Sebastian Vettel again posted the fastest time in the third and final practice session of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and will go for his eighth pole position of the season later Saturday.
In a repeat of the top three places from Friday’s second practice run, the German driver beat his Red Bull teammate Mark Webber and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.
Vettel’s time of 1 minute, 41.349 seconds was .222 quicker than Webber and .231 clear of Hamilton, who won on the Yas Marina circuit two years ago and has twice taken pole.
Because qualifying and the race itself are held at twilight, when the track is considerably cooler at sunset, only limited useful data can be gained from early afternoon practice runs, when the daily temperature peaks.
But Ferrari continued to struggle on the twisty circuit, just as it did on Friday, with Fernando Alonso down in 11th and Felipe Massa placing 14th.
The design of the 5.55-kilometer (3.44-mile) track, with its long, sharp turns and hairpin bends, exposes the lack of traction on the Ferraris, an ongoing problem this season and last.
Alonso came into the pit lane late on with smoke billowing from his rear tires in another frustrating session for Ferrari, and neither driver finished higher than eighth over the three practice runs.
"Hopefully there is more in the car. We are in a position that’s not normal for us," Alonso said. "We are struggling a little bit more this weekend, but to be fighting for Q3 is not good enough for Ferrari."
It was also a frustrating run for Kimi Raikkonen, who finished down in 10th after setting the early pace for Lotus.
Marussia driver Jules Bianchi gave his mechanics plenty of work to do after crashing toward the end.
Bianchi misjudged his entry into turn two and span his Marussia across the track, onto the grass and thudding into crash barriers. The Frenchman climbed out and was unharmed, but there was damage to the left wheel and wing and the team faces a race against the clock to get the car ready for qualifying.
Force India driver Adrian Sutil also struggled and was 17th best.
"The car is just so bad, I don’t know what’s wrong here," the German said over race radio. "I got everything; I got understeer, I got oversteer."