Sebastian Vettel set the pace in first practice at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, beating Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in a close session.
While running is somewhat unrepresentative during FP1 and FP3 at the Yas Marina Circuit due to the weather conditions – taking place in the early afternoon heat compared to qualifying and the race being at sunset and finishing under lights – the top three teams were all within 0.15s of each other at the end of the opening 90 minutes of running.
Vettel set the pace on the ultrasoft tire with a 1m39.006s, beating Hamilton by 0.120s while Verstappen was just 0.028s further back in the Red Bull. Running was somewhat limited for the Dutch driver, however, with Verstappen managing just 15 laps, 10 fewer than Hamilton.
The top three enjoyed a clear margin over the rest of the field, with Kimi Raikkonen in fourth some half a second off his teammate having run some unusual testing sensors on his rear wing during the first half of the session.
Valtteri Bottas was fifth quickest and carried out a late run using the Halo in the closing minutes ahead of the cockpit protection device’s introduction at the next race in Australia in March. Sixth was Sergio Perez for Force India – 1.3s off the pace – ahead of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne as the two McLarens started the weekend in promising fashion. Like Verstappen, Vandoorne also only managed 15 laps, opting to save mileage on his power unit.
Felipe Massa started his final F1 weekend in ninth place for Williams, just ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, with the Red Bull driver some 1.7s off the pace.
On his second Friday practice appearance, George Russell enjoyed another solid run for Force India as he posted the 11th-quickest time and managed 26 laps, although he was nearly 0.9s adrift of teammate Perez.
With track conditions still far from their best at the start of the weekend, there were a number of spinners with Nico Hulkenberg losing the rear of his car at Turn 14 after an aggressive turn-in. Hulkenberg continued without damage, but teammate Carlos Sainz stopped his running early in order to allow Renault to fit a different specification of power unit ahead of FP2.
Both Haas drivers also had spins, with Antonio Giovinazzi – taking over from Kevin Magnussen for FP1 – spinning at Turn 17, before Romain Grosjean lost control late in the session at Turn 19 and hit the barrier on the outside of the track with his rear wing. The contact was relatively soft and the Frenchman was able to limp back to the pits to have the damage checked.
|1) Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||1:39.006|
|2) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+ 0.120|
|3) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+ 0.148|
|4) Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||+ 0.512|
|5) Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||+ 0.735|
|6) Sergio Perez||Force India||+ 1.287|
|7) Fernando Alonso||McLaren||+ 1.516|
|8) Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren||+ 1.563|
|9) Felipe Massa||Williams||+ 1.717|
|10) Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||+ 1.767|
|11) George Russell||Force India||+ 2.215|
|12) Romain Grosjean||Haas||+ 2.300|
|13) Lance Stroll||Williams||+ 2.575|
|13) Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||+ 2.640|
|14) Carlos Sainz||Renault||+ 2.742|
|15) Pascal Wehrlein||Sauber||+ 2.746|
|16) Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||+ 2.858|
|18) Antonio Giovinazzi||Haas||+ 3.059|
|19) Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||+ 3.338|
|20) Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso||+ 3.579|
|All times set on ultrasofts except for Sainz and Hulkenberg|