Max Verstappen clocked in with the fastest time in Friday’s first free practice session at Abu Dhabi, the Dutchman edging team mate Daniel Ricciardo by 0.454s.
The Red Bull duo had the upper hand over Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, while Force India’s Esteban Ocon and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen completed the top six.
2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 times
Many teams kicked off the first free practice session of the weekend in data gathering mode with cars running the usual aero-rake assemblies. Collecting information is obviously useful for the race weekend but also for 2019 as team’s get a head start on next year’s development.
And speaking of 2019, Ferrari was set to trial a front-wing on its SF71-H that complies with the current regulations while also offering insight into the effects of next year’s design.
A few changes were also spotted at Mercedes, with Lewis Hamilton sporting a striking gold lid and a #1 emblazoned on his Silver Arrows W09 instead of its usual #44, the FIA apparently giving him permission in Abu Dhabi to display the number associated with his world champion status, at least for today.
Finally, two guest drivers were on duty in FP1, with Robert Kubica replacing Sergey Siroking at Williams and Antonio Giovinazzi entrusted with Charles Leclerc’s car.
In a nutshell: which tyres for the Abu Dhabi GP?
As a reminder, because qualifying and the race take place under cooler evening conditions at Yas Marina, FP1 isn’t the most useful of sessions.
The customary installation laps completed, everyone got down to business, with Hamilton laying down the first marker in 1m39.675s, followed by team mate Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen, Esteban Ocon and Sebastian Vettel.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was quick to demote Hamilton at the front however, edging the Brit by 0.289s.
Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson suffered an off on the exit of the first complex, the Swede hitting the barriers and damaging the front wing of his C37.
Upholding his momentum, Verstappen clocked in with a 1m38.491s on the hypersoft tyre that put himself 1.052s clear of Hamilton, the Dutchman pursuing his effort only to get sideways at the chicane and barely miss smacking the wall.
Team mate Daniel Ricciardo proved the RB14 is indeed quite handy around Yas Marina, lining up behind Verstappen after delivering a fast lap on a fresh set of hypersofts.
Meanwhile, several drivers were warned over the radio of a hazardous sausage kerb located at Turn 20, with the track element reportedly breaking up under the relentless passage of the cars, an issue that would have captured the attention of race director Charlie Whiting.
The closing stages of the session saw the front-runners switch to long runs, freezing at that point the fastest positions on the timesheet.
Esteban Ocon concluded FP1 as best of the rest, preceding Haas’ Magnussen, with Raikkonen and Vettel following in P7 and P8 as the Scuderia duo worked towards fine-tuning their set-up.
Renault’s Carlos Sainz and Romain Grosjean rounded off the top ten, while McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Williams’ reserve driver Kubica brought up the rear.
The Polish driver had a steady session but his programme emphasized development work rather than outright speed.
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