ABU DHABI – Lewis Hamilton has dealt the initial blow in the final showdown for the Formula 1 world championship in Abu Dhabi by topping the first free practice session at the Yas Marina Circuit today.
Hamilton heads into the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi with a 17-point lead over Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg at the top of the standings, and knows that a top two finish at Yas Marina will be enough for him to win a second championship.
However, with double points on offer for the final race of the year, Rosberg is still in with a chance of clinching his first title, but was forced to settle for second place during the first practice session on Friday afternoon. Hamilton’s lap of 1:43.476 was good enough to secure him top spot, with Rosberg 0.133 seconds further back.
With FP1 being run in day time, it is not representative of conditions that the teams can expect to encounter throughout the rest of the weekend. Nevertheless, they completed a good deal of running, ironing out any final issues that there might be with the cars.
Williams, Caterham and McLaren all hit trouble during the 90-minute session, costing them track time. After a piece of Valtteri Bottas’ sidepod came loose from his Williams heading down the back straight, he was pitted for repairs and did not complete any more than eight laps. Felipe Massa was also brought in with just seven laps on the board.
F1 debutant Will Stevens endured a difficult first session, suffering a technical failure that meant he could only head out to complete a flying lap in the final 15 minutes. He propped up the timesheets in 20th place with a fastest lap of 1:50.684.
Jenson Button’s session came to an early end when his car developed a technical issue, which even gave him time to tweet his frustration.
Tough start to the weekend for me with no proper running in FP1, but we’ll find our feet pretty quickly in FP2 don’t you worry!! #JB22
— Jenson Button (@JensonButton) November 21, 2014
Ultimately though, Mercedes was the class of the field yet again, enjoying a 1.7 second advantage over Fernando Alonso in third place. Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth and fifth for Red Bull, with Jean-Eric Vergne finishing an excellent sixth for Toro Rosso.
Esteban Ocon enjoyed an impressive F1 weekend debut, lapping just three-tenths of a second shy of full-time driver Pastor Maldonado. Adderly Fong’s session for Sauber was less notable, though, as he finished 19th and 1.7 seconds behind Esteban Gutierrez.
Be sure to join us for FP2 live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8a ET today.