Lewis Hamilton set the fastest lap as McLaren dominated FP1.
The 2008 Champion finished the session with a best time of 1:43.285, three-tenths faster than team-mate Jenson Button. Earlier in the week McLaren had suggested Abu Dhabi was not a circuit that would confer on Red Bull the same sort of advantage that they had recently enjoyed. On the medium tyre in FP1 Hamilton emphasised that point.
The early part of the session did not see much action on track with the running performed primarily by the various reserve drivers on show. Ma Qing Hua appeared for HRT, Max Chilton was given a race weekend debut for Marussia, having previously completed the young drivers’ test at this circuit with Force India. Giedo van der Garde drove for Caterham and the more regular sights of Valtteri Bottas and Jules Bianchi appeared for Williams and Force India respectively.
At the 40 minutes mark Bottas topped the order with 1:46.085, thought the front-runners were only just beginning to appear. When they did Hamilton immediately went fastest with a time of 1:44.001. He progressively improved that , first to 1:43.449 and ultimately to the 1:43.285 that remained the benchmark.
Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull took P2 early in his run but could do no better than 1:44.050, that would only be good enough for third as Jenson Button made it a McLaren one-two late in proceedings with a time of 1:43.618. Fernando Alonso was fourth for Ferrari, ahead of Mark Webber in the second Red Bull. Michael Schumacher was sixth for Mercedes, Pastor Maldonado seventh for Williams, Nico Rosberg eighth in other Mercedes. Bottas retained ninth and Kimi Räikkönen was tenth for Lotus.
Felipe Massa finished the session in 11th for Ferrari, ahead of Nico Hülkenberg’s Force India. Kamui Kobayashi was 13th for Sauber, Romain Grosjean in the second Lotus was 14th and Bianchi 15th. Sergio Pérez was sixteenth for Sauber, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne in the Toro Rossos.
Behind them Heikki Kovalainen was 19th, ahead of Timo Glock as Caterham got the better of Marussia. Pedro de la Rosa was 21st for HRT, in front of Chilton and Ma. Van der Garde was unable to set a time as an engine installation issue caused him to miss almost all of the session.