The Lotus duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean were the first drivers out on track, swiftly followed by Max Chilton and Esteban Gutierrez. Soaring temperatures meant track conditions were not fully representative of those that drivers will experience in qualifying and the race, which take place in cooler conditions under the setting sun.
Grosjean radioed on his installation lap to report a vibration, similar to the brake problems experienced on Friday. Over the first 10 minutes, installation laps were completed before the first timed lap was put on the board – a 1m52.337 courtesy of Charles Pic. The Caterham driver ruined his first lap after taking to the run-off area at turn six.
His Caterham team-mate Giedo van der Garde swiftly displaced him before Kimi Raikkonen moved to the top with his first lap. Drivers started their session with some short stints on the medium compound tyre before pitting to prepare for the next run. Sebastian Vettel moved to the top of the time sheets on his first run. With half of the session remaining, 21 drivers had set a lap time with Sergio Perez being the only driver without a time on the board. Webber, Hamilton, Rosberg and Raikkonen rounded out the top five with just 0.154 separating first and fifth.
The second medium tyre run kicked off with Rosberg and Hamilton moving to the front, separated by just 0.001 seconds. Vettel moved back to the top before Rosberg snatched the lead back from the newly crowned four-time world champion. With drivers pushing to find the limit, mistakes were made with both Maldonado and Raikkonen taking to the ample run-off area at the Yas Marina Circuit mid-way through the session.
Jules Bianchi suffered a spin at turn two, spinning into the turn three barriers. The Frenchman damaged the left-rear corner of his Marussia MR02 and gave his mechanics plenty of work to do ahead of qualifying. With the yellow flags flying, drivers took the opportunity to return to their pit garages and prepare for a final run on the soft compound tyre.
With 10 minutes left on the clock, Jenson Button was the first driver to take to the soft compound tyre for a low fuel run. The Brit instantly moved to the top, 1.5 seconds faster than Rosberg’s fastest time on the prime tyre. Hamilton moved to the front after going three tenths faster than Jenson Button and just under five tenths clear of team-mate Rosberg. Alonso continued to struggle, going one second down on the Mercedes driver with his first lap on the option tyre.
He didn’t hold the top spot for long though with Vettel returning to the top of the front with a 1m41.349. It was a time that remained unchallenged by the chequered flag. The German finished two tenths clear of team-mate Mark Webber with the Mercedes pairing of Hamilton and Rosberg just behind. Grosjean rounded out the top five, just ahead of Button, Hulkenberg, Gutierrez and Raikkonen.
Vergne completed the top 10 and finished ahead of Fernando Alonso. It was another poor session for Ferrari with Massa setting the 14th fastest time of the 60 minute session, just ahead of Ricciardo, Maldonado and a struggling Adrian Sutil.
Image courtesy of Octane Photographic