Abu Dhabi GP - Friday - Practice Session 1 Report

Hamilton, the would be champion

Lewis Hamilton, Abu Dhabi GP 2014

Lewis Hamilton, Abu Dhabi GP 2014 

 © The Cahier Archive


If the finishing results of Abu Dhabi Grand Prix match those of Free Practice 1, then Lewis Hamilton will the 2014 FIA Formula 1 World Champion. Hamilton edged out Mercedes teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg by 0.133 of a second in FP1. If Hamilton wins the race, then he wins the championship.

It does not look like anybody else will win the race as the Mercedes drivers were far superior and 1.7 seconds quicker than the nearest rival – Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari.

Pirelli brought its soft and super soft tires to the event, and the drivers used the soft compound in FP1.

"It's always a pleasure to return to Abu Dhabi and this year's event will be even more significant than usual, with the drivers' championship being decided and double points available.

"The strategy is normally greatly affected by the unusual track evolution, due to the falling temperatures caused by the late afternoon start," noted Paul Hembery, Pirelli's motorsport director. "This was the case in Bahrain as well, which turned out to be one of the most exciting and unpredictable races of the season earlier this year.

"As a result, the free practice sessions will be particularly crucial, as the teams try to gather as much information as possible about how the car will perform on both compounds: not just with different fuel loads, but also with different track temperatures. As so many points are on offer, there is a big opportunity for teams that have less to lose to try an unexpected strategy, in order to make some potentially significant gains."

Nico Rosberg responded to Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton's string of five victories by setting the quickest time in Free Practice 1 for the Brazilian Grand Prix. Rosberg edged out Lewis Hamilton by 0.221 of a second.

The ambient temperature at the start of the session was degrees 79 Fahrenheit (26 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Centigrade.) The humidity was 57 percent.

With Caterham back in action – with drivers Kamui Kobayashi and rookie Will Stevens – the field was back up to 20.

The rest of the line-up was as follows: Red Bull Renault– Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo; Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg; Ferrari – Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen; Lotus Renault – Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado; McLaren Mercedes– Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen; Force India Mercedes – Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez; Sauber Ferrari – Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez; Toro Rosso Renault – Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat; Williams Mercedes – Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.

In FP1, however, Lotus ran Esteban Ocon in place of Grosjean, and Adderley Fong replaced Sutil in the Sauber.

Perez was the first driver out through the tunnel and out on to the 21-turn 3.451-mile (5.554-km) Yas Marina Circuit.

Nobody was in a hurry to do any flying laps until Maldonado clocked a 1:48.739 at 15 minutes into the session.

Once more drivers started to set times, Bottas moved to the top with a 1:46.601, which Rosberg beat with a 1:46.028.

19 minutes into the session, Vettel went bouncing high over the curbs.

21 minutes into the session, Hamilton snatched the number one spot with a 1:45.141 while Bottas improved to a 1:45.913. Rosberg responded with a 1:44.860. Alonso was fourth and Perez fifth.

23 minutes into the session, everybody was on track except Stevens who had done just one lap.

26 minutes into the session, Massa's Williams discarded some bodywork and he headed for the pits.

At the one-third mark, the top 10 were: Rosberg, Hamilton, Bottas, Alonso, Vettel, Massa, Perez, Kvyat, Vergne and Ricciardo.

As usual, the teams now regrouped and worked on the cars for the next set of runs. As a result, nobody went out for the next 11 minutes until Ocon and Vettel broke the silence.

And, as a result of so few drivers setting lap times during this period, that the only change in the top 10 midway through FP1 was Vergne moving into fifth and pushing Vettel to sixth.

With 40 minutes remaining in the session, Vettel clocked a 1:45.334 which was good enough for third place.

Hamilton had improved has well, with a time of 1:43.799 while Rosberg had lowered his time to a 1:44.199. Kvyat was now fourth after turning a 1:45.835.

The Toro Rossos were looking good. Vergne took over fourth with a 1:45.718.

With 33 minutes remaining in the session, the Caterham mechanics continued to work on Stevens' car. Meanwhile Vettel and Magnussen banged wheels out on the track.

With 32 minutes remaining in the session, Rosberg regained the top spot with a 1:43.609. At this stage the Mercedes duo was a whopping 1.7 seconds quicker than the third-placed Vettel.

With 28 minutes remaining in the session, Alonso improved to a 1:45.184, which put him third. Then Hamilton topped Rosberg with a 1:43.476. Ricciardo was now fifth.

With 18 minutes remaining in the session, only Rosberg and Kvyat were on track.

With 15 minutes remaining in the session, Stevens completed his second lap. He then did 3 and 4 and was on for more.

Meanwhile the Williams drivers were done for the session with broken down cars.

With 2 minutes remaining in the session, Stevens had completed nine laps. He was 8.1 seconds slower than Hamilton and about 1.6 seconds slower than teammate Kobayashi. Stevens continued to improve, and brought the gap on Hamilton down to 7.2 seconds.

The top 10 at the end of FP1 were: Hamilton, Rosberg, Alonso, Vettel, Ricciardo, Vergne, Kvyat, Bottas, Perez and Hulkenberg. Stevens was 20th after completing 12 laps.

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