Sebastian Vettel made a flying start to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend by leading the opening Formula 1 practice session at the Yas Marina Circuit for Ferrari on Friday afternoon.
A three-time winner in Abu Dhabi, Vettel enters the final race weekend of the season eager to score back-to-back victories for the first time in four years, having hit the top step of the podium last time out in Brazil.
Vettel sent out an early warning shot to Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton by beating the recently-crowned drivers’ champion by one-tenth of a second in FP1, turning in a fastest time of 1:39.006.
Hamilton was left to settle for second place ahead of Max Verstappen, who finished a mere 0.148 seconds slower than Vettel for Red Bull.
Kimi Raikkonen took fourth after finishing half a second down on his teammate at the top of the timesheets, with Valtteri Bottas ending the session fifth in the second Mercedes.
Sergio Perez ended FP1 as the leading midfield driver in sixth for Force India ahead of the McLaren duo of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, while Felipe Massa and Daniel Ricciardo completed the top 10.
The final FP1 session of the year saw the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection appear on a number of cars ahead of its introduction for the 2018 season, with Bottas and Haas’ Antonio Giovinazzi among the drivers trialing it.
Giovinazzi was one of two junior drivers to feature in the session, with Force India running Mercedes youngster George Russell in place of Esteban Ocon. Russell ended the session 11th overall, while Giovinazzi took P18.