Hello and welcome to final practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix -- the final race of the 2015 season
The sun is shining out on track with air temperature at 27C and track temp at 32C. That would usually be good news for an F1 car, but the conditions will change a lot ahead of Q3 in qualifying as the sun sets. As a result, this session has less of an impact on setup for qualifying than your average FP3 session, but none of the teams will turn down the chance to get an hour of track time.
Nasr, Grosjean, Stevens, Vettel, Raikkonen and Merhi get the session underway by heading out on track.
We actually have a risk of rain of 10% in this session, although I doubt we'll actually see any. There are a few clouds overhead, but it hardly feels like rain is on the way.
@Siddhesh: Good question. The spec is the same as Hamilton's - i.e. the latest spec of Mercedes engine - but it is much older as he lost his original new-spec engine (his third engine of the season overall) to a cooling liquid contamination in Monza. That meant he had to make his fourth and final engine last nearly twice as long as it was originally intended by running it at more conservative settings. It wasn't such a big deal in Brazil, but this is a power circuit where it will make a quite a substantial difference.
Meanwhile in the media centre, we've been handed a hefty document that basically says Mercedes is questioning Haas's collaboration with Ferrari and the use of its wind tunnel. This could make for an interesting winter...
@AbhishekGoyal: It actually rained on Wednesday just after I landed. I was as surprised as anyone!
@Pavan: They looked competitive yesterday, but I think they might struggle to remain in the top four or five today when the Mercedes teams turn up their power units for qualifying. But you are right, the chassis is very strong and at this track gives them a big advantage in the final sector. Red Bull are also keen to point out how much skinnier their rear wing has to be to make up for its straight-line speed disadvantage, suggesting it would be even quicker in the twisty bits with a more powerful engine.
Talking of teams that were competitive yesterday, Sergio Perez has put Force India fastest on a 1:44.306.
@Salman: It does, but the changes Honda needs to make to its MGU-H and Turbo require more tokens than they had towards the end of the season and a huge amount of time to redesign and manufacturer the parts. Honda are already working hard on that and will continue to do so over the winter. We'll see the results of that hard work in the early tests and races.
Kimi Raikkonen is now fastest on a 1:43.214 but said he lost time in the final sector.
Ouch! Max Verstappen clouts the kerbs at one of the chicanes and sends his Toro Rosso airbourne across the track. He manages to recover it but tells the team he is really struggling to keep the rear of the car under control.
@Pavan: Mercedes undoubtedly has one of the best, Red Bull is up there and McLaren have made huge progress. The Toro Rosso is also very good and often looks planted in the corners. The general consensus is that Ferrari and Mercedes are now matched for power, which means the deficit you see each weekend is largely down to the chassis and aero. Williams have a car that is very efficient but lacks a bit of overall downforce. Force India have come a long way, Lotus have been unable to develop their car. Sauber went on a crucial weight-loss programme over the winter and have improved, but are still a long way off. The Manor was always going to be a bit of a bodge job given the winter they had.
Vettel recovers from a half spin at Turn 1 after losing the rear of his Ferrari. That won't have done the tyres any good and he's now returned to the pits.
@Keith: Well, that is how they have posed the question, but this is about the chassis not the power unit. They want clarity on whether they can work with another entity - be it a potential team or something else - to be able to get around the strict wind tunnel regs. For clarity, it's been referred to the stewards of the meeting this weekend as it is a matter relating to the Sporting Regulations. If I had to bet on it, I'd guess they will refer it back to the FIA and we might have a tribunal or something similar over the winter. But I haven't had a chance to study the details yet.
@F1Addict: When I interviewed Lewis earlier this year, he said he was looking forward to writing the 2014 chapter of his autobiography. That suggests there is a bit more to the story than we have been able to uncover so far...
@Mary-Lou: Ferrari has gained, no doubt about it, but the gap is still big. I would not be surprised at all if next year becomes another two-way fight for the title between the Mercedes drivers. But these things always change over time, I remember when it was unthinkable that anyone other than Schumacher and Ferrari would be champion
@SudiptaSengupta: Only that they have one! We expect it to be a Renault, but the big question is whether it will have Renault branding and whether it will be Renault or Ilmor that take on the development. We expect to know more next week when Renault announces its plans regarding Lotus
Hamilton spins at Turn five. He hit the kerb on the apex and went around through 180 degrees.
@Keith: Under the regulations you can't do what Ferrari has done with Haas with an existing team. The difference was that Haas wasn't an existing team. The FIA went to Maranello and was happy with what was going on, but Mercedes appears to be saying that it could open up a Pandora's box of extra spending if everyone does it (which is what the FIA regs are trying to avoid in the first place). If Mercedes gets the go ahead from the FIA, I suspect they will do exactly that
Despite the spin, Hamilton has gone fastest with a 1:43.078. Rosberg is currently 0.307s off his Mercedes team-mate with Raikkonen in between. All times are on the soft tyres so far, expect to see the super-softs come out later.
@Keith: That's the point, it would be against the regulations to do it with an existing team. One of the questions is when a prospective team becomes an existing team... But perhaps another part of the Mercedes empire could use the Mercedes wind tunnel to design parts for a completely different project and then that information could find its way back to the F1 team...
@Salman: Maybe, but you still need someone like Gene Haas with the money to run the team.
@Mary-Lou: I hope so, but we know Rosberg is running an engine with higher mileage (after losing one in Monza) and so is down on power on Hamilton.
Ricciardo is currently 0.806s, the only non-Ferrari/Mercedes within a second of Hamilton's time.
@Keith: The rules are designed to stop it. The Haas situation appears to have opened up a loophole.
@Keith: My understanding is it is down to the wheelbase and positioning of the front bulkhead of the Ferrari. They took a different route to most of the other teams, but had their reasons for doing so. It will be interesting to see which way they go next year.