Lewis Hamilton moved to the top of the order in second practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after trading blows with Sebastian Vettel at the final round of the season.
Hamilton finished behind Vettel in the day’s first running at the Yas Marina circuit after the Ferrari driver picked up where he left off following his victory in Brazil a fortnight ago.
But it was world champion Hamilton’s turn to edge out Vettel in the evening session as he bids to end his title-winning campaign with a bang.
Under the floodlights, Hamilton clocked a best effort of one minute and 37.877 to finish clear of Vettel with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo third in the order.
“It’s been a good Friday, but I’m happy that it’s the last one of the season,” said Hamilton, who clinched his fourth championship in Mexico last month. “We got lots of laps in today and made good progress with the balance of the car.
“We have a bit of work to do, but I feel like we’re quite competitive here. It’s relatively close still, but I like that.”
Vettel – who needs to finish only eighth here in the desert to seal the runner-up spot in this year’s championship – and Hamilton have both won on three occasions in Abu Dhabi, and both started from pole position three times, too.
And on the basis of Friday’s evidence at least, the pair, who went toe-to-toe for the title only for Vettel’s challenge to implode in the second half of the campaign, look set to dominate here once more.
Hamilton finished 0.139 seconds ahead of Vettel with Ricciardo three tenths further back. Kimi Raikkonen was fourth for Ferrari ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas with the Red Bull of Max Verstappen sixth. Bottas must record an unlikely victory on Sunday to stand any chance of beating Vettel to second spot in the championship.
Earlier, British driver George Russell, 19, was handed his second practice run-out in as many grands prix by Force India, and he finished 11th – 2.1 sec off Vettel and within one second of Sergio Perez in the sister car.
The Mercedes junior, who won the GP3 championship with a round to spare, is set to make the step up to Formula Two next season and is also in the running for the reserve drive with the British-based Force India team
Perez finished seventh in second practice ahead of team-mate Esteban Ocon, who returned to the Force India car after Russell took his place in the day’s first running.
Nico Hulkenberg was ninth for Renault ahead of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. Felipe Massa, who will start the 269th and final race of his Formula One career on Sunday ahead of his impending retirement, finished 11th in the order.