Max Verstappen headed a Red Bull one-two in the first practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Dutchman was four and a half tenths faster than his teammate Daniel Ricciardo, however, FP1 is the most unrepresentative session as it takes place in the daylight.
The Red Bull’s used the softest compounds the hypersofts which put them nine-tenths ahead of the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas. However, the five times champions elected not to use the softest compound of tyre leaving Bottas almost a second off the pace.
However, he only managed to outpace teammate Lewis Hamilton by just under a tenth. The five-times champion appeared to struggle with grip. Mercedes, however, was the best at finding time on both compounds of the hardest compounds.
Force India’s Esteban Ocon was fifth place, a second and a half off the outright pace, the Frenchman edging out the Haas by a tenth. Haas and Force India at logger heads, the US team have lodged a protest saying Force India are racing a car they did not design, which is against the rules.
It is rooted in Force India’s collapse during the summer. The team were revived by a sale of their assets to Canadian businessman Lawrence Stroll and allowed to re-enter as a new team.
But Haas immediately objected to the new entity being allowed to keep the old one’s rights to prize money, saying if a new team could earn a specific part of the prize fund immediate. FIA and FOM reject Haas’s complaint.
The first drama of the session came from Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, who finished the session seventeenth. The Swede lost control of the car exiting turn one a spun into the wall, breaking his front wing. He finished the session seventeenth, behind 2019 Sauber driver Antonio Giovinazzi.
Carlos Sainz was ninth going two hundredths faster than the Haas of Romain Grosjean. Grosjean’s fellow Frenchman Pierre Gasly was a thousandth behind in eleventh for Toro Rosso.
Robert Kubica returned to the cockpit for the first time since confirmation of his return to F1 full-time next year. The Polish driver’s focus was different to teammate Lance Stroll, who was fifteenth, he finished nineteenth.
However, on Thursday he and the team made it clear he would not be pursuing lap times in FP1 and would instead complete evaluation work for next season.
In his final FP1, Fernando Alonso was two tenths off his teammate Stoffel Vandoorne. However, the Spaniard ran wide at turn twenty and launched his car over a new kerb designed to prevent drivers from taking advantage of track limits.
A number of drivers ran up to or over the new kerb during the session and it is likely to be a talking point in Friday evening’s driver briefing.