November 1st, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Romain Grosjean set the fastest time in the first practices session for this weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, just under two tenths of a second faster than second-placed Lewis Hamilton. Last week's winner and new four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel was third for Red Bull.
Lap times from first practice generally don't mean much in terms of predicting race performance, but in Abu Dhabi they perhaps mean less than anywhere else. That is due to massive temperature differences between practice 1 and the race. Free Practice 1 and 3 are run in blazing sunshine in the middle of the day, when temperatures are very high. By contrast, Free Practice 2, qualifying and the race are all run in the evening, when temperatures have dropped significantly.
The lower air and track temperatures affect the handling of the cars, which provides quite a challenge for the engineers, as they have only Free Practice 2 to run in realistic race conditions and find a good setup for their cars.
In Free Practice 1, the top six places were taken up by Lotus, Mercedes and Red Bull. Red Bull have already wrapped up the Constructors' Championship, but second place is still up for grabs. Lotus and Mercedes are in the hunt for second place, as is Ferrari. Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were not as compettive as their direct rivals in this session, but that is not necessarily a reflection of form for the rest of the weekend, for reasons of track and air temperature as outlined above.
Alonso was 12th fastest, while Massa was down in 17th place.
Many drivers comlained of a lack of grip during the FP1 session. Quite a few ran wide at various points on the track, but there were no spins and no crashes, the run-off areas at the Yas Marina Circuit doing their job well.
Three drivers sat out the session while their cars were driven by reserve drivers. At Force India, James Calado took over Adrian Sutil's car. Heikki Kovalainen drove Giedo van der Garde's Caterham. At Marussia, Max Chilton watched on as Rodolfo Gonzalez stepped into his Marussia for FP1. All three race drivers will be back in action for FP2 later today.
Free Practice starts at 17:00 local time in Abu Dhabi.
Full results from FP1:
|3||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:44.499||0.258||18|
|4||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:44.712||0.471||20|
|7||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:45.040||0.799||20|
|14||15||James Calado||Force India-Mercedes||1:45.924||1.683||20|