Rosberg sets the pace in Abu Dhabi

Rosberg sets the pace in Abu Dhabi

Nico Rosberg put Formula One title rival Lewis Hamilton in the shade in final practice ahead of their championship showdown in Abu Dhabi.

It was only circumstance, however, that denied Hamilton a clean sweep of the practice times after the 29-year-old Briton had finished top of the timesheet at the end of Friday's two 90-minute runs.

Chasing almost a half-second deficit to Mercedes team-mate Rosberg in the closing stages and with the fast supersoft rubber on his car, Hamilton was quickest over the first two sectors at the Yas Marina circuit on one of his hot laps.

But in the final sector he was forced to ease off as he encountered traffic, albeit closing the gap to 0.369secs.

On his second attempt a few minutes later, and with the hour-long session at an end, Hamilton set the best first-sector time and a personal best in the second before backing off in the third.

It allowed Rosberg to stay out in front with a lap of one minute 41.424secs, and with more to come in qualifying from the duo who are separated by 17 points in the championship standings.

After six consecutive one-two finishes, another will suit Hamilton even if Rosberg takes the chequered flag.

The duo were again comfortably clear of any of their rivals, with Williams' Felipe Massa leading the rest of the field, albeit a full second in arrears of Rosberg.

Fernando Alonso, in his last race for Ferrari, was fourth quickest, but 1.229secs adrift, followed by the man who will be replacing him next year, in Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel.

McLaren's Jenson Button, potentially competing in his final race as group chief executive Ron Dennis has yet to decide on his driver line-up, was 1.334secs down in sixth.

Daniel Ricciardo in his Red Bull was seventh, followed by Williams' Valtteri Bottas and Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat, with Kimi Raikkonen in his Ferrari completing the top 10, but 1.614secs down.

At the rear were Caterham duo Kamui Kobayashi and young Briton Will Stevens, the 23-year-old in the car after paying for his seat as part of the crowd-funding project to get the team on the grid, having missed the last two races after going into administration.

Stevens finished 4.535secs behind Rosberg and nine tenths behind team-mate Kobayashi.

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