s the title deciding race of the 2014 Formula One World Championship got underway at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, championship leader Lewis Hamilton seized the early initiative by taking top spot in the opening practice session.
The Briton recorded a lap of 1:43.476 to finish 0.133s ahead of title rival Nico Rosberg. Hamilton enters the weekend 17 points ahead of Rosberg, who has to win the race to stand any chance of winning the title. However, should Rosberg win, Hamilton could finish second and still take the title.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who yesterday confirmed that he is to quit the team at the end of the season, finished a distant third, 1.7 seconds behind pacesetter Hamilton.
The gap back to third place might have less had Williams’ running not been cut short when both its cars suffered identical body work failures.
Felipe Mass completed just seven laps before part of his FW36’s right sidepod came loose and he was forced back to the pits. Team-mate Valtteri Bottas, with one more lap on the board, suffered the same issue. Neither car would run again in the session, with the team later blaming a new cooling configuration for the issue.
Behind Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, who was yesterday confirmed as the Spaniard’s replacement at Ferrari, finished fourth ahead of Red Bull Racing team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
Daniil Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne were sixth and seventh respectively for Toro Rosso, while Bottas’ best time was still good enough for eighth place, albeit nearly 2.5s down on Hamilton’s lap. Sergio Perez finished ninth ahead of Force India team-mate Nico Hulkenberg.