Romain Grosjean produced a fine last minute lap to go fastest in the first practice session in Abu Dhabi, as the hero of Japan and India continued his excellent run of form for the Lotus team at the Yas Marina circuit.
It was a slow start to the first practice session of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend with high track temperatures limiting running in the first half of the session. After an initial flurry of installation laps it was left to Rodolfo Gonzalez, the Venezulean standing in for Max Chilton at Marussia, to rack up some TV time for the Anglo-Russian squad.
However, it would be some 30 minutes before any driver completed an actual flying lap, the honour on this occasion falling to Sergio Perez, who set a 1:48.525, before improving to a 1:45.331 two laps later.
Running was limited early-on during the session due to a combination of the weather, which at 46°C was exceptionally warm, coupled to the fact that the session took place in the afternoon, a time unrepresentative of either qualifying or the race. At this late stage of the season the teams were also keen to protect their marginal number of available engines, as well as having to consider the limited number of tyres allocated for the three practice sessions.
It would not be until the half-way point of the session that Perez’s time was toppled, with Romain Grosjean setting a benchmark of 1:45.329 to go fastest, just as a swathe of front runners headed out onto the dusty Yas Marina circuit.
With 36 minutes of the session remaining, newly crowned four-time champion Sebastian Vettel started where he had left off in India as he instantly went fastest with a 1:45.172. Both Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton improved on the German’s time, before moments later Vettel produced a 1:44.866 to go fastest once again, with the first sub 1 minute 45 laptime of the weekend.
Fernando Alonso would go eight fastest, before tumbling down to 12th by the end of the session, the fastest of the two Ferrari’s with his team-mate Felipe Massa languishing in 17th, having received a telling off for launching in the final corner. Nico Rosberg topped the time sheets with a 1:44.741, before first Mark Webber and then Lewis Hamilton improved, the 2008 champion with an impressive lap of 1:44.433, with a very strong run through sector 3 that would ultimately be good enough for second overall.
Sebastian Vettel improved to a 1:44.499 behind Hamilton on his final run of the session, but it was only good enough for third fastest, as Formula One’s current form man Romain Gosjean produced an excellent lap of 1:44.241 to go fastest of all, set with just minutes of the session to spare.
Kimi Raikkonen was sixth in the sister Lotus E21, while Paul di Resta and Pastor Maldonado showed signs of improvement for Force India and Williams with seventh and ninth fastest respectively. The two McLaren’s of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez finished eight and tenth quickest overall, with Button complaining of a severe lack of grip during his early runs.
James Calado and Heikki Kovalainen,who were taking part in FP1 for Force India and Caterham at the expense of regular drivers Adrian Sutil and Giedo van der Garde ended the session in 14th and 20th. Jules Bianchi was 21st in the first of the Marussia’s, while the previously mentioned Rodolfo Gonzalez propped up the field in 22nd and last, two seconds down on the Ferrari academy driver.
Position Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m44.241s 20
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m44.433s +0.192s 22
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m44.499s +0.258s 18
4. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m44.712s +0.471s 18
5. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m44.741s +0.500s 23
6. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m44.929s +0.688s 21
7. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m45.040s +0.799s 19
8. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m45.099s +0.858s 19
9. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m45.150s +0.909s 23
10. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m45.331s +1.090s 19
11. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m45.378s +1.137s 21
12. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m45.440s +1.199s 17
13. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m45.823s +1.582s 21
14. James Calado Force India-Mercedes 1m45.924s +1.683s 19
15. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m46.068s +1.827s 17
16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m46.114s +1.873s 21
17. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m46.124s +1.883s 17
18. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m46.126s +1.885s 20
19. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m47.600s +3.359s 21
20. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m47.670s +3.429s 21
21. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m47.723s +3.482s 22
22. Rodolfo Gonzalez Marussia-Cosworth 1m49.565s +5.324s 21
Image courtesy of Octane Photographic