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Lewis Hamilton has led another McLaren one-two in final practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with Sebastian Vettel managing just a single flying lap for third place after being hit with significant brake problems. Mark Webber was fourth as title contender Fernando Alonso finished eighth with more updated Ferrari parts.
This was the hottest session of the weekend, as the floodlights will be coming on for both qualifying this evening and tomorrow’s 18th Grand Prix of the season. Overnight, Ferrari again broke the curfew for operation on their cars before the permitted time, although a strong paddock feeling suggests that this was an accident after one team member entered the venue too early. At Force India, Paul di Resta ran a new chassis for the first time in 2012.
Five minutes into the session, it was Alonso who was last to leave the pits. However, following the initial installation laps, arch rival Vettel was unable to rejoin the circuit until the final five minutes of the hour. Red Bull hurriedly attended to problems with his brake calipers before the championship leader impressively posted a single, last-gasp representative lap time which put him third behind the mighty McLarens.
Hamilton’s own session was just as awe-inspiring, as the Yas Marina winner of 12 months ago continuously posted fastest lap times on the Hard compound tyre. The Soft - estimated by Pirelli to be one second quicker - takes longer to build up to operating temperature, but the 2008 World Champion still lowered his best effort to 1:42.130 in the last knockings.
Jenson Button was three tenths of a second slower than his team-mate, with Alonso’s Ferrari running a straight line-focused rear wing and missing out on the top spot by a full second.
Other standout performances came from Nico Hülkenberg, Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado, to fill places five to seven. The trio now aim to be solid top ten contenders as the ambient and track temperatures drop for twilight qualifying.
Qualifying for the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix begins at 5pm local time (GMT +4) and can also be tracked through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report
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