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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Watch out for Hamilton and Red Bulls at Abu Dhabi GP on Saturday

Graham Caygill, our man at Yas Marina Circuit, on four things to watch out for in final practice and qualifiers

Neither Daniel Ricciardo nor his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen had clean runs in practice when setting their best times. Mark Thompson / Getty Images
Neither Daniel Ricciardo nor his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen had clean runs in practice when setting their best times. Mark Thompson / Getty Images

Hamilton to go even quicker

World champion Lewis Hamilton set the fastest ever lap time around Yas Marina Circuit on Friday and he will expect to lower that even further in Saturday's qualifying.

The Mercedes-GP driver's lap of 1 minute, 37.877 seconds is 0.6 seconds faster than the quickest Sebastian Vettel's previous quickest time set in 2011.

With Mercedes usually finding even more speed with their qualifying specification, Hamilton, who already has 11 poles this season, is well placed to make it No 12 for 2017 and possibly get into the 1.35s when qualifying takes place at 5pm.

Hamilton has take pole three times before at Yas Marina and it will be no surprise if he does it again.

Bottas needs to step up

Vettel and Ferrari looked faster than Mercedes when everyone had their cars filled heavy with fuel for race simulation runs during the closing minutes of Friday's practice.

Hamilton may well take pole in qualifying but he will be under fierce pressure from Vettel if they qualify first and second, as they did in practice.

Ideally Hamilton needs teammate Valtteri Bottas to try and get ahead of Vettel on the grid. But the Finn, who has largely struggled on pace in the second half of the season, was 0.6 seconds off Hamilton's pace in Friday's second session, to be only fifth.

If he qualifies there he will likely leave Hamilton having to scrap with the Ferraris and Red Bull Racing cars on his own.

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Felipe Massa is driving in the last Formula One race of his career. Giuseppe Cacace / AFP
Felipe Massa is driving in the last Formula One race of his career. Giuseppe Cacace / AFP

More to come from Red Bull

Both Red Bull drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, did not have clean runs in practice when setting their best times.

Ricciardo was badly held up by Haas driver Romain Grosjean on his first attempt, and while he got within 0.303s of Hamilton later on, his tyres were past their best by then.

Verstappen's effort were scrappy and he ended up a second behind Hamilton in sixth.

Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal, expects the team to be strong in Sunday's race, but to exploit their pace they need to have at least one of their cars on the second row.

If they can fight with Hamilton and Vettel from the start on Sunday then they are in the hunt, but if they get stuck fighting the second cars of Mercedes and Ferrari - Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen - then they could lose vital ground that they would struggle to recover.

Massa's record at risk

This is Felipe Massa's last race before retirement and the Williams man is looking to bow out in style. He is also looking to make it eight top-10 finishes out of eight at Yas Marina Circuit.

But the Brazilian was only 11th quickest in practice, and with both Force India and Renault looking strong behind the dominant trio of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, Massa and Williams need to find some more speed from somewhere.

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