Abu Dhabi GP | Hamilton leads Rosberg as Mercedes set FP1 pace

 First free practice at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix topped by Lewis Hamilton.

The start of the end kicked off with Hamilton edging his championship-leading team-mate by three-tenths of a second. While the farewell weekend for Button and Massa got off to a tricky start in Abu Dhabi.

All Rosberg has to do come the chequered flag on Sunday is cross the line in a podium place for him to be crowned champion for the first time. Hamilton, on the other hand, has to win the race for his best chance at retaining the crown.

And if winning the race is what Hamilton has to do, ending the first session nearly four-tenths clear of his team-mate is a good start on his road to glory.

Initially, though, it was Rosberg first atop the timesheet. Crossing the line on a quiet track with a 1-minute 43.8-second lap.

Early times and early levels of grip, however, meant times steadily improved over the course of the session. Steadily trickling down into the 1:42s as Hamilton overturned a nine-tenth margin.

For Mercedes, their session saw extensive running on the ultrasoft tyres before a late change onto the softs – the hardest compound available this weekend.

For their rivals, meanwhile, the 90-minute FP1 only featured the soft tyres. With Ferrari first to post a time, but over two-seconds off the Mercedes’ pace.

Ricciardo then came out of the pits with the yellow-walled Pirelli rubber, crossing the line a tenth up on Sebastian. While Daniel’s Red Bull team-mate crossed the line initially slower than the Australian.

When Verstappen did move above Daniel, though, he moved to within half a second of the pace being set by Hamilton on the ultrasoft tyres. A benchmark Lewis would not go on to improve to edge further away.

No further gains were also made in FP1 by Rosberg prior to his swap onto the softs tyres. Ending the session just a tenth above the Red Bull pairing.

As for Ferrari, Vettel was able to pull to within  half a second of the Red Bulls and create a second barrier to the best placed Williams of Felipe Massa. Who is in a constructors battle with Force India, who ended the session a second clear and splitting the Ferrari’s.

Massa‘s day, however, started with a poor footing as he followed in the style of Jordan King and spun at turn six. King, running in place of Ocon for FP1, was first to spin at turn six as he rode the higher part of the kerb.

Massa, and then the pace-setting Hamilton, was next to spin at turn six. While Romain Grosjean was later not able to arrive at the corner as he was forced to back out at turn five.

“I don’t know why, I’ve lost the car three times very suddenly on left-handers,” ranted Grosjean after he was forced to turn out of turn five.

Moments after Grosjean was forced to back off at turn five he then spun off at the first corner. Losing all control of his Haas as the rear brakes locked and pitched the Frenchman into a spin.

“It needs to be sorted because it’s not normal!” groaned Grosjean.

Problems also arose for Kvyat in the early stages of FP1 as he developed a puncture and was forced to park his Toro Rosso out on track. Daniil had developed the puncture at the beginning of the lap, but was forced to attempt a full crawler lap as he failed to turn into the pit lane as the rear stepped out on him.

Daniil had noticed the puncture at the end of his previous lap, but was forced to attempt a full crawler lap as he failed to turn into the pit lane as the rear stepped out on him.

Jenson Button was also told later on to box his McLaren. But as the Briton, driving in what is likely to be his final Formula One weekend, had already passed the pit entry was told to crawl back to the pits at a very slow pace.

Pos Driver Team Laps Time Gap Interval
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 27 1’42.869
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 31 1’43.243 0.374 0.374
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 26 1’43.297 0.428 0.054
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 26 1’43.362 0.493 0.065
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 27 1’44.005 1.136 0.643
6 Sergio Perez Force India 22 1’44.155 1.286 0.15
7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 26 1’44.556 1.687 0.401
8 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso 21 1’44.685 1.816 0.129
9 Felipe Massa Williams 27 1’45.039 2.17 0.354
10 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 20 1’45.168 2.299 0.129
11 Alfonso Celis Jr. Force India 26 1’45.476 2.607 0.308
12 Romain Grosjean Haas 13 1’45.600 2.731 0.124
13 Felipe Nasr Sauber 17 1’45.778 2.909 0.178
14 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 20 1’45.925 3.056 0.147
15 Valtteri Bottas Williams 31 1’45.940 3.071 0.015
16 Jolyon Palmer Renault 32 1’46.219 3.35 0.279
17 Kevin Magnussen Renault 20 1’46.372 3.503 0.153
18 Fernando Alonso McLaren 21 1’46.379 3.51 0.007
19 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 29 1’46.458 3.589 0.079
20 Jenson Button McLaren 10 1’47.127 4.258 0.669
21 Jordan King Manor 26 1’47.558 4.689 0.431
22 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 4 2’01.989 19.12 14.431