Hamilton on top in FP1, as Red Bulls close in on Rosberg

World © Octane Photographic Ltd. Mercedes AMG Petronas W07 Hybrid – Lewis Hamilton. Friday 25th November 2016, F1 Abu Dhabi GP - Practice 1. Yas Marina circuit, Abu Dhabi

Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver Lewis Hamilton topped the times in the first practice session of the weekend to lay down a marker ahead of the final race of the 2016 season.

The Brit was four tenths of a second ahead of team-mate and rival for the championship crown Nico Rosberg, with both drivers having moments early on as they prepared for Sunday’s title decider. Hamilton set a time of 1:42.869 to take the top spot, and his car set-up looked to be more suited to the conditions so far.

The two Red Bull Racing drivers set almost identical times, with Max Verstappen just pipping team-mate Daniel Ricciardo by seven hundredths of a second.

The Scuderia Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, who ran the halo at the start of the FP1 session, was seventh tenths further back in fourth, and the German, who has won three times at the Yas Marina Circuit, again looked strong. He was just one tenth ahead of Sahara Force India Formula 1 Team driver Sergio Perez, who will no doubt be hoping to replicate last year’s qualifying result here in Abu Dhabi this weekend, when the Mexican lined up on the second row. The Silverstone based squad again look strong around this track, especially at low speed.

Kimi Raikkonen was seventh in the second Ferrari, who despite putting in some strong performances of late, was half a second down on his team-mate in this session. The Finn was two tenths up on Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz Jr, who was three tenths clear of Williams Martini Racing driver Felipe Massa, who was taking part in his final ever FP1 session.

Sauber F1 Team driver Marcus Ericsson completed the top ten in what was an impressive session for the Swede and the Swiss squad, who scored their first points of the season last time out with driver Felipe Nasr.

Alfonso Celis Jr driving he VJM09 instead of Nico Hulkenberg for this session was twelfth, ahead of Haas F1 Team driver Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman once again spent the majority of the session on team radio complaining about the drivability of the VF16. First after losing the car three times whilst going through left-handers and nearly spinning off at Turn 5, before a few laps he did have a big spin at Turn 1, which he advised the team was down to a problem with the brakes.

Nasr was thirteenth, ahead of the second Haas car of Esteban Gutierrez, who is set to leave the American squad at the end of the season with his future plans yet to be confirmed. The Mexican was just two hundredths of a second clear of Valtteri Bottas in the second Williams, who had a very poor session by the Finn’s standards, finishing nine tenths off the pace of his team-mate.

Renault Sport Formula 1 Team drivers Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen were next up in sixteenth and seventeenth respectively, and with just two tenths splitting the team-mates. They did however finish higher than the McLaren-Honda Formula 1 Team who had a poor session, with Fernando Alonso the first of their drivers down in eighteenth place.

Manor Racing MRT driver Pascal Wehrlein was nineteenth and just seven hundredths off the Spaniard’s pace, with Jenson Button back in twentieth. The Brit, who is sporting a bright yellow helmet this weekend, similar to the one he wore for Brawn when he won the world championship in 2009, had a somewhat troubled FP1 session.

The 37-year-old was running a lot of sensors on the MP4-31 early doors, before a problem saw Button coming out of the final corner extremely slowly. The team was straight on the radio to ask the Brit to “back off and box now”, but having just passed the pit entrance, he had to crawl back to the pits at a snail’s pace.

Jordan King, who replaced Manor driver Esteban Ocon for the FP1 session was twenty-first, just ahead of Daniil Kvyat who had his session ended early on.

The Russian, who was also trialling the halo device this morning, sustained a puncture to his left rear tyre early on in the session and was unable to get back to the pits before completely destroying it. As he was all the way round the other side of the track to the pits, he instead had to park the STR11 up at Turn 8. The car was recovered with time still remaining, but Kvyat was unable to get back out on track to complete any further running.

Hamilton has stolen a charge on team-mate Rosberg in FP1, with the Red Bulls, who were just one tenth off the pace of the German, also look racy here in Abu Dhabi. Will their performance across the rest of the weekend be enough to worry Rosberg on Sunday? It looks like we could have an interesting contest on our hands so far.

2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – FP1 Results

Pos   Driver			Chassis		Engine		Laps	Time	   Gap	   Int.
1	Lewis Hamilton 		Mercedes	Mercedes	27	1:42.869   	 	 
2	Nico Rosberg 		Mercedes	Mercedes	31	1:43.243   0.374   0.374
3	Max Verstappen 		Red Bull	TAG		26	1:43.297   0.428   0.054
4	Daniel Ricciardo 	Red Bull	TAG		26	1:43.362   0.493   0.065
5	Sebastian Vettel 	Ferrari		Ferrari		27	1:44.005   1.136   0.643
6	Sergio Perez 		Force India	Mercedes	22	1:44.155   1.286   0.150
7	Kimi Raikkonen 		Ferrari		Ferrari		26	1:44.556   1.687   0.401
8	Carlos Sainz Jr. 	Toro Rosso	Ferrari		21	1:44.685   1.816   0.129
9	Felipe Massa 		Williams	Mercedes	27	1:45.039   2.170   0.354
10	Marcus Ericsson 	Sauber		Ferrari		20	1:45.168   2.299   0.129
11	Alfonso Celis Jr. 	Force India	Mercedes	26	1:45.476   2.607   0.308
12	Romain Grosjean 	Haas		Ferrari		13	1:45.600   2.731   0.124
13	Felipe Nasr 		Sauber		Ferrari		17	1:45.778   2.909   0.178
14	Esteban Gutierrez 	Haas		Ferrari		20	1:45.925   3.056   0.147
15	Valtteri Bottas 	Williams	Mercedes	31	1:45.940   3.071   0.015
16	Jolyon Palmer 		Renault		Renault		32	1:46.219   3.350   0.279
17	Kevin Magnussen 	Renault		Renault		20	1:46.372   3.503   0.153
18	Fernando Alonso 	McLaren		Honda		21	1:46.379   3.510   0.007
19	Pascal Wehrlein 	Manor		Mercedes	29	1:46.458   3.589   0.079
20	Jenson Button 		McLaren		Honda		10	1:47.127   4.258   0.669
21	Jordan King 		Manor		Mercedes	26	1:47.558   4.689   0.431
22	Daniil Kvyat 		Toro Rosso	Ferrari		4	2:01.989   19.120  14.431