Pole is the goal for Hamilton in Abu Dhabi

© F1 Pulse, 25 November 2016
© Daimler

Just eight-hundredths split the title contenders at the top of the time sheets with Lewis Hamilton emerging the fastest in practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday.

The defending champion, quickest in first practice as well, clocked a time just 0.079 seconds quicker around the Yas Marina circuit than Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in the second session.

"Pole is the goal for tomorrow," Hamilton proclaimed. "I haven't managed it at this track for a long time but I know I'm quick here."

Hamilton has been on pole position in Abu Dhabi in 2009 and 2012, winning neither.

A win on Sunday though won't be enough for the title for the Briton as he needs Rosberg to finish at least fourth, a long shot in the dominant Mercedes. Hamilton can't expect any help from Silver Arrows' rivals either.

Although Sebastian Vettel was less than three-tenths off the pace, and less than 0.2 seconds slower than Rosberg, it's not likely to be enough as Mercedes' qualifying trim has proven throughout the season. Moreover, Vettel's stoppage due to a gearbox issue suggested that the Ferrari isn't quite reliable either.

Rosberg holding back?

Red Bull has been knocking on Mercedes' door in the last few races but in practice it has been half a second off, with Max Verstappen in fourth and teammate Daniel Ricciardo fifth.

"Maybe Nico is holding back a bit and not showing Lewis too much," Ricciardo reckoned, who hopes to race with Mercedes on Sunday. "I think everyone predicts Lewis to take pole so it'll be interesting."

Williams' Valtteri Bottas was sixth ahead of the Force India duo of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg with Felipe Massa, in his final Grand Prix, rounding up the top ten.

"It was my last Friday so I would have loved to finished in first position!" Massa said. "In fact, I'd like to that on my last Saturday and especially my last Sunday too!"

Toro Rosso had a troublesome session, completing the least number of laps and ending at the bottom of the chart. Daniil Kvyat had suffered a left-rear puncture in first practice and another one in the second session - both due to rear rim failures - forcing the team to truncate the outing.

"It was decided to avoid sending Carlos (Sainz Jr and Kvyat) out on track again because we still haven't understood 100 percent where the problem is coming from," team principal Franz Tost said.


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