It’s the final Grand Prix of the season and the title is still up for grabs. The ball is firmly on the side of Nico Rosberg who leads the title race by 12 points from Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton. It was the British driver who dominated both practice sessions on Friday.
Hamilton simply must win the Abud Dhabi Grand Prix but even then, it might not be enough to win the title. A win for Hamilton would mean Rosberg has to finish lower than third to win his first ever world title.
The first practice session saw Hamilton finish 0.374 seconds ahead of Rosberg followed by Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bulls. Hamilton’s best time came using soft tyres, Rosberg got his on the quicker ultra-soft ones.
A good end to the season for Red Bull or Ferrari is key to Hamilton’s hopes. If they can get past Rosberg, then those title hopes of the British driver will look a bit brighter. That could happen as first practice saw Verstappen just 0.054 seconds behind the German, with Ricciardo 0.065 seconds further behind. Ferrari claimed fifth (Vettel) and seventh (Raikkonen) with the Force India of Sergio Perez in sixth.
Can that happen though? More realistically, perhaps it’s time a few mechanical problems beset Rosberg’s Mercedes for a change. Without the engine problems that Lewis has had, another world title would probably have been in the bag by now.
Hamilton has said that his “sole goal is to win the race” and barring mechanical problems or collision, that’s all he can do really. Get the points in the bag and see what his team mate does. He knows that his season hasn’t quite gone to plan, saying “if it doesn’t go the way I’d hope, well, the championship generally hasn’t gone the way I’d hoped up until now.
It’s going to be an emotional weekend for Jenson Button. This is looking like being his last ever Grand Prix but he won’t be going out in a blaze of glory, just tons of respect. He could only manage 20th in first practice after more technical problems. It wasn’t that great a first practice for team mate Fernando Alonso either as he could only manage 18th.
It was a bit closer in the second practice with Hamilton again fastest but only 0.079 seconds ahead of Rosberg. There was another good showing from Ferrari though with Vettel third fastest and only 0.269 seconds slower than Hamilton with Verstappen and Ricciardo next. With Ricciardo setting the quickest average time over his race run (using the ultra-soft tyres), Mercedes might not have everything their own way on Sunday, though we all know what they can be like at the weekend.
Second practice went a bit better for Jenson Button as he finished 12th but there was a big gap between him and Alonso in 11th, 0.457 seconds to be exact.
I’ll be back later with a report on qualifying and then start a look back at the F1 season next week. Till then, enjoy your racing.