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Page last updated at 14:34 GMT, Friday, 12 November 2010

Lewis Hamilton fastest in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix practice

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina, 12-14 November
Practice: Friday 12 November, 0855-1035 and 1255-1435; and Saturday 13 November 0955-1105, Red Button, online and 5 live sports extra
Qualifying: 1215-1420 on BBC One, Red Button, online and 5 live sports extra
Race: 1210-1515 on BBC One, Red Button, online and Radio 5 live sports extra

Lewis Hamilton

Highlights - Abu Dhabi second practice

By David Ornstein

Lewis Hamilton laid down a marker for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by producing the fastest lap in Friday practice.

The McLaren driver, who has a slim chance of winning the title in Sunday's season-ending race, went round in one minute, 40.888 seconds at Yas Marina.

Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull, third in the standings, was second quickest with a 1:41.145 while Ferrari's championship leader Fernando Alonso was third.

Vettel's team-mate Mark Webber was 0.427 seconds off the pace in fourth.

With teams not obliged to reveal the exact fuel loads their cars are carrying during practice, it is difficult to read too much into the results.

But it does appear that McLaren may have the pace to match Red Bull and Ferrari come race day and that is essential if Hamilton is to have any hope of lifting his second Formula 1 crown.

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton pushing '120 per cent'

The Englishman sits fourth in the drivers' championship, 24 points adrift of Alonso with 25 awarded for a win.

So he must triumph on Sunday and pray that Alonso finishes out of the scoring, or his dreams are over for another year.

"The car feels good, so I'm hopeful for a good qualifying result on Saturday afternoon," said Hamilton. "Of course, it will be tough, because the Red Bulls tend to pull out half a second in Q3, but our pace is closer to theirs than it's ever been.

"Of all the weekends this year, this time I feel like we really do have the right package to challenge the fastest cars. I think we can fight for the front row."

For Alonso, who has won three of the last five races, the situation is far more desirable. Finish first or second and the title is his. He is bidding for a third drivers' championship and his first for Ferrari.

"I don't really care where Lewis is in the times table today," stated Alonso. "For us it was a good Friday because we managed to do a lot of laps and do some set-up possibilities for Saturday that we need to analyse today.

FOUR-WAY TITLE BATTLE EXPLAINED
1 ALONSO 246pts
2 WEBBER 238pts
3 VETTEL 231pts
4 HAMILTON 222pts
If Alonso wins or is second, he is champion
If Webber wins, he wins the title if Alonso is third or worse
If Vettel wins and Alonso is 5th or worse, Vettel wins the title
If Hamilton wins, Alonso must fail to score, Webber be 6th or worse and Vettel 3rd or worse for Hamilton to win the title

"For sure Red Bull are still favourites for Saturday and hopefully McLaren can do a good job here and be on pole but I guess Red Bull were not 100% today.

"Competitiveness of the car which will be the key. Luck is also a big factor in F1 to decide a championship. Overall if you are quick you can be on the podium. Hopefully we are competitive in qualifying and in the race. I'm still feeling good and very relaxed."

If, however, Alonso finishes third or worse, victory for Webber would see the 34-year-old Australian clinch his maiden title. Webber is second in the standings, eight points behind Alonso.

"Lewis has done a pretty good lap but it was a pretty good day," said Webber. "I haven't seen the gap but Fernando, Seb and I are pretty much on similar times.

"Our car is very close to Brazil [where Vettel led a Red Bull one-two]. It's pretty hard to develop a car that's pretty solid already.

"I feel good. I slept like a baby last night. It feels like Bahrain in the engineering office and in the car; it's a normal weekend but there's just lot more at stake. But you can't try any harder."

Vettel won in Brazil last time out to keep himself in with a shout but, in trailing Alonso by 15 points, he needs to win and hope the Spaniard finishes fifth or worse.

Mark Webber

Last race is 'normal weekend' - Webber

"That wasn't bad, the car felt strong early afternoon, although tonight it was a bit different due to the conditions," said the German. All in all I was pretty happy, I think there is some lap time still to gain - so we will analyse things now and hopefully pick up some pace on Saturday.

"As expected, the McLaren was quick today, Ferrari is up there and the Renault isn't looking too bad either so we will see what we can do."

After unseasonal rainfall had disrupted the first free practice session, clear skies greeted the start of FP2 and the drivers swiftly set about making up for lost time.

Hamilton and Alonso traded fastest laps before the Spaniard went round in 1:41.473 and then lowered that by 0.011 seconds.

The sun was setting, the tyres were warming and the times were beginning to drop, Webber and Vettel gained on Alonso with Hamilton - with a revised rear wing this weekend - looking increasingly dangerous.

JONATHAN LEGARD'S BLOG

Darkness soon descended but Hamilton continued to shine and moments after shooting to the top of the timesheets with a 1:41.213, the Englishman recorded the unbeatable 1:40.888.

It was all a far cry from the low-key morning session, when unforeseen showers earlier in the day forced the drivers to remain in their garages until the track dried out.

Once it had, only about 45 minutes remained and Vettel went quickest with a lap of 1:42.760, while there was also encouragement for McLaren as Hamilton and team-mate Jenson Button ended second and third fastest respectively.

"This morning wasn't too bad," said 2009 champion Button, whose title defence ended in Brazil. "There is quite a lot of grip for a circuit that isn't used very much considering the rain we had at the start of the session.

"Our straight-line speed is very good, quicker than the rest. Lewis was very quick and hopefully we can find that sweet spot on my car.

"Who's going to be the next champion? You can't really tell on a Friday. It's exciting and no-one really knows what is going to happen."

Button, eighth fastest in FP2 and 1.244 seconds off the pace, added: "Lewis is very competitive but I've had a pretty poor afternoon. The car seems to be working well here, it seems to be quick round here."

Sebastian Vettel

Highlights - Abu Dhabi GP first practice



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see also
Alonso wants Hamilton to win race
13 Nov 10 |  Formula 1
Abu Dhabi GP practice as it happened
12 Nov 10 |  Formula 1
No team orders, insist Red Bull
11 Nov 10 |  Formula 1
Alonso in prime position - Webber
11 Nov 10 |  Formula 1
Vettel hints he could help Webber
07 Nov 10 |  Formula 1


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