Max Verstappen led a Red Bull 1-2 in the opening practice session for the Abu Dhabi GP, it is however one of the least representative sessions of the season.
Blue skies and sunshine greeted the drivers as the final race weekend of the 2018 season, one in which many a goodbye is being said, kicked off at the Yas Marina circuit.
Honouring the moment, Fernando Alonso ran a special livery on his MCL33 as well as a new-look helmet, while Lewis Hamilton, the 2018 World Champion, carried the number ‘1’ on his W09.
Kimi Raikkonen was a busy man at the start of FP1 as he trialed a new-look front wing that is based on next year’s design – but still compliant with this year’s regulations.
El morro q ha probado Ferrari en esta primera salida. Sin cajetín d flaps. Mirada puesta a reglamento 2019. pic.twitter.com/djuIgrNJj4
— Albert Fabrega (@AlbertFabrega) November 23, 2018
But it was Carlos Sainz who completed the first timed lap of the session, a 1:42.586. Moments later he became the first victim of the new-for-2018 sausage kerb at Turn 20, taking a flying leap over the kerb.
Sebastian Vettel replaced him at the top of the times before losing out to Lewis Hamilton, the Brit lowering the benchmark time to a 1:39.675.
Verstappen hit the front and held down P1 at the 40-minute mark with a spin from Marcus Ericsson, and contact with his front wing hitting the barrier, bringing out the yellows and putting paid to a purple lap from Hamilton.
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 23, 2018
Valtteri Bottas, trying a strat 2 qualifying mode, was on a hot lap only to get it all wrong at Turn 5. He narrowly avoided the barriers. Hamilton tried a similar run only to leave the track at the final corner.
Meanwhile Verstappen, running new hypersofts to Mercedes’ supers and ultras, upped his pace to a 1:38.491. Bottas on the supersofts was second, 0.961s down, while Hamilton on the ultras was a further 0.01s down.
Daniel Ricciardo joined his team-mate at the front of the timesheets, sliding up into second place on the hypers, 0.454s down his team-mate.
Bottas finished third fastest ahead of Hamilton and the Force India of Esteban Ocon.
The Frenchman was another who met the sausage kerb and warned that it is only a matter of time before it causes a puncture.
Ocon runs wide over a concrete sausage kerb, which appear to be breaking up
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 23, 2018
Kevin Magnussen was sixth ahead of Raikkonen and Vettel, who run the supersofts.
Sainz, who had a spin in the final minute of the session, and Romain Grosjean completed the top ten.
Pierre Gasly’s session ended a few minutes early as his STR13 spewed smoke while he came down the pit lane. With the smell of burning in the air, he was told to quickly get out of the car. His session was over.
Antonio Giovinazzi was in action for Sauber, replacing Charles Leclerc for the session. He finished P16 while Robert Kubica, driving Sergey Sirotkin’s Williams – the man he’s replacing next season – was 20th as he carried out a programme aimed at improving Williams’ form in 2019.
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:38.491
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 0.454s
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0.961s
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.052s
5 Esteban Ocon Force India 1.611s
6 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1.744s
7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1.926s
8 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1.962s
9 Carlos Sainz Renault 2.097s
10 Romain Grosjean Haas 2.172s
11 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 2.18s
12 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 2.532s
13 Sergio Perez Force India 2.584s
14 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 2.646s
15 Lance Stroll Williams 3.002s
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Sauber 3.171s
17 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 3.437s
18 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 3.623s
19 Fernando Alonso McLaren 3.822s
20 Robert Kubica Williams 4.501s