Hamilton fastest in 2nd Abu Dhabi practice


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The Independent Online

Lewis Hamilton drove mistake-free to edge McLaren teammate Jenson Button in the second practice at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday, while Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel was unhurt when he slid into a wall. 

Hamilton clocked 1 minute, 39.586 seconds on the 5.5-kilometer (3.5-mile) Yas Marina circuit, 0.199 seconds quicker than Button, who was fastest in the first practice. 

The solid run by Hamilton was in stark contrast to his last race at the Indian GP, where his aggressiveness in practice got the best of him and he was penalized three grid places for ignoring yellow flags. 

"We came through Friday very positive and didn't get in trouble; staying out of trouble was the most important thing," Hamilton said. "(We) just slowly chipped away at the setup of the car, and (the team is) feeling very calm at the moment. But obviously tomorrow is another day. It's an important one and hopefully I'll be there to fight." 

Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, despite also sliding into a wall midway through the session, finished third on the dry track. 

"Just as was the case in India a fortnight ago, again here in Abu Dhabi, I lost a bit of time," Alonso said. "There it was the engine that left me standing at the side of the track and here it was an off-track excursion. It's not that there's a particular problem with grip at Turn 1, but if you touch the curb when breaking then you do lose some grip." 

Vettel ended up sixth after crashing nearly an hour into the second practice. He crashed at the same turn as Alonso. 

"I lost the car on the entrance to Turn 1," said Vettel, who appeared shaken after the crash but was smiling when he talked to reporters. "I think I was too wide and too far on the curb, so I lost the rear and couldn't catch the car anymore. If you just touch the curb there then it's fine, but I went too far on to it." 

Having already been crowned champion, Vettel is focused on getting his name into the history books. 

The two-time F1 champ has already won twice in Abu Dhabi, and another victory this weekend will leave him needing to take the checkered flag in the final race of the season in Brazil to match Michael Schumacher's record of 13 wins in a season. 

Vettel can also equal the record for the most pole positions in a season (14) at Yas Marina. 

But after a rare mistake in the second session and a mediocre run in the first, Vettel has plenty of work to do in Saturday qualifying to put him in position to tie those two coveted marks.

"Looking at the car, we are there or thereabouts — but it will be tight tomorrow I think," he said. 

The rest of the top drivers will have their sights set on second place in the driver standings. Button holds the position, 13 points ahead of Alonso and 19 ahead of Webber. Hamilton is 38 points back in fifth place. 

Though Button was second fastest in the second practice, he showed his potential in the first session where he was fastest, edging Red Bull's Mark Webber. 

The Briton clocked 1 minute, 40.263 seconds, making him 0.126 seconds quicker than the Australian Webber. 

Hamilton was third while Vettel settled for fourth. 

After the two sessions, Button sounded slightly frustrated and said there was still work to do to get the car ready for Sunday. 

"I'm still not entirely happy with the balance — although I'm confident we'll get to the bottom of it," Button said. 

"Nonetheless, the pace of the car is good — Lewis was very quick today — and our long-run pace is very good," he said. "I was playing around with overtaking on my long run, but I still reckon it'll be difficult to overtake people in the DRS zones. So I think it's going to be a bit of a struggle to make moves stick in the race — which means it's going to be important to qualify up at the front." 

Alonso and Massa, who finished fifth and sixth respectively, struggled during the session. Each spun at one point and Alonso also twice briefly left the track. 

Along with the Ferrari drivers, several others endured difficult sessions. 

Williams driver Rubens Barrichello had his session ruined when he stalled just minutes after it began and failed to record a time. 

Renault driver Vitaly Petrov had his session interrupted by an exhaust fire while Team Lotus driver Heikki Kovalainen spun out.