By Mark Mann-Bryans, Abu Dhabi
Lewis Hamilton laid down a marker in his quest for a record eighth Formula One world championship as he set a scintillating pace in final practice at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver went into the season-ending race at the Yas Marina Circuit tied level with Max Verstappen at the top of the standings.
But, having gone fastest in Friday’s second practice, the Brit was untouchable as he prepared his shot at a 104th pole position of his career.
Final practice session of the season = Complete 👊
It's finely poised at the top as we head into a key Quali at Yas Marina. 👀 pic.twitter.com/yCvIP7PHRJ
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) December 11, 2021
Hamilton’s time of one minute, 23.274 seconds had him in a different league for much of the session before Verstappen managed to get within 0.214 seconds.
Verstappen was clearly unhappy, swearing and complaining over the team radio as he failed to come close to Hamilton’s electric pace.
Hamilton could even afford a scruffy attempt and a final effort on flat-spotted tyres as a couple of errors from his Red Bull rival meant he would get no closer.
The second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas was third fastest with only the two title protagonists able to dip below the one minute 24 seconds mark.
Sergio Perez in the sister Red Bull was fourth ahead of the McLaren of Lando Norris, with Yuki Tsunoda sixth for AlphaTauri, ahead of team-mate Pierre Gasly.
Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren was ninth, sandwiched by the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, respectively.