoon.
Sebastian Vettel ended the day fifth for Ferrari, having also gone fifth-quickest in the opening session.
Kvyat ended the day sixth ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen – who was third-fastest in the afternoon – and the second Force India of Nico Hulkenberg.
Fernando Alonso went ninth quickest in the McLaren Honda ahead of Pastor Maldonado who ended the day in a morale-boosting tenth for Lotus.
It has been another tough weekend for Enstone-based squad with their freight and cars arriving late on Thursday due to their ongoing financial troubles.