Lewis Hamilton may have finished FP1 in Abu Dhabi with a slight advantage over Nico Rosberg but it was a close tussle all the way to the chequered flag.
The build-up to Formula 1’s title showdown got underway on a dusty, slippery Yas Marina circuit on Friday afternoon with Free Practice 1.
As seen throughout this season, the Mercedes drivers – the two men fighting for the World title – were quickly up at the front of the timesheets with Nico Rosberg quickest on a 1:44.860 after the first 30 minutes.
That put him 0.2s up on Lewis Hamilton, who is leading the Championship by 17 points ahead of his team-mate, while Valtteri Bottas was a distant third, 0.8s off the pace.
There were strange incidents at Williams, though, as both Bottas and Felipe Massa pulled into the pits with their FW36s missing various bits of bodywork. The entire right side pod of Bottas car fell off as he braked for Turn 11 while Massa’s lost a smaller piece.
That spelt the end of Bottas’ practice as concerns about the fixings on his chassis resulted in the team removing the floor from his car in order to get a better understanding of the problem. Williams later announced that Massa would also not run again in FP1 as the team needs to “ensure that repairs done properly so there is no repeat problem.”
While the Williams duo were sidelined, the rest of the field began to venture out again for a second run midway through the 90-minute session.
The Mercedes drivers traded blows at the front as one would usurp the other only to change positions minutes later. FP1 ended with Hamilton quickest on a 1:43.476 while Rosberg was 0.133s slower.
Fernando Alonso was third quickest but a whopping 1.708s slower than Hamilton while Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo were next in line ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne.
Vergne was one of several drivers to encounter problems in the final FP1 of the season. A battery issue meant he did not run in the final 30 minutes of practice while Jenson Button completed just eight laps due to an undisclosed issue.
Will Stevens had a troubled debut with Caterham as a fire extinguisher went off inside his CT05 at the start of the session. He managed to slip in a few laps in the final 15 minutes and finished with a 1:50.684.
01 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:43.476 29 laps
02 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:43.609 +0.133 28 laps
03 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:45.184 +1.708 19 laps
04 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:45.334 +1.858 28 laps
05 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:45.361 +1.885 20 laps
06 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:45.718 +2.242 17 laps
07 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:45.835 +2.359 30 laps
08 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:45.913 +2.437 8 laps
09 Sergio Perez Force India 1:45.983 +2.507 20 laps
10 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:46.030 +2.554 22 laps
11 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:46.049 +2.573 20 laps
12 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:46.131 +2.655 20 laps
13 Felipe Massa Williams 1:46.549 +3.073 7 laps
14 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:46.556 +3.080 25 laps
15 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:46.711 +3.235 29 laps
16 Esteban Ocon Lotus 1:47.066 +3.590 27 laps
17 Jenson Button McLaren 1:47.235 +3.759 8 laps
18 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1:47.971 +4.495 21 laps
19 Adderly Fong Sauber 1:48.269 +4.793 24 laps
20 Will Stevens Marussia 1:50.684 +7.208 11 laps