Free Practice 1
In what was a largely quite morning session at the Yas Marina circuit, Sebastian Vettel fired the first shot across the bow of the Championship contenders.
The 23-year-old Red Bull driver clocked up a fastest lap of 1:42.760 – a stunning 0.6 of-a-second faster than 2nd fastest Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton’s McLaren team had been busy working on updates right up until the last moment – indeed they cut it very fine.
The team were bringing their new rear wing upgrade to the circuit, but were stopped by customs; thankfully through some quick negotiations, the parts made it to the track in time. Fellow title challengers Mark Webber (4th) and Fernando Alonso (6th) also registered times a long way off of Vettel, with Jenson Button (3rd) heading the Webber and Renault’s Robert Kubica (5th) quicker than the Spaniard.
Alonso’s Ferrari teammate, Felipe Massa, was having problems with his telemetry feed during the 90 minutes – it would park the Brazilian for part of the session, leaving him to secure the session’s 11th best time.
Of the midfielders, Rubens Barrichello morning finished with a stutter. The Williams car stopped at the tail end of the morning run with an engine problem, necessitating an engine change for the later session.
There were also problems for Force India’s Adrian Sutil – the German lost time with brake problems; with little track time, Sutil registered the 14th best lap. His Italian teammate, Vitantonio Liuzzi took a new chassis for the final race of the year, having destroyed his previous car in Brazil. Liuzzi got in slightly more running than Sutil, but was less than a tenth-of-a-second slower on the time sheets at the chequered flag.
Fairuz Fauzy sat in for Heikki Kovalainen at Lotus for the first practice session; the Malaysian was one of the few to have a spin in the tricky conditions in opening minutes. The Malaysian driver would later lose further time with overheating issues leaving last on the time sheets with precious little running.
Christian Klien keeps his seat at Hispania Racing for the final weekend of the year in place of Sakon Yamamoto; however the Austrian driver found himself slower than teammate Bruno Senna at the end of running – albeit still a long way behind the front-runners.
Unusually for the region, there was some light rain prior to the morning session, leaving the track somewhat greasy. With very little in the way of drainage at the track, circuit remained slick for the early part of the day.
Free Practice 2
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton topped the early evening session at the Yas Marina circuit, heading the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel. The 2008 World Champion registered a time of 1:40.888; some 0.257 quicker than his German rival.
Hamilton received a reprimand following the session after he swung across the front of Bruno Senna’s Hispania at the entrance of the pitlane. Hamilton felt that Senna had sent him wide in the final few turns and decided to make his feelings known to the Brazilian rookie.
Reigning World Champion, Jenson Button spent the session suffering from front-end imbalance, causing the Briton to lock his front brakes repeatedly. At the chequered flag, Button’s best lap was 1.2 seconds slower than that of his McLaren teammate – a laptime that left him down in 8th position.
A number of drivers had slight offs at various points of the circuit during the ninety-minute stint; however Felipe Massa was the first of the front-runners to have a full spin. Massa kept his Ferrari going, but it was not to last – with twenty minutes of the session remaining, the Brazilian driver pulled off at turn ten with a fuel problem, leaving a forlorn Massa to watch the rest of the session from the side of the track. Before stopping, Massa set the 6th fastest time.
Jaime Alguersuari also spun, but was unable to continue – the Spaniard stalled his Toro Rosso machine, finishing his practice run thirty minutes early.
Heikki Kovalainen found himself back in his seat at Lotus and was the quickest of the new teams. The Finn was classified in 19th, 4.3 seconds off the pace of Hamilton.
Abu Dhabi, 2nd Free Practice (November 12th)
1 HAMILTON McLaren 1m40.888s
2 VETTEL Red Bull 1m41.145s
3 ALONSO Ferrari 1m41.314s
4 WEBBER Red Bull 1m41.315s
5 KUBICA Renault 1m41.576s
6 MASSA Ferrari 1m41.583s
7 PETROV Renault 1m42.096s
8 BUTTON McLaren 1m42.132s
9 LIUZZI Force India 1m42.203s
10 ROSBERG Mercedes 1m42.222s
11 SCHUMACHER Mercedes 1m42.246s
12 HULKENBERG Williams 1m42.449s
13 SUTIL Force India 1m42.535s
14 KOBAYASHI Sauber 1m42.768s
15 BARRICHELLO Williams 1m42.914s
16 HEIDFELD Sauber 1m42.950s
17 ALGUERSUARI Toro Rosso 1m43.128s
18 BUEMI Toro Rosso 1m43.584s
19 KOVALAINEN Lotus 1m45.180s
20 GLOCK Virgin 1m45.259s
21 TRULLI Lotus 1m45.612s
22 DI GRASSI Virgin 1m46.053s
23 KLIEN HRT 1m47.210s
24 SENNA HRT 1m47.434s
Abu Dhabi, 1st Free Practice (November 12th)
1 VETTEL Red Bull 1m42.760s
2 HAMILTON McLaren 1m43.369s
3 BUTTON McLaren 1m43.785s
4 WEBBER Red Bull 1m43.840s
5 KUBICA Renault 1m44.080s
6 ALONSO Ferrari 1m44.121s
7 SCHUMACHER Mercedes 1m44.199s
8 KOBAYASHI Sauber 1m44.604s
9 ROSBERG Mercedes 1m44.718s
10 HEIDFELD Sauber 1m44.737s
11 MASSA Ferrari 1m45.160s
12 PETROV Renault 1m45.445s
13 BARRICHELLO Williams 1m45.474s
14 SUTIL Force India 1m45.552s
15 LIUZZI Force India 1m45.585s
16 ALGUERSUARI Toro Rosso 1m46.003s
17 HULKENBERG Williams 1m46.644s
18 BUEMI Toro Rosso 1m47.105s
19 GLOCK Virgin 1m48.450s
20 TRULLI Lotus 1m48.472s
21 DI GRASSI Virgin 1m49.375s
22 SENNA HRT 1m49.590s
23 KLIEN HRT 1m50.274s
24 FAUZY Lotus 1m51.705s