Outgoing World Champion Lewis Hamilton led a British one-two by topping the first ever practice session in Abu Dhabi. The McLaren driver was the only man to break through the 1:44.000 barrier and was just 0.096s quicker than his championship successor, Jenson Button. Championship runner-up contenders Vettel and Barrichello finished third and fourth.
With the 2009 season – very different to those of recent times – due to come to a close in the Arabian Gulf this weekend, the first of two 90-minute Friday sessions began at 1pm local time; because of this, ambient temperatures had already reached 34°C by the time the action began, with the track surface peaking at 47°C.
As usual, Toro Rosso drivers provided most of the early running as Sébastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari racked up a total of 65 laps between them, more than a race distance at Yas Marina. Residents of the 5-star Yas Hotel were provided with most of the dramas as drivers got to grips with Turns 17 and 19, either side of the lavish building.
Nico Rosberg, Romain Grosjean and Adrian Sutil were just three men to have troubles on the right-handed 17th corner with the top three championship men all suffering moments at Turn 19, which is the left-hander immediately after the cars pass under the hotel; German Sebastian Vettel ran wide, as did Rubens Barrichello, his rival in the battle for championship runner-up spot.
World Champion Jenson Button makes unenviable history by being the first man to spin in Abu Dhabi, though, riding the white line on the exit of Turn 18 before immediately swapping ends into the following bend, rejoining with no damage incurred. Kamui Kobayashi was the only other car to face the wrong way as the Toyota spun between Turns 5 and 6.
The last minutes of the session saw British compatriots Hamilton and Button trading the top two places several times, with the former eventually coming out on top by less than a tenth.
2009 Abu Dhabi GP Practice 1 Session Times:
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes||1:43.939||(18 laps)|
|2.||Jenson Button||Brawn GP Mercedes||1:44.035||(20)|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Renault||1:44.153||(28)|
|4.||Rubens Barrichello||Brawn GP Mercedes||1:44.207||(23)|
|5.||Nick Heidfeld||BMW Sauber||1:44.667||(23)|
|6.||Sébastien Buemi||Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:44.687||(32)|
|7.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes||1:44.688||(14)|
|8.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Renault||1:44.805||(25)|
|9.||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:44.955||(33)|
|11.||Robert Kubica||BMW Sauber||1:44.988||(22)|
|12.||Heikki Kovalainen||McLaren Mercedes||1:45.123||(20)|
|13.||Nico Rosberg||Williams Toyota||1:45.649||(27)|
|14.||Kazuki Nakajima||Williams Toyota||1:45.679||(25)|
|17.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Force India Mercedes||1:46.022||(22)|