Lewis Hamilton topped the times in Friday’s incident-packed second free practice session ahead of Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the McLaren driver outpacing his nearest rival and team-mate Jenson Button by two-tenths of a second.
The two Englishmen dominated the day with Button fastest in the morning and second-quickest in the afternoon when Hamilton delivered a lap in one minute and 39.586 to set the pace.
For Hamilton, it was a welcome return to something like his best form after a roller-coaster season of problems on and off the circuit.
Double drivers’ champion German Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull and two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari both crashed into the barriers at Turn One during the session. They were unhurt.
The double-shunt by the two double-champions made life easy for the McLaren team in the closing stages after they had demonstrated their speed and consistency ahead of Sunday’s 55-laps race at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Alonso wound up third fastest on a day when Ferrari suffered a troubled morning, but showed signs of recovery, with his team-mate Brazilian Felipe Massa fourth.
Australian Mark Webber was fifth quickest for the Red Bull team ahead of Vettel with Michael Schumacher, 42, seventh for Mercedes, with fellow-German Adrian Sutil of Force India in eighth.
British rookie Paul Di Resta was ninth in the second Force India car and Japanese Kamui Kobayashi 10th for Sauber as the session ended with a full moon rising over the circuit at the end of the day-night session.
The session began as the sun began to sink, creating a twilight practice ahead of Sunday’s race, with the two Red Bull men taking command immediately. Vettel was fastest first and then Webber outpaced him only for the German to regain the ascendancy.
Soon after this, with only 20 minutes gone, Alonso signalled the start of Ferrari’s recovery from a troubled morning by going top and then becoming the first driver to break through the 1:40 barrier.
But as he increased in speed and performance, several other men found their limits on a slippery-looking track as seven-time champion Schumacher spun off three times in his Mercedes and both Webber and Vettel endured similar off-track action.
The McLarens, having looked full of potential and pace in the morning, when Button topped the times, came out and took control around midway through the 90-minute session. Button first, and then Hamilton, went fastest.
Vettel then slewed off the circuit and hit the barriers heavily at Turn One in his Red Bull, climbing out unhurt. A few minutes later, Alonso did much the same in his Ferrari. Both cars were only slightly damaged and Vettel was repaired in time to rejoin the fray for the closing minutes.