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It was a McLaren one-two in Friday’s opening practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton ahead of Jenson Button. Championship leader Sebastian Vettel completed the top three as Fernando Alonso jumped up to fourth with a new Ferrari front wing. Five reserve drivers took part over the 90 minutes.
Not dissimilar to Singapore, Friday track action in Abu Dhabi begins in broad daylight before the floodlights illuminate later in the day. As air temperatures fluctuated in the low 30s, Ferrari worked hard on a selection of new car parts which included the aforementioned front wing. So busy, the mechanics broke the curfew by arriving at the circuit earlier than allowed this morning; this curfew can be broken legally four times per season.
Of the six reserve drivers on-track, Giedo van der Garde was the most frustrated. Caterham suffered an engine issue on the car of Vitaly Petrov, meaning the disappointed Dutchman was left to sit in the pit lane after completing only three laps. Two garages down, Max Chilton enjoyed his first weekend outing with Marussia and remains a candidate for a full-time drive in 2013; the Surrey driver was handed a selection of tasks to assess his abilities as well as preparing Charles Pic’s car ahead of this 18th race weekend of the campaign.
45 minutes in, Michael Schumacher was the first man to set a fully representative time, but then had to apologise to Timo Glock for holding up his compatriot. At this point, Vettel’s front wing was changed as Red Bull ran a comparison. At Sauber, there was a scary moment for Sergio Pérez as the Mexican narrowly avoided the pit wall while attempting a race-like, high-speed entry; sliding wide, the McLaren-bound driver completed an extra tour.
Hamilton’s fastest lap came in the form of 1:43.285. Button improved to within three and a half tenths on his final run, having previously suffered with rear wheel locking. A little further back, Pastor Maldonado progressed to seventh place, having previously held an identical lap time to team-mate Bottas. Kimi Räikkönen was the slowest of the two Finns in the session, as the Lotus driver was halted by a puncture.
Along with tomorrow’s third and final practice, this opening phase was one of the hottest of the weekend as the sun will be setting by the time afternoon activity begins.
Second practice begins at 5pm local time (GMT +4) and can also be tracked through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report
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