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Vettel and Hamilton set the pace in Abu Dhabi

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel drives during a practice session at the Yas Marina circuit, yesterday.

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel drives during a practice session at the Yas Marina circuit, yesterday.

Formula One championship leader Sebastian Vettel set the practice pace yesterday ahead of an Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that could bring him a fifth win in a row and speed Red Bull to the constructors’ title.

The German lapped the floodlit Yas Marina circuit with a quickest lap of one minute 41.751 seconds in the evening session after McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton had claimed the honours in the afternoon with a time of 1:43.285.

Hamilton was second on the timesheets in the second practice for tomorrow’s day-to-night race. Team-mate Jenson Button was second and third respectively.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, Vettel’s main rival who is 13 points behind in the standings with three races remaining, was fourth and seventh respectively as the team tried new aerodynamic updates to the front and rear wings.

Red Bull’s Australian Mark Webber, who can be expected to ‘ride shotgun’ for Vettel in tomorrow’s race, was fifth and fourth.

Hamilton won in Abu Dhabi last year, after Vettel qualified on pole and then retired with a puncture, and the two men are the only drivers to have qualified on the front row at Yas Marina in three editions of the race.

Such has been their dominance, that they are also the only two to have won the race while Red Bull and McLaren are the only teams to have lapped fastest in the 11 practice sessions held there to date.

Red Bull can clinch the constructors’ title this weekend but McLaren, who are still in contention for that championship, can throw a spanner in the works if they can carry over their practice form to the race.

The first session yesterday featured a new face in Max Chilton, driving the Marussia for first practice only, but heavily tipped to become Great Britain’s fourth driver on the grid next season.

The 21-year-old was 22nd fastest, a second behind Germany’s Timo Glock in the other Marussia.

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