The first practice session on the glorious Yas Marina Circuit was left with huge anticipation as the track would evolve throughout the weekend and getting as much rubber laid on would give the drivers a decisive edge for qualifying. Red Bull, Mclaren and Ferrari were the teams to be looked upon with Vettel and Alonso having their own tussle to be claimed world champion.
Often in the practice one we have seen some drivers swapping seats. Here they were at Yas Marina Circuit with Jules Bianchi stepping in for Paul di Resta at Force India and Britain’s Max Chilton getting his first taste of grand prix weekend action in the Marussia in place of Charles Pic. Giedo van der Garde replacing Vitaly Petrov, Ma Qing Hua in for Narain Karthikeyan while Bruno Senna making way for Valtteri Bottas.
No times were set in the early get going as teams were busy working on installation laps with Kimi being the first one to come out on track. Ferrari broke the curfew rules to give Alonso any advantage as they were bringing in host of updates to chase the mighty Red Bull’s qualifying pace which was more important for a track this kind as overtaking was deemed as a minimal act.
F2012 was bolted up new front wings which have six wing elements rather than five. Alonso’s Ferrari had new diffuser and rear wing while Massa tested the consistency of the old one to retrieve the eluding downforce. Caterham were upbeat to find three tenths as they evaluated modified front wing and floor besides new bodywork and exhaust and more bits from previous races.
Max Chilton clocked his first ever timed lap 2:27.380s to go on top. Jean-Eric Vergne was the first man to set a worth time of 1:47.117s, 40 seconds quicker than Chilton and Hua. Valteri Bottas improved his time, 1:45.602s, sixth tenths faster to stay at the top of the leader board. Sergio Perez tucked behind him three tenths off ahead of Rosberg and Grosjean.
Michael has had miserable form with no points since Monza; he went fastest overall only to be replaced by first of the frontrunners Alonso shortly after. As the title rivals came round, Hamilton immediately made a difference as he went fastest ahead of team-mate Button and reigning champion Vettel. He further rattled off a series of quick laps to pull away half second clear of Button while Vettel still closing in.
With 30 minutes to go: Lewis Hamilton led Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso. Jenson improved on his time but no way quicker than Hamilton. He could’ve done a faster lap provided he was not blocked by Saubers in the final sector – finished three tenths behind in second when session got to a closure.
Maldonado and Vergne completed most laps with 25 apiece. Caterham’s Van Der Garde spent the shortest time out on track as he stayed back in garage for much longer due to some engine issues with only three laps to his name. Max Chilton on his F1 debut impressed with only a second off of his veteran team-mate Timo Glock. There was little to choose between Williams pair as well as Force India’s Hulkenberg and Bianchi.
In the end, it was Hamilton who took the early charge to Vettel as expected with Alonso having to satisfy with only fourth. Though the first practice was all about update evaluations and aerodynamic checks, we could only guess the fuel load the cars carried on. But Hamilton, who has been in front row every time they raced in Abu Dhabi and even snatched a win last time will be an undeniable favourite to take pole.