A sunlit final practice session of the season took place this morning on the glaring Yas Marina racetrack, where a first indicative laptime was set by Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen in 1 minute, 39.314 seconds, comprehensive of a wide exit at turn 9. Vettel’s first effort was worth of a 38.6 despite a lively-looking rear end, possibly a consequence of poor grip in the Arab morning. Victims of said lack of grip were Charles Leclerc, smashing his rear-wing into the wall at turn 19, and Kimi Räikkönen, driving wide at turn 20, overriding the much-contested sausage-kerb and cutting the pit-entry line through indecision: Hamilton got away with something much worse yesterday, though.
In the meantime, Verstappen (using Ultrasoft tyres as opposed to the rivals’ Hypers) posted his first personal of the day in 39.0, matched by the current World Champion and then complaining about slow battery charge, a classic among Red Bull’s discomforts with this year’s Renault Power Unit.
Particularly risky was Hamilton’s exit out of turn 20, literally flying over the sausage kerb and threatening his floor and relative underparts, which might remember his Hockenheim qualifying antics. However, no particular issue has resulted on his W09 so far.
So Vettel, Hamilton, Verstappen (enclosed within four tenths) was the top three with 20 minutes to go. Behind them were Räikkönen and Bottas, while Perez was the last within the same second, preceding Ricciardo.
The morning’s second run was ushered in by Vettel’s 37.5, immediately smashed by Hamilton’s 37.1 and followed by a humble 37.9 from Bottas. Räikkönen was able to snatch second place with his subsequent effort, despite the three-tenths deficit from the top of the leaderboard. Given the over-1-second gap from purple to pink tyres registered yesterday evening, some huge leap was expected from Red Bull, running the softest compound on the second qualifying simulation. That, however, did not even suffice, Verstappen lacking about six tenths to the leader on his first flying lap and having to settle for 4th place, while Ricciardo was 9 tenths off and down in 6th, before having to yield to the umpteenth technical failure.
In the midfield, Grosjean jumped back into the lead in front of “points-leader” Hülkenberg (note a very weird contact with fellow compatriot Gasly on their inlap), the remaining Renault of Carlos Sainz and Ocon’s Force India rounding out the top ten in the near absence of Leclerc.