Perfect dress rehearsal for Hamilton as he heads Rosberg in both practice sessions in Abu Dhabi

Title contender Lewis Hamilton stamped his mark on the beginning of a weekend that could see him crowned world champion for a second time, heading his teammate Nico Rosberg in both sessions on a track he has secured two out of five poles.

With reliability becoming the issue of the day  going into the final race where double points could affect the championship, issues and problems began creeping in free practice one.

First a significant issue at Williams with the side pod bodywork cover of Valtteri Bottas’s car falling off onto the side of the track. The issue appeared to affect Massa’s car as well as he was called into the pits as there was a loosening of the bodywork on the same side as Bottas issue. The team ultimately decided to keep both drivers in the garage for the remainder of the session as a precaution as the fixed the issue.

Jenson Button also remained in the garage for the majority of the free practice one with a suspension problem as his teammate Kevin Magnussen tested out the new front nose and wing designed by former Red Bull designer Peter Pomdoro.

Despite considerable financial pressure Caterham have arrived at the circuit for the weekend after Marussia were forced to turn around at the airport. The team is also running Will Stevens this weekend who will be racing in the place of Marcus Ericsson who has already left the team for Sauber. His weekend di not start in the best fashion however, with an over revving engine that was exceeding the 1500 RPM causing Renault to investigate the issue and forcing Stevens to sit out the session.

Tempers flared as Sebastian Vettel and Kevin Magnussen went side by side as Magnussen was harvesting battery power and therefore going slower than usual, despite this fact Magnussen (who is fighting for his career at McLaren) refused to allow Sebastian to pass him and decided to fight to retain track position.

Controversy was also stirred up in the Red Bull garage by the appearance of Mario Illien, Mercedes engine designer in the nineties, who is a friend of Adrian Newey but is rumoured to have be recruited to assist with the Renault engine next year. However this is merely conjuncture around the paddock.

Romain Grosjean will have to fight to improve Lotus’ fortunes this weekend as he will receive a twenty place grid penalty due to three engine component changes and if he does not start from the pit lane he will have to take a time penalty during the race.

Kimi Raikkonen suffered yet again with braking issue as he stated nearing the end of the first practice session that the car was unstable under braking.

In FP2 Ferrari’s fortunes did not improve with Fernando Alonso’s car coming to a stop after just two laps running with an electrical problem on the straight after turn 19 that led to a gearbox failure, not a great start to his last weekend with the Ferrari team.

After an suspension issue in FP1 Jenson Button was hit with reliability issues yet again, this time with a hydraulics issue but his McLaren team worked quickly to fix the issue to allow him to run for an hour of the session.

Meanwhile Hamilton and Rosberg were trading times at the front with Hamilton coming out on top in both race and qualifying runs on the super soft tyre. The session ended with Hamilton heading Rosberg by only 0.083 of a second but in reality Hamilton looked much more in control throughout both sessions and stated in the press conference afterwards that he had never been round the track in a better car- a good omen for Lewis Hamilton fans going into the title decider this weekend.

Classifications

Free Practice One

1 HAMILTON MERCEDES 1:43.476
2 ROSBERG MERCEDES +0.133
3 ALONSO FERRARI +1.708
4 VETTEL RED BULL +1.858
5 RICCIARDO RED BULL +1.885
6 VERGNE TORO ROSSO +2.242
7 KVYAT TORO ROSSO +2.359
8 BOTTAS WILLIAMS +2.437
9 PEREZ FORCE INDIA +2.507
10 HULKENBERG FORCE INDIA +2.554
11 MAGNUSSEN MCLAREN +2.573
12 RAIKKONEN FERRARI +2.655
13 MASSA WILLIAMS +3.073
14 GUTIERREZ SAUBER +3.080
15 MALDONADO LOTUS +3.235
16 OCON LOTUS +3.590
17 BUTTON MCLAREN +3.759
18 KOBAYASHI CATERHAM +4.495
19 FONG SAUBER +4.793
20 W STEVENS CATERHAM +7.208

Free Practice Two

1 HAMILTON MERCEDES 1:42.113
2 ROSBERG MERCEDES +0.083
3 MAGNUSSEN MCLAREN +0.782
4 VETTEL RED BULL +0.846
5 BOTTAS WILLIAMS +0.957
6 RICCIARDO RED BULL +1.070
7 RAIKKONEN FERRARI +1.376
8 BUTTON MCLAREN +1.390
9 KVYAT TORO ROSSO +1.433
10 MASSA WILLIAMS +1.445
11 PEREZ FORCE INDIA +1.633
12 MALDONADO LOTUS +1.892
13 HULKENBERG FORCE INDIA +1.955
14 VERGNE TORO ROSSO +2.044
15 GUTIERREZ SAUBER +2.203
16 SUTIL SAUBER +2.650
17 GROSJEAN LOTUS +2.873
18 KOBAYASHI CATERHAM +3.392
19 W STEVENS CATERHAM +4.944
20 ALONSO FERRARI
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Gearing up for the Abu Double season finale- Abu Dhabi preview

Abu Dhabi Yas Marina Circuit -Statistics

55 Laps

Track Length: 5.554 km

DRS Zones: First between turns 7 and 8 and the second between turn 10 and 11.

