Romain Grosjean has finished the first practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix quickest after producing a brilliant lap in the dying moments of the session to deny Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel top spot.
The Frenchman’s time of 1:44.241 proved to be unbeatable as all of the drivers ran on the medium compound tire in order to save their softs for the sessions later on this weekend.
Practice got off to a rather quiet start with most teams electing to only send their drivers out for an installation lap and nothing more to begin with in order to save their tires and engines. However, Sergio Perez eventually posted the first competitive time of 1:45.331, setting the example for the rest of the field. Romain Grosjean, Jenson Button and Pastor Maldonado all followed suit half way through the session, but the Williams driver was lucky not to put his Lotus in the wall after a slide at the final corner. A number of drivers took to their team radios to complain about a lack of grip on a relatively-unused circuit, meaning that it took some time to rubber in.
Grosjean was the first driver to topple Perez at the top, edging the Mexican out by just 0.002 seconds on the medium compound tire before the front runners finally emerged from the pits to set their first times. Sebastian Vettel looked to continue his relentless run of form by going quickest with thirty-five minutes remaining, but he was told that he needed to improve further by his engineer. Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen soon proved that he did have to improve by going one-tenth quicker, but their sojourn at the top of the timesheets lasted but a few seconds as Vettel re-established his dominance. However, Mercedes hit back in fashion as Hamilton and Nico Rosberg moved into first and second place with thirty minutes left.
Mark Webber took the mantle to lead Red Bull’s charge by going second-quickest and splitting the Silver Arrows, but Vettel soon demoted his teammate to third place by going P2 himself, less than one-hundredth of a second slower after making a mistake at the final corner. Paul di Resta ran strongly to finish the session in seventh place, whilst James Calado piloted the other Force India as his bid for a full-time seat next season gathers steam. The Briton put in a confident display to finish the session in fourteenth before returning to his GP2 duties.
With just a couple of minutes remaining, Romain Grosjean produced a superb lap to go fastest of all for Lotus, and that is where he remained as none of the drivers opted to take on the soft tire. The Frenchman is currently enjoying a three-race streak of podium finishes, finishing third in India despite starting in seventeenth place, and he is looking increasingly capable of claiming his first win in Formula One.
Grosjean will be hoping to repeat this result later on today in the second free practice session, which is live on NBCSN from 9am.