McLaren Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain drives during the first practice session of the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on Yas Island November 2, 2012. REUTERS/Steve Crisp (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Tags: SPORT MOTORSPORT F1)

McLaren set the pace in first practice for the day-to-night Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix on Friday with Lewis Hamilton leading Jenson Button at the top of the timesheets.

Red Bull's championship leader Sebastian Vettel was third quickest with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, his closest rival - 13 points behind in the standings with three races remaining - fourth as the team tried new aerodynamic updates.

Red Bull's Mark Webber, who can be expected to 'ride shotgun' for Vettel in Sunday's race, was fifth.


Hamilton won in Abu Dhabi last year and he and Vettel are the only drivers to have qualified on the front row at Yas Marina in three editions of the race.

Such has been their dominance, that they are also the only two to have won the race while Red Bull and McLaren are the only teams to have lapped fastest in the 10 practice sessions held there to date.

Hamilton, who set a best time of 1min43.285 on Friday afternoon, has now been quickest in five of those 10 practice sessions.

Button was 0.333sec slower while Vettel, winner of the past four races, was 0.765sec off the Hamilton's pace. Alonso's time of 1min44.366 was more than a second slower than the pacesetter.

“Maybe he knows the answer.”

“I don't know. Maybe ask Lewis,” Vettel told reporters when asked on Thursday why he and Hamilton had such a great relationship with a harbourside track often compared to street circuits such as Monaco or Valencia.

“It's a difficult track, a long lap with a lot of corners. A lot of twisty sections. It's not that easy to get it right.”

Hamilton has his cousins, children of his late aunt, attending the race and has fond memories of last year when he won the race on his mother's birthday with her watching trackside.


Red Bull can clinch the Constructors' title this weekend but McLaren, who are still in contention for that championship, can throw a spanner in the works if they can carry over their practice form to the race.

The session saw a new face in Max Chilton, driving the Marussia for first practice only, but heavily tipped to become Britain's fourth driver on the grid next season.

The 21-year-old was 22nd fastest, a second behind Germany's Timo Glock in the other Marussia.

Finnish reserve Valtteri Bottas took Bruno Senna's place at Williams and had exactly the same time as Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado for much of the session until the race driver popped in a quicker lap. - Reuters


1 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren - 1min43.285

2 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren - 1:43.618

3 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull - 1:44.050

4 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari - 1:44.366

5 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull - 1:44.542

6 Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes - 1:44.694

7 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams - 1:45.115

8 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes - 1:45.194

9 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams - 1:45.347

10 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus - 1:45.422

11 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari - 1:45.567

12 Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India - 1:45.587

13 Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber - 1:45.722

14 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - 1:45.743

15 Jules Bianchi (France) Force India - 1:45.769

16 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Sauber - 1:45.811

17 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso - 1:46.649

18 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso - 1:46.708

19 Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Caterham - 1:47.418

20 Timo Glock (Germany) Marussia - 1:47.891

21 Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) Hispania - 1:48.354

22 Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia - 1:48.887

23 Ma Qinghua (China) Hispania - 1:50.487

24 Giedo van der Garde (Netherlands) Caterham