Rosberg continues to set the pace in Abu Dhabi


Ahead of today's sole free practice session, the air temperature is 27 degrees C, whilst the track temperature is 32 degrees. Whilst the sun is shining, it is fairly blowy.

An hour later than FP1 yesterday, this session has more relevance as we head towards qualifying, nonetheless, it takes place in (fading) daylight as opposed to qualifying and the race which are run under floodlights. This and the difference in temperatures adds to the conundrum the teams face in terms of 'twilight events'

Nico Rosberg was the pace setter in FP2 once the option (supersoft) tyres came into play, and whilst Mercedes is giving little away, other than concerns with degradation on the options, teammate Lewis Hamilton appeared unhappy with his car.

On the long runs, Sebastian Vettel had very good pace, whilst Kimi Raikkonen appears a little more feisty than usual, leaving us wondering if his aim this weekend is to defy countryman Valtteri Bottas taking fourth in the championship.

The big surprise was the pace of the Force Indias, Sergio Perez finishing the day third overall, whilst at Toro Rosso poor Carlos Sainz continues to suffer reliability issues.

Tyre degradation looks to be an issue here, with almost every driver complaining at some stage or another. Nonetheless, Pirelli insists that all is "as expected".

As mentioned, the options are supersoft this weekend whilst the prime is the yellow-banded soft rubber.

There are two DRS zones. The first detection point will is before T7 with the activation just after. The second detection point is after T9 with the activation point at the apex of T10.

The lights go green and Nasr leads the way, followed by Grosjean, Stevens, Vettel, Raikkonen and Merhi.

Nasr stops the clock at 1:46.061, with Merhi posting 49.309 and Stevens 53.934 moments later.

Hulkenberg is advised to pass Massa, "sometimes he's a bit of a problem to follow," the German is warned.

Ten minutes in and all but the Red Bull and Mercedes duos have been out, Hamilton, in particular, showing no signs of wanting to go out any time soon.

A 44.306 sees Perez go quickest, ahead of Massa, Sainz, Hulkenberg and Bottas.

Sainz posts 44.300 to take the top spot but moments later is eclipsed by Vettel (44.143) and then Raikkonen (43.214), the Finn enjoying a much cleaner lap than his Ferrari teammate.

"I struggled on the last part of the circuit with the rears," reveals Raikkonen.

Slo-mo replay shows Verstappen taking one hell of a pounding as he rides the kerbs after getting it wrong at the chicane. The Dutch youngster complains that his car is "always stepping out" at certain corners and "twitchy" - as just witnessed.

A half-spin for Vettel in T1 as the Mercedes duo head down the pitlane. The wind appearing to pick up a little. "My tyres are still OK," says the German, "I don't have any vibrations".

A 43.415 sees Rosberg go second, the German just 0.201s off Raikkonen's best effort. Hamilton posts a far more conservative 53.271 as he tries to find some clear air in which to run.

With 37;00 remaining, Kvyat heads down the pitlane leaving teammate Ricciardo as the only 'no-show'.

Hamilton takes the top spot with a 43.078 as Ricciardo finally comes out to play.

Ricciardo goes fifth (43.884) as Kvyat returns to the pits with an "electrical issue". "There should only be six or seven minutes downtime," he is told.

A spin for Hamilton at T5, the world champion appearing to carry too much speed into the corner. The Briton blames the wind.

"It's undriveable, undriveable," complains Grosjean, the Frenchman on his last weekend with Lotus. Elsewhere, Perez is unhappy with his downshifts.

After going quickest in S1, Hamilton loses time in S2 and abandons the lap.

In the McLaren garage Alonso is out of his car and having his hand massaged by his trainer. Elsewhere, teammate Button posts his first time of the day, a 45.726 to go seventeenth.

As the engine cover is removed from Alonso's car it appears the Spaniard isn't the only one needing some work.

Just after 'half-time', it's: Hamilton, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Vettel, Ricciardo, Sainz, Perez, Massa, Verstappen and Hulkenberg.

Mass is unhappy with the balance of his Williams, the Brazilian complaining of oversteer on his long run. However, this is not helped by the temperature drop as the sun slowly lowers in the sky.

Improving to sixth (44.300), Sainz says, "that was a good one, no?". "Outstanding, outstanding," is the response.

With 17:00 remaining, Nasr is the first driver to switch to the options. The Brazilian is currently fourteenth (44.981).

Nasr might be the first to fit the option rubber but Rosberg is the first driver to head out on the red-banded rubber. Followed, shortly after, by teammate Hamilton.

On the softer rubber, the Mercedes duo have the Yas Marina all to themselves.

Rosberg posts 42.196 to go quickest, the German having improved by 1.2s.

Again, having gone quickest in S1, Hamilton makes loses time in S2, the Briton making a mistake in T6. Consequently, he fails to improve.

More and more drivers head out on the option rubber, Bottas told that he needs to gain 1.7s.

Among the last to switch are the Ferraris and Hulkenberg. Meanwhile, Kvyat's session is clearly over following a technical issue, the Russian is nowhere to be seen as his crew work on the Red Bull.

Massa posts 43.173 to go third, only to be leapfrogged by Ricciardo (42.726) moments later.

On a quick lap, Hamilton almost trips up over his slower teammate, Rosberg having upped the ante with a 41.856, the fastest lap of the weekend.

A 42.185 sees Vettel take third.

Perez demonstrates that yesterday was no fluke, the Mexican posting 42.448 to go fourth, thereby splitting the Ferraris.

Button goes eleventh (43.508), as Alonso loses time behind Stevens. "Idiot!" says the Spaniard.

PBs in the first two sectors but a poor final sector mean Raikkonen improves his time but remains fifth.

The session ends with Rosberg quickest, ahead of Hamilton, Vettel, Perez, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Massa, Bottas and Sainz.

Button is eleventh, ahead of Maldonado, Nasr, Verstappen, Grosjean, Alonso, Ericsson, Stevens, Merhi and Kvyat.

Rosberg continues to look strong and likely to continue the form we witnessed in Mexico and Brazil, whilst Hamilton continues to make needless, silly mistakes. Then again, the Briton has already secured the title.

Ferrari continues to impress here, as do the force India duo, particularly Perez.

With the top three covered by just 0.329s and the next four by another half-second, qualifying should be tight.

Check out our Saturday gallery, here.

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Published: 28/11/2015
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