The first practice session of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend saw Lewis Hamilton set the pace in his McLaren Mercedes with a best lap of 1:43.939s around the impressive new Yas Marina Circuit, with a surprisingly large margin of a second covering the top eight runners.
and championship successor Jenson Button
traded fastest laps late in the 90 minute session with the former gaining the advantage by 0.096s. Sebastian Vettel and Rubens Barrichello
were closely matched in their private battle for second in the championship, recording the third and fourth fastest times. Nick Heidfeld
was fifth best in what is the final race for the BMW Sauber squad with team-mate Robert Kubica 11th. Sebastien Buemi was an impressive sixth best in his Toro Rosso ahead of Adrian Sutil, who missed all but the final 20 minutes of the session with a braking problem on his Force India. Mark Webber, Jaime Alguersuari and Jarno Trulli
rounded out the top ten.
Heikki Kovalainen, almost certainly on the move from McLaren after this race, was 12th from Nico Rosberg who has already stated he is not staying with Williams Toyota. Kazuki Nakajima was next up in 14th in what could be his final race, while Ferrari struggled for pace with Kimi Raikkonen
and Giancarlo Fisichella
15th and 18th respectively. Fernando Alonso
was 16th ahead of the struggling Tonio Liuzzi, Fisichella, Kamui Kobayashi and Romain Grosjean.
The new Yas Marina Circuit is mighty impressive visually, but the only the relatively slow corners of turns 17 and 19 seems to have challenged the drivers so far. Passing however may well be possible into turns five, eight and 11. Formula One’s latest venue is the talk of the paddock at the moment with Rosberg giving the circuit a thumbs up.
"Having just completed 27 laps of the Yas Marina circuit, my view is that it is a cool track, it's going to be good to race on and from a driver's perspective, it sure is fun," he said. "The pitlane exit has been talked about a lot, my verdict for the moment is it is pretty exciting.
“Obviously as the track surface is completely new, it was quite dirty, so you have to be a little careful to find your way to begin with. It will be interesting to see how the track changes with the cooler temperatures which we will get a chance to see this afternoon - obviously this will be more reflective of the conditions we will encounter for qualifying and the race."