Hamilton faster than Rosberg in 1st 2 Abu Dhabi practices
Lewis Hamilton warmed up for his bid to wrestle the Formula One title from Mercedes rival Nico Rosberg with the fastest time in the first two practice sessions Friday at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The defending champion, who is seeking a third straight title and fourth overall, overcame a minor scare when he lost control of the rear of his car in the first session then dealt with some balance issues on his wheels in the second.
He was .079 seconds quicker than Rosberg in the second practice after beating him by.374 seconds in the first.
It will be a welcome boost for Hamilton, who trails Rosberg by 12 points heading into Sunday's race.
"We're in a good position for tomorrow. Pole (position) is the goal for tomorrow," Hamilton said. "I haven't managed it at this track for a long time but I know I'm quick here, the car feels great and there's still some time in it."
But even if Hamilton wins the race, Rosberg needs only to finish third to be crowned champion for the first time.
Both have won nice races in a topsy-turvy season that started with Rosberg taking complete control after winning the first four races while Hamilton struggled with engine troubles. The title race then went in Hamilton's favor only for Rosberg to seize the initiative back.
"We underestimate the pressure these guys are under," Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff said. "Sometimes you have to allow the drivers to express their feelings and emotions. You don't want to streamline them too much."
Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel was third best in the evening session — encouragingly only .269 behind Hamilton — but he had to go back to the Ferrari garage, saying over race radio that he suspected gearbox failure.
However, because the engine was being used for practice he will not incur a penalty for a gearbox change.
Ferrari's performance in the evening gave Vettel encouragement that the car can push Mercedes in Saturday's qualifying.
"Overall the car felt good and I think we should have good pace," Vettel said.
"Hopefully tomorrow we'll have a similar feeling in qualifying and put the car where it belongs."
Dutch teenager Max Verstappen was third in the first practice and fourth in the second, where the Red Bull driver was troubled by some tire issues.
"We had a few issues with the car today which meant aborting the last run was the sensible thing to do," the 19-year-old Verstappen said.
"Nothing is broken and there is nothing to worry about, just safe to stop early. The grip is always a bit difficult here."
The 2010 title, won dramatically by Vettel, and the 2014 title, won by Hamilton, also both went down to the wire in Abu Dhabi.
"It's down to the last race. It's all coming up: the frustrations and the happy moments," said Wolff, praising the mental strength of his drivers. "I find it very remarkable how they've managed their relationship for the benefit of the team."
The race begins at 5 p.m. local time and ends with night falling on the desert track and temperatures still warm, but dropping with a late breeze.
"Adapting to that and knowing what to expect can be a challenge," Rosberg said. "But our car was working well in both conditions."
German Grand Prix set to be dropped from 2017 F1 calendar
The German Grand Prix is expected to be dropped from the Formula One calendar for financial reasons.
The decision to drop the race still needs to be officially confirmed when the World Motor Sport Council meets next Wednesday.
Hockenheim is one of three provisional races on next year's 21race calendar along with Canada and Brazil. The official calendar will be approved at the same meeting.
But according to reports in the German media, teams have already been made aware of the decision so that it does not affect their travel plans. The race is penciled in for July 30.
"It's unfortunate but not surprising, especially as the date was only conditional," Hockenheimring chief Georg Seiler was quoted as saying by German news agency dpa. "There was also no offer excluding all financial risks, which was always our condition as a possible venue."
The implications would potentially see the Hungarian GP moved by one week to take Germany's slot as the final race before the traditional summer break.
The German GP was left off the 2015 calendar, also because of dwindling attendances and costs.
Germany's struggles to host the race contrasts with the flourishing success of the Mercedes team and its German driver Nico Rosberg.
Mercedes has clinched the constructors' title for the past three years, and Rosberg is in a strong position to win his first F1 title on Sunday.
He leads Hamilton.
The other German drivers in F1 are four-time champion Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), Nico Hulkenberg (Force India), and Pascal Wehrlein (Manor). teammate Lewis
Brown plans to get bigname sponsors for F1 team McLaren
Zak Brown intends to use his commercial expertise to bring a big-name title sponsor to McLaren.
The 45-year-old American was hired as executive director of the Formula One team on Monday as part of a significant restructuring following the departure of Ron Dennis.
Brown is well placed to attract potential new sponsors given his wealth of experience. He founded the motorsport marketing company JMI in 1995 and is an ex-Formula Three racer who started out his junior career in karting.
Brown, who once had aspirations of being an F1 driver, clearly knows what he is looking for.
Dennis, McLaren's chairman and chief executive, last week failed in a bid at London's High Court to stop the team's board from forcing him out.
Brown paid tribute to him.