Lewis Hamilton fastest from Nico Rosberg at Abu Dhabi first practice

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi GP: Lewis Hamilton sets pace in first practice
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Date: 21-23 November Coverage: Live on BBC TV, Radio 5 live and online Race starts: Coverage begins at 12:10 GMT on 23 November. Race at 13:00 GMT. Qualifying starts: 13:00 GMT on 22 November

Lewis Hamilton struck the first blow at the title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by beating team-mate and rival Nico Rosberg in first practice.

Hamilton emerged 0.133 seconds quicker than Rosberg after the two had traded fastest times throughout the session.

Hamilton leads Rosberg by 17 points and needs to finish second, if the German wins, to be champion.

The Mercedes duo were a level above the rest - Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was third fastest, 1.708secs off the pace.

Hamilton has insisted he is relaxed going into the race in which he is hoping to win a second title to add to the one he won with McLaren in 2008.

"Now I am here, I am just massively happy and really excited," Hamilton said in his BBC Sport column.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix preview

"In the past, I was probably nervous of what was going to happen in these situations. Now, with more years of experience, I am excited about what can happen. That is a much nicer way to come to the weekend."

Rosberg admitted: "It's an intense weekend. I wouldn't use the word pressure but it's going to be intense.

"I look forward to it. It's what I've been working towards for a while now, for this sort of chance, this last race here.

"Lewis is a great competitor and opponent and it would hopefully be a great end to the season.

"Of course I'm here to try to win the race and then I need a bit of help from Lewis that he doesn't finish second."

Hamilton set the initial pace at the beginning of the session, going a second quicker than his team-mate on their first flying laps, before Rosberg then edged ahead by just under 0.3secs.

Valtteri Bottas in the pits
"Some bits of the car just fell off" said Valtteri Bottas over the Williams team radio

That set off a succession of fastest times by both drivers, with Rosberg going fastest, then Hamilton, then Rosberg and finally Hamilton again, leaving the fastest time at one minute 43.476 seconds.

Williams, expected to be Mercedes' closest threat, had a troubled session, suffering problems with the car's bodywork.

A large chunk of the sidepod of Valtteri Bottas's car broke off on the long back straight, and Felipe Massa pitted after his bodywork came loose in the same place.

The problem brought both cars' sessions to an immediate end after just one run, although Bottas and Massa were third and sixth quickest at the time.

Alonso, driving in his last race for Ferrari before his move to McLaren for 2015, was in his usual spectacular form, throwing the red car around the attractive Yas Marina track to beat Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel by 0.15secs.

The second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo was just 0.027secs further back, but Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari was only 12th, 0.947secs off Alonso.

Kevin Magnussen's McLaren with the new front wing
Kevin Magnussen's McLaren was fitted with the new front wing for part of the session

The Toro Rossos of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat were sixth and seventh, with Bottas holding on to eighth place with his early lap, ahead of the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg.

McLaren's Kevin Magnussen was 11th as the team tried out a new front wing, the first fruits of their new chief engineer Peter Prodromou, who joined from Red Bull earlier this year.

The plan had been for Magnussen to run the new wing and team-mate Jenson Button the previous one so the team could compare the data from the two.

But Button's car hit trouble and he managed only eight laps, so Magnussen had to 'back-to-back' the wings - run both the new one and the old one - himself on Friday morning.

Button said on his Twitter account:external-link "Tough start to the weekend for me with no proper running in FP1, but we'll find our feet pretty quickly in FP2 don't you worry."

Caterham's Will Stevens paid £500,000 for his drive this weekend
Caterham's Will Stevens paid £500,000 for his drive this weekend

Will Stevens managed 12 laps on the occasion of his first grand prix for Caterham, who remain in administration but have made it to Abu Dhabi to try to entice potential buyers to complete a deal.

The Englishman was 20th and last after missing much of the session because a fire extinguisher set itself off, requiring the car to be cleaned before he could go out again.

Stevens was 2.7secs slower than team-mate Kamui Kobayashi.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix coverage details

Top Stories