Lewis Hamilton started the decisive Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend by claiming top spot on the timing screens, at the end of the first free practice session on Friday, ahead of title rival and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, who had the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo not far behind.
Despite a spin exiting Turn 5, Hamilton went on to set a best time of 1:42.869 was 0.374 of a second quicker than Rosberg, who was only half a tenth faster than Verstappen and a tenth up on Ricciardo.
Up next, in fifth, was Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari albeit over a second down on the benchmark time, with teammate Kimi Raikkonen seventh, over a second and a half adrift of Hamilton’s best.
Force India’s Sergio Perez split the reds with the sixth best time of the 90 minutes session.
Carlos Sainz was eighth for Toro Rosso, but his teammate was less fortunate stopping on the side of the track with a puncture, managing only four laps in the session.
Felipe Massa, who also spun in Turn 5, was ninth fastest for Williams, the Brazilian competing in his 250th and last grand prix.
Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top ten, ahead of Force India reserve Alfonso Celis on duty in the place of Nico Hulkenberg.
Britain’s 2009 world champion Jenson Button – also in his last F1 race – was 20th for McLaren after being asked to return to the pits slowly during the session.
Button did only 10 laps, compared to Hamilton’s 28, with mechanics still working on the car through the closing minutes.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit – Friday, Free Practice 1