The Briton, nonetheless attempting to find his first win of the season, lapped the 5.2-km lengthy Yas Marina monitor in a single minute, 23.633 seconds on a sizzling afternoon with Russell 0.220 seconds adrift.
Charles Leclerc was third for Ferrari, 0.255 seconds off Hamilton’s tempo, forward of Purple Bull’s Sergio Perez, his rival for second within the general standings.
Mercedes head into Sunday’s floodlit finale on a excessive, with Russell having claimed his maiden Method One win every week in the past in Brazil.
The victory, with Hamilton second, handed the once-dominant former champions a morale-boosting first triumph of the season.
However the pecking order in Friday’s opening session in Abu Dhabi isn’t indicative, with the race beginning at nightfall and working into the night time.
The shortage of consultant working meant groups took the chance to provide younger weapons and reserve drivers some monitor time.
Double world champion Max Verstappen sat out the session with the Dutchman handing his automobile over to Method Two racer Liam Lawson.
American Logan Sargeant, who is about to make his Method One debut with Williams subsequent season supplied he accumulates the required superlicense factors, took over departing Canadian Nicholas Latifi’s automobile.
Mexican IndyCar racer Pato O’Ward took over Lando Norris’ McLaren.
Australian Jack Doohan at Alpine, Robert Shwartzman at Ferrari, Method Two champion Felipe Drugovich at Aston Martin, Robert Kubica at Alfa Romeo and Pietro Fittipaldi at Haas had been amongst eight non-regulars who ran within the session.
Lawson was fifth behind the opposite Purple Bull of Perez forward of Sebastian Vettel in sixth.
The four-time champion is looking time on his profession after Sunday’s race and TV photos captured an emotional second between the German and his father forward of the session within the Aston Martin storage.
Shwartzman was seventh in Spaniard Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari forward of Daniel Ricciardo, driving in his final race for McLaren and presumably in Method One.
Valtteri Bottas was ninth for Alfa Romeo forward of Williams racer Alexander Albon.
The session was largely hassle free.
Sargeant survived a tyre smoking spin whereas Drugovich in Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin and O’Ward practically tripped over one another.