Abu Dhabi GP: Hamilton tops final FP1 of the year

Lewis Hamilton opens the final round of the Formula One season with the fastest FP1 lap at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

With the track under sunlight, teams set about gaining data around the Yas Marina Circuit where Lewis Hamilton topped the time sheet. Over the 90 minutes, Lewis overtook Rosberg on the leaderboard after Nico took the early edge. Brake issues however dampened his session as a water leak kept a late-arriving Lotus in the garage.

The session failed to get off on a strong start for Hamilton after initially feeling as if he were sat too high in his cockpit. Lewis then felt he needed to change his steering wheel moments later. But he was not alone in feeling as if things were not 100% in the Silver Arrows with Rosberg finding his brake pedal slightly long and soft.

Nico however was still able to take the early fastest lap after a 13-lap opening run spread over one long and three short stints. Over the same period Hamilton carried out one less lap and sat one tenth back from Rosberg after clawing away at an early deficit.

As the session went on, Rosberg’s brake pedal issue continued to linger. The issue itself rarely caught Nico out as he adapted to it, however over the session Hamilton was able to gain the upper hand and take the top spot by one tenth of a second.

With the session being in the early Abu Dhabi afternoon, conditions are not fully representative of qualifying and the race. As a result, teams started the day off with the chance to gain data on their cars and test new parts out.

Red Bull were one team looking for data and began the session with a large aero rake on the rear of Ricciardo’s RB11. After a dismal display in Brazil, which highlighted the new engine to be worse than the previous spec Renault unit, Ricciardo had also swapped back to the unit used by Kvyat. Over the course of FP1 however the change back failed to help Ricciardo finish above his team-mate who finished in fourth.

Ferrari were also starting the day off with an eye on 2016 with Raikkonen running two small lights on the underneath of his Ferrari. Over the course of the session, Kimi’s car developed a brief MGU-K problem causing him to loose power but the issue was quickly resolved allowing him to go on and end the day in third.

Kimi was the closest challenger to the Mercedes duo despite a seven tenth gap between himself and Hamilton. On the long runs, Raikkonen was also running strongly with his laps in the 1:45s despite being on medium wear tyres. As for Vettel, he ended the day in fifth with a two tenth gap to Kimi.

As for Lotus, they had only been able to get into the paddock on Thursday after being locked out of their garages in the run up to the weekend. After their debt was paid, they hastily built their cars with Maldonado’s running fine but Grosjean’s car, used by Palmer in FP1, developed a late water leak which took most of the session to fix. By the time Jolyon could take to the track there was just 10 minutes remaining, which saw Palmer rush his run and suffer a brief spin at turn 18.

On the flip, Fp1 was a strong outing for Force India with the team running both cars in the top eight. Hulkenberg’s best time was also just one hundredth slower than Vettel while Perez sat five hundredths off Ricciardo.

Position Driver Gap
1 Hamilton 1:43.754
2 Rosberg 0.141
3 Raikkonen 0.746
4 Kvyat 0.948
5 Vettel 0.988
6 Hulkenberg 0.997
7 Ricciardo 1.139
8 Perez 1.180
9 Maldonado 1.560
10 Massa 1.679
11 Bottas 1.849
12 Verstappen 1.964
13 Button 2.019
14 Alonso 2.111
15 Nasr 2.361
16 Sainz 2.466
17 Ericsson 2.653
18 Palmer 2.747
19 Stevens 5.082
20 Merhi 6.134