Lewis Hamilton topped the timing screens during free practice one in Abu-Dhabi. In doing so, the Brit laid down a marker ahead of the final race of the season. The Mercedes driver was four tenths ahead of championship rival Nico Rosberg, both drivers had moments early in the session. The time that saw Hamilton on top of the times was a 1:42.869 as it looked that the car had been set up more suited to the conditions than others.

Red Bull Racing’s two drivers almost set identical lap times, Max Verstappen topped teammate Daniel Ricciardo by just seven hundredths of a second. Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel ran the halo during the start of free practice one, he was just seven tenths behind in fourth place. The German looked strong as he lapped the Yas Marina circuit.

Behind Vettel was Sahara Force India’s Sergio Perez who was just one tenth slower. Last year the Mexican managed to qualify on the second row at the Abu-Dhabi Grand Prix, can he repeat it this year? Scuderia Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen finished the session in seventh, just half a second behind teammate Vettel.

Two tenths behind Raikkonen was Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr, followed by Williams Martini Racing’s Felipe Massa. The latter being just three tenths behind whilst taking part in his final ever FP1 session as he retires at the end of the weekend. Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson managed to complete the top ten on the timing screens as he showed impressive pace during the session.

Test driver, Alfonso Celis Jr drove the VJM09 instead of Nico Hulkenberg for the opening practice session of the weekend and finished in eleventh. Haas’ Romain Grosjean finished the session in twelfth after spending most of the session on the radio to the team complaining about the car. The Frenchman lost the car three times as he went through left handers and nearly spun off at turn five. A few laps later in the session he had a big spin at turn one, which he advised the team it was due to a braking problem.

Sauber’s Felipe Nasr finished the session in thirteenth ahead of Haas’ Esteban Gutierrez. The Mexican driver is set to leave the American based team at the end of the season and his future plans are yet to be confirmed. Valtteri Bottas was behind in fifteenth, just two hundredths separated the two. Bottas finished nine tenths of a second behind his teammate, which made the Finn feel like he had a very poor session.

Renault Sport’s Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen finished in sixteenth and seventeenth, just two tenths separating the two. McLaren-Honda’s Fernando Alonso finished the session in eighteenth. Manor Racing’s Pascal Wehrlein finished in nineteenth, just seven hundredths of a second behind Alonso. McLaren-Honda’s Jenson Button finished the session in twentieth after the Brit had a troubled session. This weekend Button is sporting a bright yellow helmet which is like the one he wore when he won the World Championship with Brawn in 2009. He was running a lot of sensors on the car before a problem saw him exiting the final corner extremely slow. The team were instantly on the radio asking Button to “back off and box now”. He had to crawl the car back to the pits slowly after he had just passed the pit entrance when he received the teams message.

Test driver Jordan King replaced Manor regular Esteban Ocon for the opening practice session, finishing in twenty-first. Daniil Kvyat’s session ended early after he sustained a puncture on his left rear tyre, he was unable to get back to the pit lane due to the puncture occurring at turn eight. If he drove it back it would have completely destroyed the wheel, he parked the STR11 at turn eight. As the session continued Kvyat’s car was recovered but he was unable to re-join the session. Due to the issues the Russian finished the session in twenty-second.


©Fay Tilley 26th November 2016.