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Hamilton leads the way in final practice

NEWS STORY
24/11/2018

Ahead of today's sole practice session, the air temperature is 31.5 degrees C, while the track temperature is 44.1 degrees.

Max Verstappen led a Red Bull 12 in yesterday's opening session, while 2017 winner Valtteri Bottas set the pace in FP2.

In both sessions the Bulls and Silver Arrows looked strong, and well-matched, while the Ferraris appeared to struggle.

The nature of the track surface, and the drivers' perennial complaints about grip, meant there were plenty of excursions and lock-ups and even a couple of spins, with only Marcus Ericsson incurring any damage.

That said, in view of a number of incident, not least Verstappen riding the sausage kerb at the exit of T20 with all four wheels off the ground, said kerb has been levelled off overnight.

Interestingly, the hypersofts are proving extremely durable, with some drivers improving on their second, and even third, flying lap. However, while it may well be the tyre for qualifying, it is not the tyre you'd really want for the race.

Like FP1, since this session takes place entirely in daylight and in warmer conditions it is somewhat unrepresentative in terms of qualifying and the race.

The lights go green and Ericsson leads the way, followed by Gasly and Grosjean. As more drivers head out, it's a fair mixture of ultras and hypers.

While most merely complete an install lap, the Williams duo post the first times of the fay, Stroll (41.500) the quicker of the pair. Shortly after however, Raikkonen posts a 39.314, despite a minor mistake in T9.

Ericsson is the fourth driver to post a time, the Swede stopping the clock at 41.218.

Despite getting a little out of shape, Vettel raises the bar with a 38.668. Shortly after, Leclerc posts 40.552. However, he subsequently loses the rear in T19 and loses his rear wing as he clouts the barrier. Moments earlier, Alonso had a moment at the same corner, the Spaniard doing well to keep it all together.

"All OK?" Leclerc is asked as he makes his way back to the pits. "Yeh, no problem," he replies, somewhat sheepishly.

In the meantime, Hamilton splits the Ferraris with a 39.150, while Ricciardo goes fourth with a 39.784.

A mistake by Raikkonen sees the Finn do the opposite (almost) of what Lewis Hamilton did yesterday, and got a reprimand for, the Ferrari driver appearing to head into the pits before opting to stay out having previously run wide in the final corner.

Successive lock-ups at Turns 5 and 6 for Hulkenberg.

"I have no power," reports Ocon.

Sure enough, Raikkonen is under investigation for crossing the white line at the pit entrance.

As was the case yesterday, and in Brazil, Verstappen complains of battery charging issues.

"Check the floor, I've taken some damage," says Hamilton following an excursion over the kerbs.

Meanwhile, Bottas has gone fifth with a 39.471, ahead of Perez, Ricciardo, Stroll, Gasly and Hartley. Yes, Stroll is eighth.

In the Toro Rosso garage, Gasly, who had a gearbox change yesterday, appears to have a sensor issue.

"His tyres just fell apart," reports Stroll on the McLaren running ahead, "cor!"

Despite his issues, Verstappen goes third with a 39.086. On his next lap he looks set to improve but makes a mistake in T17.

While most are in their garages, with 18 minutes remaining Vettel and Hamilton take advantage of the empty track to begin their qualifying sims on the hypers.

Understandably quickest in all three sectors, Vettel crosses the line at 37.587. Moments later however, Hamilton responds with a 37.176, though he was only quickest in the two final sectors.

Now it's the turn of Raikkonen and Bottas. The Ferrari driver goes quickest in S2, finally crossing the line at 37.464, just 0.288s off Hamilton's pace. Elsewhere, Bottas aborts his lap.

With 13:00 remaining, Ocon looks set to head out.

A 38.090 sees Ricciardo go fifth, albeit 0.914s off the pace.

Almost by design, the 'big six' have the track to themselves as their rivals look on from their garages.

As Verstappen begins his qualifying sim, it's worth noting that unlike yesterday, drivers are not improving on their second laps.

As Vettel pits, Verstappen goes fourth (37.747), having posted PBs in all three sectors. Nonetheless, the youngster is unhappy with his tyre temperatures.

Though Raikkonen is second, Hamilton appears only interested in Vettel's sector times.

As Ocon heads out, it appears that Leclerc will also make it following his earlier 'moment'.

Hulkenberg goes seventh, as Hartley goes eighth ahead of Perez.

A 39.011 sees Ocon go eighth, while (Honda-powered) Gasly reports battery charging issues similar to Verstappen's.

The session is over for Ricciardo who has stopped at T9 and is climbing out of his car. Replay suggests a power issue but not the total shutdown he has experienced previously.

"While the order at the sharp end of the field looks familiar, a few cars are struggling with cooling in these conditions," says Pirelli. "The tyres are holding up well, but this session is more of a systems check for qualifying than anything else.

Ricciardo, cuts a forlorn figure as he watches the action from the side of the track. Helmet and HANS device still in place.

In a late charge, Grosjean goes seventh (38.304), ahead of Hulkenberg, Ocon and Perez.

As the chequered flag is waved, the cameras pick up on a piece of debris deposited on the track following a clash involving Gasly and Grosjean. That looks likely to be one for the stewards.

Grosjean was on a slow-down lap while Gasly was on a hot lap, the Toro Rosso driver is very unhappy - isn't he always? - but appeared to be the one that caused the actual collision. That said, Grosjean was on the racing line. Six of one, in our humble opinion.

An interesting session, certainly in terms of Ferrari's improvement on yesterday's pace.

Hamilton is quickest, ahead of Raikkonen, Vettel, Verstappen, Bottas, Ricciardo, Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Sainz and Ocon

Perez is eleventh, ahead of Hartley, Leclerc, Magnussen, Gasly, Alonso, Ericsson, Stroll, Vandoorne and Sirotkin.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Yas Marina, here.

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