Yas Practice 1: Hamilton on top as McLaren sets the pace

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27. Formula One World Championship, Rd18, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Practice, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Friday 2 November 2012.

Lewis Hamilton fastest in the opening session of the Abu Dhabi GP weekend

Nov.2 (Reuters) McLaren set the pace in first practice for the day-to-night Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday, Round 18 of the 2012 Formula One World Championship, with Lewis Hamilton leading Jenson Button on top of the time sheets.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren. Formula One World Championship, Rd18, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Practice, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Friday 2 November 2012.Red Bull’s championship leader Sebastian Vettel was third quickest with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, his closest rival, 13 points behind in the standings with three races remaining, fourth as the team tried new aerodynamic updates.

Red Bull’s Australian Mark Webber, who can be expected to ‘ride shotgun’ for Vettel in Sunday’s race, was fifth.

Hamilton won in Abu Dhabi last year and he and Vettel are the only drivers to have qualified on the front row at Yas Marina in three editions of the race.

Such has been their dominance that they are also the only two to have won the race while Red Bull and McLaren are the only teams to have lapped fastest in the 10 practice sessions held there to date.

Hamilton, who set a best time of one minute 43.285 seconds on Friday afternoon, has now been quickest in five of those 10 practice sessions.

Button was 0.333 slower while Vettel, winner of the last four races, was 0.765 off the 27-year-old Briton’s pace. Alonso’s time of 1:44.366 was more than a second slower than the pacesetter.

“I don’t know. Maybe ask Lewis,” Vettel told reporters when asked on Thursday why he and Hamilton had such a great relationship with a harbour side track often compared to street circuits like Monaco or Valencia.

“Maybe he knows the answer. It’s a difficult track, a long lap with a lot of corners. A lot of twisty sections. It’s not that easy to get it right.”

Hamilton has his cousins, children of his late paternal aunt, attending the race and has fond memories of last year when he won the race on his mother’s birthday with her watching trackside.

Sebastian Vettel Red Bull , Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Practice, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Friday 2 November 2012.Red Bull can clinch the constructors’ title this weekend but McLaren, who are still in contention for that championship, can throw a spanner in the works if they can carry over their practice form to the race.

The session saw a new face in Max Chilton, driving the Marussia for first practice only, but heavily tipped to become Britain’s fourth driver on the grid next season.

The 21-year-old was 22nd fastest, a second behind Germany’s Timo Glock in the other Marussia.

Finnish reserve Valtteri Bottas took Bruno Senna’s place at Williams and had exactly the same time as Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado for much of the session until the Brazilian driver popped in a quicker lap.

Subbed by AJN.

Free Practice 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit – Friday, 2 November 2012

Pos No Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:43.285 21
2 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:43.618 0.333 19
3 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:44.050 0.765 23
4 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:44.366 1.081 21
5 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:44.542 1.257 22
6 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:44.694 1.409 23
7 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:45.115 1.830 26
8 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:45.194 1.909 19
9 19 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:45.347 2.062 25
10 9 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:45.422 2.137 15
11 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:45.567 2.282 24
12 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:45.587 2.302 20
13 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:45.722 2.437 20
14 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:45.743 2.458 20
15 11 Jules Bianchi Force India-Mercedes 1:45.769 2.484 22
16 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:45.811 2.526 22
17 16 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:46.649 3.364 24
18 17 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:46.708 3.423 26
19 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1:47.418 4.133 23
20 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1:47.891 4.606 21
21 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1:48.354 5.069 22
22 25 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:48.887 5.602 22
23 23 Qing Hua Ma HRT-Cosworth 1:50.487 7.202 20
24 21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault No time 3