Romain Grosjean continued his fantastic form by topping FP1 for the first time in his career; beating Lewis Hamilton and four time world champion Sebastian Vettel as the on-track activities for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix got underway.

The Frenchman put in a 1:44.241, two-tenths of a second faster than Hamilton. However Hamilton, who has excelled at Yas Marina in the past (being on pole in 2009 and 2012), went unbeaten in the final sector of the five-kilometre circuit.

Pastor Maldonado made a surprise visit to the top ten, placing his Williams ninth-quickest amid speculation he’s in the final stages of bringing his PDVSA sponsorship millions across to the Lotus team.

Unfortunately it’s become an increasing habit for Ferrari to place outside of the top 10, – at least with one of their cars anyway – yet this time both cars fell short of performance, with Fernando Alonso in twelfth and Felipe Massa way down the order in seventeenth. Fuel loads could be a factor, but if that lack of pace continues into this afternoon’s second practice session, then it could be worrying…

The only positive that came from Ferrari was a 90-degree angled camera on the left side of Alonso’s car, providing an excellent view of the car and its surroundings.

It’s not often that we see a Sauber in the top half of the timesheets this early on in the weekend. Nico Hülkenberg ended the session 11th, which are good signs for Saturday and Sunday. His teammate Esteban Gutiérrez was 15th.

GP2 driver and Force India reserve James Calado took over Adrian Sutil’s car for the session and finished 14th-fastest, under a second off the sister car driven by Paul di Resta. However, the Englishman went on to blot his copybook with a five-place grid penalty for tomorrow’s GP2 Series Feature Race, which has all but killed his slim hopes of claiming the Drivers’ Championship crown.

Also making appearances in FP1 were Rodolfo González in Max Chilton’s Marussia, and Heikki Kovalainen for Giedo van der Garde in the Caterham.

Even though Kovalainen was assisting the team with setting up the car, he was still just six-hundredths of a second behind number one driver, Charles Pic. Not surprisingly, the well-funded González was comfortably slowest, just under two seconds behind Jules Bianchi.

2013 Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 Session Times:

Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E21 1:44.241   21
2. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:44.433 + 0.192 23
3. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 1:44.499 + 0.258 18
4. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 1:44.712 + 0.471 20
5. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:44.741 + 0.500 24
6. Kimi Räikkönen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E21 1:44.929 + 0.688 23
7. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:45.040 + 0.799 20
8. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 1:45.099 + 0.858 20
9. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW35 1:45.150 + 0.909 24
10. Sergio Pérez MEX McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 1:45.331 + 1.090 20
11. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Sauber Ferrari C32 1:45.378 + 1.137 23
12. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:45.440 + 1.199 18
13. Valtteri Bottas FIN Williams Renault FW35 1:45.823 + 1.582 22
14. James Calado GBR Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:45.924 + 1.683 20
15. Esteban Gutiérrez MEX Sauber Ferrari C32 1:46.068 + 1.827 18
16. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:46.114 + 1.873 22
17. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:46.124 + 1.883 18
18. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:46.126 + 1.885 21
19. Charles Pic FRA Caterham Renault CT03 1:47.600 + 3.359 22
20. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Caterham Renault CT03 1:47.670 + 3.429 22
21. Jules Bianchi FRA Marussia Cosworth MR02 1:47.723 + 3.482 23
22. Rodolfo Gonzalez VEN Marussia Cosworth MR02 1:49.565 + 5.324 22

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.