McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets during a twilight second practice session at the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Kovalainen, who who set a time of 1:41.307 in the second session, beat Hamilton after a final run on soft tyres gained him nearly two-tenths of a second on his team-mate. His first session had been marred by brake problems.
The successful Friday will help the team in its ambition to end the season with a higher score than rivals Ferrari in the constructors’ standings.
Hamilton has stated that he is aiming for a win, saying after the session: “It looks like we might be quite competitive here. Our long runs appear to be good, the car feels great and the track is great.
“We’ll have to see what happens tomorrow, because the track conditions are always changing, but we feel quite comfortable with the pace we have. Our car seems to behave quite well over the kerbs, we’ve got the balance feeling quite good today.”
Kovalainen, hotly tipped for a transfer to Toyota, has been a little franker than usual about his relationship with the team in an interview with a Finnish newspaper: “It was always difficult to accept that Lewis was always the first to receive the new parts.”
He also criticised McLaren’s strategy of sending him out with a heavier car for the final part of qualifying several times during the season.
Meanwhile Brawn GP’s Jenson Button was the strongest non-McLaren driver in each session. In the morning he ran a tenth of a second off Hamilton’s pace, while in the afternoon he was just a few hundredths of a second slower, giving fans hope of an exciting duel in qualifying between the two most recent world champions. Team-mate Rubens Barrichello finished fourth then eighth.
Button said afterwards that the circuit was “certainly an interesting one. When you look at the layout, it doesn’t seem that exciting but when you actually drive it, it’s fantastic.
“The track has a bit of everything with high and low speed corners, positive and negative camber and the walls are pretty close to you most of the way round.”
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, eyeing a second-place finish in the drivers’ championship, twice put his car behind Button in another example of remarkable consistency between sessions. Behind him in the second session was Toyota rookie Kamui Kobayashi with the session’s fifth-fastest time at 1:41.636, which left team-mate Trulli in his wake.
Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi was sixth-fastest, ahead of Mark Webber from the Red Bull senior team in seventh, Barrichello in eighth and Williams’ Nico Rosberg in ninth.
Tenth in the second session was Kimi Raikkonen on his last weekend as a Ferrari driver, in what was a subdued performance for the team.
Practice two times
- Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 1:41.307 (35 laps)
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:41.504 (34 laps)
- Jenson Button, Brawn GP: 1:41.541 (39 laps)
- Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull: 1:41.591 (37 laps)
- Kamui Kobayashi, Toyota: 1:41.636 (34 laps)
- Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso: 1:41.683 (37 laps)
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:41.684 (34 laps)
- Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP: 1:41.831 (38 laps)
- Nico Rosberg, Williams: 1:41.931 (39 laps)
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 1:41.987 (39 laps)
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:42.180 (28 laps)
- Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 1:42.245 (36 laps)
- Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 1:42.278 (36 laps)
- Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 1:42.409 (30 laps)
- Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India: 1:42.530 (33 laps)
- Fernando Alonso, Renault: 1:42.782 (29 laps)
- Giancarlo Fisichella, Ferrari: 1:42.932 (37 laps)
- Romain Grosjean, Renault: 1:43.021 (37 laps)
- Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso: 1:43.022 (39 laps)
- Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 1:43.708 (13 laps)
Practice one times
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:43.939 (18 laps)
- Jenson Button, Brawn GP: 1:44.035 (20 laps)
- Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull: 1:44.153 (28 laps)
- Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP: 1:44.207 (23 laps)
- Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 1:44.667 (23 laps)
- Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso: 1:44.687 (32 laps)
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:44.688 (14 laps)
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:44.805 (25 laps)
- Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso: 1:44.955 (33 laps)
- Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 1:44.958 (25 laps)
- Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 1:44.988 (22 laps)
- Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 1:45.123 (20 laps)
- Nico Rosberg, Williams: 1:45.649 (27 laps)
- Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 1:45.679 (25 laps)
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 1:45.704 (27 laps)
- Fernando Alonso, Renault: 1:45.865 (23 laps)
- Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India: 1:46.239 (22 laps)
- Giancarlo Fisichella, Ferrari: 1:46.267 (26 laps)
- Kamui Kobayashi, Toyota, 1:46.364 (28 laps)
- Romain Grosjean, Renault, 1:46.411 (27 laps)