Lap Record: Sebastian Vettel 1.40.279 in 2009

2013 pole: Sebastian Vettel 1:39.957

Wins: 2009- Sebastian Vettel Red Bull, 2010, Sebastian Vettel Red Bull, 2011 Lewis Hamilton McLaren, 2012 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus, 2013 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull

Poles: 2009 Hamilton, 2010 Vettel, 2011 Vettel, 2012 Hamilton, 2013 Webber

As we head into the final showdown of this tantalisingly close Formula One season double points will be awarded at a circuit that has seen many close races and one very memorable championship decider in 2010.

The good news for Lewis Hamilton fans is that he has gained two pole positions out of five of the races held at the circuit, in 2009 and 2012, illustrating that he both enjoys and thrives at this circuit. However, he has also been plagued by retirements, most notably losing him a certain victory in 2012 when he was dominating in a McLaren before suffering from engine failure.

After winning in Brazil last week and reducing the point deficit to just seventeen points Nico Rosberg is benefitting from a momentum change and the new rules of double point; if the system was not in place then Hamilton would only need fifth, the very same position as in 2008 when he clinched the title in dramatic fashion on the final corner of the final lap.

Also brakes are deemed to be an issue around this circuit and management of brakes has largely been in Nico Rosberg’s favour this season. A mechanical failure for either of the drivers would be disappointing considering the close and largely clean battle they have engaged in all season, and the fans and the team are relishing the fair and close fight so far.

In Thursday’s drivers press conference Nico Rosberg made a point of saying that it was up to Lewis for the race to be a clean fight and that he had to ensure that he drove well and fairly for it to be so; a point of irony considering most of the controversial moments between the drivers this season, such as Monaco and most notably Spa, have focused on scrutiny of Rosberg’s driving and tactics not Hamilton’s.

The circuit is well accustomed to close title fights with arguably one of the most exciting title deciders in 2010 when a four man battle between Sebastian Vettel Fernando Alonso Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton went in Vettel’s favour after both Fernando Alonso and Webber suffered with poor pit stop strategy and ended up stuck in traffic and out of title contention.

Traffic could be an issue on Sunday as this famously difficult overtaking circuit will favour whoever starts on pole position, so Hamilton will be hoping to avoid some of the qualifying errors and misfortunes he has suffered from this season.

The race will be the final race for Fernando Alonso at Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull as the German joins the Italian team for 2015 and Alonso is expected to re-join the Woking based McLaren team that he parted so acrimoniously from in 2007. McLaren have stated that they will not announce their driver line up until December leaving fans concerned that 2009 World Champion Jenson Button will not receive the proper send off from his 266 race long Formula One career that he deserves.

Since it augural grand prix in 2009 Abu Dhabi has been a firm favourite on the F1 calendar hosting the first twilight race providing a unique challenge for the drivers as the race spans from day to night and the dramatically light circuit comes to life.

Often described as a processional race the circuit still proves highly challenging for the drivers as they flirt with the barriers and one of the tightest pit lane exits on the calendar.

Pirelli have decided to bring the soft and super soft compound of tyres to the race due to the relatively low speed nature of the circuit and the expected low temperatures due to the night time running: so tyre preservation should not be the pressing issue it was two weeks ago in Brazil.

Caterham have secured enough funding to return for the last race of the season with Britain’s Will Steven’s joining Kamui Kobayashi to race in his first grand prix after Marcus Ericsson announced his decision to join Sauber after the last race in Brazil.

The double points are not only important for the two leading protagonists but for other drivers and teams down the field, with a three way battle between Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Valtteri Bottas for fourth place in the championship, all separated by only three points.

Williams will also be looking to stay ahead of Ferrari in the constructors and McLaren attempt to overhaul the fifty point deficit to Ferrari for fourth.

Overall this season finale looks set to be a classic and as the sun goes down in Abu Dhabi and the 2014 season who will be crowned the victor amongst the Silver Arrows?