As in FP1, there was just a tenth of a second between Mercedes and Ferrari in Friday evening’s second practice in Abu Dhabi. But as the sun set, this time it was Lewis Hamilton who just had the edge over Sebastian Vettel, with third-placed Daniel Ricciardo keeping Red Bull very much in the mix.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen moved ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for fourth, with Max Verstappen sixth in the sister Red Bull followed by the Force India duo of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso completed the top ten.
The new world champion had set the early pace on the supersoft Pirellis, with 1m 38.912s, until Mercedes team mate Bottas slipped on a set of ultrasofts to go fastest with 1m 38.537s as the first hour closed.
Vettel then beat that with 1m 38.026s on ultrasofts on his Ferrari, only to have Hamilton respond immediately with 1m 37.877s, the fastest-ever lap of the track.
Ricciardo had a moment of irritation with Roman Grosjean who held him up in the two final corners, but improved later to 1m 38.180s to clinch his place in the top three - a relief after his handling woes in FP1. Raikkonen wasn’t that far behind in fourth, with 1m 38.352s.
Bottas’s time held up for fifth, as Max Verstappen struggled more than he had in the first session in his way to 1m 38.894s for sixth.
Force India were again strong, with just one hundredth of a second splitting Perez and Ocon.
Renault - who enter the weekend locked in a fight with Toro Rosso and Haas for sixth in the constructors' standings - upped the pace to claim ninth, while behind the McLaren duo of Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne sandwiched Williams's departing Felipe Massa.
Vandoorne was one of a handful to suffer off-track moments, spinning at Turn 20 - where he later went off again. Toro Rosso's Brendon Hartley and Haas's Romain Grosjean also had their moments - with the latter's woes compounded by electrical problems that left him 20th at the flag.