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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Rosberg heads Hamilton in both practice sessions in Brazil

Political manoeuvring behind the scenes overshadowed the on-track action during free practice one and two in Brazil with disputes over contracts and financial concerns filtering through the paddock.

The sad news that Marussia have ceased trading came on Friday morning and Caterham, who were not at the race last week in Austin or at Brazil, are launching a crowd funding scheme to raise £2.3 million in an attempt to escape the same fate.

Meanwhile at Sauber the financial pressure has not stopped them from taking to the track but has appeared to have influenced who will be driving for them next year with reports that Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson and Williams reserve driver Felipe Nasr will be replacing Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil. Sutil has alluded to the fact that he still has a two year contract and could therefore have a challenge to the announcement, Sauber’s reserve driver Giedo Van de Garde also claims to have believed he would be contracted for a race seat next year, however it would appear that the vast funding of Felipe Nasr is sorely needed at Sauber due to the financial pressures of the sport at the moment.

A driver change at McLaren also appears imminent as Jenson Button has announced that he is considering other career avenues than Formula One with the expectant news that Fernando Alonso will replace him at McLaren after a disappointing season at Ferrari.

As the politics played out behind the scenes on track the action was shattered as a series of red flag incidents interrupted both sessions.

The problems started early for Jenson Button when his Mclaren pulled over to the side of the pit lane exit with an issue that did not allow him to go out for the rest of Free practice one.

As is tradition in Free practice one a number of new faces were seen on the grid with Jundacella in Sergio Perez’s Force India and Max Verstappen, who has a Torro Rosso set for next year. in Jean Eric Vergnes car.

Unfortunately the new boys encountered some issues around the classically challenging track with Jundacella going off into the tyre barriers of Curva Da Laranjinha causing the first red flag with just 28 minutes on the track. Then after the session restarted Max Verstappen suffered from a severe front tyre lock up and ran wide through the Senna Esses.

After Free practice one a virtual safety car was tested, with all cars being given a set delta time in which to return to the pits and a new practice of two drivers coming in to perform a pit stop.

Rosberg headed Hamilton on the leader board, breaking Hamilton’s run of perfect practices faster by 0.221 seconds.

In Free practice two the red flags came thick and fast with Jean Eric Vergne stopping on Descida do Lago with over an hour and fifteen minutes left on the clock.

Then an issue appeared to be hampering Fernando Alonso’s progress throughout the session ending in an apparent engine failure which caused flames to engulf the Ferrari and cause Alonso to change from Formula One driver to fireman as he ran to put it out.

Classification

Free Practice One

1 ROSBERG MERCEDES 1:12.764
2 HAMILTON MERCEDES +0.221
3 KVYAT TORO ROSSO +0.959
4 ALONSO FERRARI +0.978
5 MASSA WILLIAMS +1.047
6 VERSTAPPEN TORO ROSSO +1.063
7 MALDONADO LOTUS +1.270
8 RAIKKONEN FERRARI +1.350
9 MAGNUSSEN MCLAREN +1.372
10 RICCIARDO RED BULL +1.433
11 SUTIL SAUBER +1.670
12 F NASR WILLIAMS +1.758
13 HULKENBERG FORCE INDIA +1.914
14 VETTEL RED BULL +2.138
15 GROSJEAN LOTUS +2.345
16 JUNCADELLA FORCE INDIA +3.266
17 GUTIERREZ SAUBER
18 BUTTON MCLAREN

Free Practice Two

1             ROSBERG                                                              MERCEDES                               1:12.123

2 HAMILTON MERCEDES +0.213
3 RAIKKONEN FERRARI +0.573
4 RICCIARDO RED BULL +0.833
5 BOTTAS WILLIAMS +0.912
6 MASSA WILLIAMS +0.976
7 ALONSO FERRARI +0.999
8 KVYAT TORO ROSSO +1.131
9 VETTEL RED BULL +1.210
10 MAGNUSSEN MCLAREN +1.356
11 MALDONADO LOTUS +1.374
12 GROSJEAN LOTUS +1.591
13 HULKENBERG FORCE INDIA +1.759
14 GUTIERREZ SAUBER +1.779
15 SUTIL SAUBER +2.081
16 BUTTON MCLAREN +2.086
17 VERGNE TORO ROSSO +5.048
18 PEREZ FORCE INDIA