The second Friday practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend got underway as the sun dipped below the horizon, allowing the impressive lighting system taking over the task of illuminating the new 5.556km Marina Bay Circuit. Heikki Kovalainen saved his best to last, as he
moved to the top of the timesheets in his McLaren Mercedes with a best lap of 1:41.307s just ahead of the chequered flag.
Lewis Hamilton was second fastest to make it a McLaren one-two, the duo using the KERS advantage down the long 1.2km back straight. Hamilton ended the day two-tenths off the ultimate pace with champion-elect Jenson Button
close behind in third position in his Brawn Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel was fourth fastest in the leading Red Bull Renault, and frequently the quickest racer in the tighter segments of the circuit.
The evening session saw many drivers opting to run the softer option tyre for the first time and while Kovalainen was able to make gains on the compounds, others such as Button and Vettel surprisingly produced their fastest laps on the harder prime tyre.
Kamui Kobayashi continued to impress with Toyota as the Japanese racer set the fifth fastest time as he again stands in for the injured Timo Glock. Team-mate Trulli, thought to be competing for the last time with the German-based squad, was 14th, eight-tenths shy of the rookie racer.
Toro Rosso’s late season surge continued with Sebastien Buemi setting the sixth fastest time ahead of Mark Webber in the second Red Bull, Rubens Barrichello
in the second Brawn, Nico Rosberg in the leading Williams Toyota, while Kimi Raikkonen
rounded out the top ten in his Ferrari.
Adrian Sutil lost further time with braking issues on his Force India Mercedes but bounced back to take the 11th fastest time ahead of Kazuki Nakajima, Nick Heidfeld
and Trulli. Tonio Liuzzi was 15th ahead of Fernando Alonso
, Giancarlo Fisichella
, Romain Grosjean and Jaime Alguersuari.
In what was largely an incident free session – a few wide moments aside – Robert Kubica was forced to sit out most of the running when his BMW engine failed on his 13th lap of the evening. He was 17th at the time but unsurprisingly was bumped down to the bottom of the timesheets in the remaining 50 minutes.
McLaren Mercedes seem strong in Abu Dhabi, but with one second covering the fastest 13 runners, there is still plenty of gains to be found ahead of Saturday’s all-important qualifying hour for what everyone hopes is a spectacular season finale.