Sebastian Vettel heads Mark Webber in Abu Dhabi practice

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer at Yas Marina
Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel is on course for pole position at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after heading Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber in final practice.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton was third fastest, 0.231secs behind the newly crowned world champion.

Abu Dhabi GP: Inside F1 on Friday practice

Hamilton's team-mate Nico Rosberg was fourth ahead of Lotus's Romain Grosjean and Jenson Button's improved McLaren.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, battling to hang on to second in the championship, was 11th, 1.167secs off the pace.

Ferrari are fighting a lack of traction, a problem from which they have suffered for the last two seasons and which is badly exposed by the 90-degree corners and hairpins that abound at Yas Marina.

Alonso was beaten by the Ferrari-engined Saubers of Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez in seventh and eighth places, as well as Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen and Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne.

The Spaniard is 24 points ahead of Raikkonen in the championship, with Hamilton a further 14 adrift with three races to go and 75 points still available.

Alonso admitted on Friday that "we have to be honest and know it will be a tough weekend".

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Raikkonen has reverted this weekend to the standard-wheelbase version of the Lotus in the hope of improving his faltering form of recent races but was 0.555secs behind team-mate Grosjean, who has stuck with the newer long-wheelbase car which first competed in Korea three races ago.

BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson said pole position was "going to be a big battle between Red Bull and Mercedes, but for sure Red Bull have the upper hand".

Vettel appears to be in a league of his own once again. Webber was up on time compared to his team-mate after the first two sectors of his fastest lap, but Vettel's skills in the twisty final sector around the marina ensured he ended the session 0.222secs clear.

A number of drivers ran wide on the expansive track but there was only one accident, when Marussia's Jules Bianchi spun in Turn Three and crashed into the wall.

Qualifying starts at 1300 GMT.

Full third practice results for the Indian Grand Prix