Jenson Button has emerged quickest at the end of the first practice session for this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, a session that McLaren largely dominated as the Formula 1 circus travelled to the Middle East for the first time this year.
Button and team-mate Lewis Hamilton spent much of the session at the top of the timesheets, but the pair was robbed of a 1-2 in the session by Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber, who snuck in between to claim second-fastest in the dying moments of the 90-minute session.
The session didn’t start out well for Rubens Barrichello, who – like Williams team-mate Pastor Maldonado in the first practice session at the previous Grand Prix in India – blew a Cosworth engine early on. The Brazilian failed to post a timed lap and was mired at the bottom of the timesheets, although he won’t take a grid penalty for changing his engine, as he has not yet used up his allotment of eight engines for the season.
Aside from Barrichello’s engine dramas, several other drivers endured major moments as they tried to get to grips with the slippery track. The Ferraris, in particular, looked to be handling rather poorly, and both Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso suffered spins.
Kamui Kobayashi suffered an apparent gearbox problem in his Sauber, while Vitaly Petrov peeled off into the pits late in the session when his Renault started to smoke heavily, ending in a bath of fire extinguisher foam. Pastor Maldonado suffered a damaged front wing when he clobbered a kerb marker.
But at the top of the order behind the top-three, newly-crowned World Champion Sebastian Vettel finished the session fourth-fastest, ahead of the two tail-happy Ferraris, with Alonso going marginally quicker than Massa.
Adrian Sutil claimed a surprising seventh-fastest in the session, earning the place with a speedy lap on his final run. Nico Rosberg finished eighth-quickest in the factory Mercedes, while rookie drivers Paul di Resta and Jaime Alguersuari rounded out the top-ten.
The second practice session kicks off at 5:00pm local time.
2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 Session Times:
|1.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||1:40.263||21|
|2.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Renault RB7||+ 0.126||26|
|3.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||+ 0.140||27|
|4.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Renault RB7||+ 0.492||27|
|5.||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari F150° Italia||+ 0.538||25|
|6.||Felipe Massa||Ferrari F150° Italia||+ 0.997||17|
|7.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM04||+ 1.077||23|
|8.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP W02||+ 1.867||26|
|9.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM04||+ 1.888||28|
|10.||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6||+ 2.114||26|
|11.||Jean–Éric Vergne||Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6||+ 2.370||26|
|12.||Romain Grosjean||Renault R31||+ 2.422||29|
|13.||Vitaly Petrov||Renault R31||+ 2.855||13|
|14.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Cosworth FW33||+ 2.992||29|
|15.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP W02||+ 3.126||24|
|16.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C30||+ 4.149||28|
|17.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari C30||+ 4.221||18|
|18.||Heikki Kovalainen||Lotus Renault T128||+ 4.302||27|
|19.||Jarno Trulli||Lotus Renault T128||+ 4.635||25|
|20.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT F1 Cosworth F111||+ 6.122||28|
|21.||Daniel Ricciardo||HRT F1 Cosworth F111||+ 6.269||27|
|22.||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02||+ 7.761||20|
|23.||Robert Wickens||Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02||+ 8.288||23|
|24.||Rubens Barrichello||Williams Cosworth FW33||no time||3|
[Image via FOM and Sutton Images]