Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen topped the opening practice session of Formula 1’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, beating team-mate Daniel Ricciardo by almost half a second.
Verstappen bolted on hypersoft tyres on an improving track in the second half of the session, to lead the way in the session with a time of 1:38.491 that left him 0.454s ahead of Ricciardo, who is this weekend competing in his final race for Red Bull ahead of a move to Renault.
The Red Bulls followed an opposite programme to Mercedes, who ran hypersofts early in the session and then cycled through ultrasoft evaluation before running the supersoft compound later in the 90-minutes available. That meant that Valtteri Bottas finished the session, as the only driver to get within a second of Verstappen’s pace, using supersoft tyres. Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton took fourth place, just under a tenth of a second further back.
With Ferrari also starting on the softest available compound and ending on the hardest, Esteban Ocon powered through to claim fifth spot on the timesheet, with Kevin Magnussen taking sixth. Racing Point Force India driver Ocon was just under sixth tenths behind Hamilton with Haas’ Magnussen a further 0.13s behind.
Kimi Räikkönen was the quickest of the Ferraris finishing 1.926 off Verstappen’s pace, with team-mate Sebastian Vettel in eighth place, 0.036s behind the Finn, who is racing for Ferrari for the final time this weekend before a 2019 switch to Sauber.
Renault’s Carlos Sainz put in a lap of 1:40.588 to take ninth place with a time 2.097s adrift of Verstappen and the final top 10 position was taken by Haas’s Romain Grosjean, who finished 0.075s behind Sainz.
Robert Kubica, who was yesterday confirmed as Williams race driver for 2019, propped up the timesheet, lapping 4.5s off the pace, though the Pole spent the session evaluating test items for 2019 rather than chasing lap time.
2018 Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 27 1:38.491
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 19 1:38.945 0.454
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 29 1:39.452 0.961
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 26 1:39.543 1.052
5 Esteban Ocon Force India 26 1:40.102 1.611
6 Kevin Magnussen Haas 21 1:40.235 1.744
7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 24 1:40.417 1.926
8 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 21 1:40.453 1.962
9 Carlos Sainz Jr. Renault 21 1:40.588 2.097
10 Romain Grosjean Haas 24 1:40.663 2.172
11 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 17 1:40.671 2.180
12 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 24 1:41.023 2.532
13 Sergio Perez Force India 23 1:41.075 2.584
14 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 26 1:41.137 2.646
15 Lance Stroll Williams 22 1:41.493 3.002
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Sauber 24 1:41.662 3.171
17 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 22 1:41.928 3.437
18 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 22 1:42.114 3.623
19 Fernando Alonso McLaren 16 1:42.313 3.822
20 Robert Kubica Williams 26 1:42.992 4.501