By Steven Robson
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel topped the time sheets of first practice in Abu Dhabi earlier today. The German driver, who is currently third in the overall championship dominated most of the session, which comes exactly one day before the qualifying run that will determine where the drivers will start the final Grand Prix of 2010.
Despite no times being posted in the first 40 minutes of first practice, the session displayed a close fight between the main title contenders.
Lewis Hamilton was only 0.609 seconds off the pace, with his team-mate Jenson Button making up the top three positions.
Second place title contender, Mark Webber finished in forth position, with current championship leader, Fernando Alonso crossing the line in sixth place.
Although the session was predominately dry, rain fell shortly before the cars went out on track. This led to much confusion from experts such as BBC Sport commentator Jonathan Legard: “So much for Saturday forecasts for rain, it’s arrived already – just after I was told there’s no wind!”
Despite Abu Dhabi hosting the final championship battle for the first time, Legard spoke out about the lack of atmosphere within the crowds: “There is a sell out crowd for the weekend (46,000) like last year”, but he added: “They are very quiet compared to Brazil!”
For many, including double World Champion Fernando Alonso, this has been one of the most exciting seasons in the history of Formula One. Speaking in a press conference, he said: “In terms of happiness, motivation, driving, and the team itself, it’s my best season.”
Additionally, this season has produced a very close fight for the championship with the top four championship contenders separated by 24 points.
Many experts, such as former ITV pundit and F1 driver Mark Blundell, have found it particularly difficult to pick out a championship winner: “I feel Alonso has the title in sights,but I also feel he is not deserving”. He continued: “But my dream winner would be Webber – fingers crossed.”
Practice sessions are very important in allowing drivers to test new parts, as well as define their true pace for the race ahead. Mclaren test driver Gary Paffett said: “We use the tests to try out new updates and refine the car balance.”
The second practice session will take place later today, with qualifying starting at 1pm on Saturday and the race commencing 1pm on Sunday.