FP1 round up as Vettel gets the better of Hamilton while Alonso is asked for some "funky driving"

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Looking to end the season on a high: Sebastian Vettel

It took just five minutes of the first 90-minute free practice session for the new generation F1 cars to prove that they are going to be quicker than ever at Yas Marina Circuit.

Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time overall in the corresponding session in 2016 with a time of 1 min 42.869 seconds – and the same driver clocked 1:41.664 on his first flying lap this year in the wider, fat-tyred Mercedes that has already carried him to his fourth world title.

While Hamilton made a flying start, the time that eventually topped the session was a 1:39.006, set by the man with whom he fought an almost season-long battle for the title – Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

With Hamilton second, 0.120 behind Vettel, the year’s third-best team Red Bull had the third-fastest driver in the session in the shape of Max Verstappen.

At the other end of the spectrum, George Russell was a busy young man on Friday. After his normal GP3 practice session with ART he hopped into the Sahara Force India cockpit usually occupied by Esteban Ocon for his second crack at a Formula 1 practice session.

Russell finished a highly creditable 11th, five places behind team-mate Sergio Pérez, while Antonio Giovinazzi, also having another F1 practice run in place of Kevin Magnussen in the Haas, ended the session in 18th place.

Of the four regular drivers who are also having their F1 baptism at Yas Marina Circuit, McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne was best in eighth, with Lance Stroll 13th, Pierre Gasly 14th and his Toro Rosso team-mate Brendon Hartley 20th and last.

The mystery was Fernando Alonso’s taking so long to appear in the other McLaren. On his installation lap the Spaniard was asked for some “funky driving” by his McLaren team, which must have been code for one lap only – he did not reappear until more than an hour of the session had elapsed, though he finished it in seventh place.

The most awkward moment was Romain Grosjean’s “off” at Turn 19, where the Haas driver hit the wall but was able to return to pit lane.

“It’s the same snap as before,” reported the Frenchman, “I don’t know where it comes from.” Happily, he was able to get back on track before the session ended.

There was a spectacular lock-up by the outgoing Felipe Massa in his Williams and harmless spins for Nico Hülkenberg’s Renault at Turn 14, then for Giovinazzi and Russell at Turn 17 in quick succession.

“Could you let me know the reason we lost the rear?” asked Russell. “I may have clipped the kerb?”

Not so: at that point a tail-wind was playing tricks so the young GP3 champion was blameless. The session was run, as always, in day-time conditions that do not accurately reflect those the drivers will encounter in qualifying or the race itself.

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Public walk pit lane ahead of Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as Yas Marina Circuit releases latest ticket news

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The pit lane walk on Thursday saw a massive turnout amongst fans.

As Abu Dhabi prepares to close out yet another exciting season of racing that will again see Lewis Hamilton collect his World Championship trophy at Yas Marina Circuit, fans of the sport were given an inside look at this year’s teams fine tuning their cars on Thursday ahead of the on-track action.

Kicking off ‘Super Thursday’, the public queued to enjoy the perennially popular Public Pit Lane Walk at the Circuit before the 2017 Formula One finale gets underway.

Opening the pit lane to the public enabled F1 fans from across the globe to witness their favourite teams and drivers preparing for the final race in the 2017 calendar.

Wearing a streaky, fiery red wig, Anthony Hvala, president of the Scuderia Ferrari Club Melbourne, stood out amid the buzz and excitement in the pit lane.

“This is my second time in Abu Dhabi, I love coming here. My first time was in 2012 and I wore the wig then as well. It goes around the world with me. I’ve been going to Grands Prix since 1996.

Anthoy Hvala stood out amidst the buzz in the pit lane.

Anthoy Hvala stood out amidst the buzz in the pit lane.

“I love this venue. It’s purpose-built for a day-night race. If I could come here every year for the Grand Prix I would.

“I’ve met the drivers many times over the years, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikonen, and previously Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa. I was also lucky enough to meet Michael Schumacher once in 2012 at Melbourne, which was his last year in Formula OneTM – that was a dream come true.”

“I won a competition with Ferrari in 2014 and after that Ferrari asked me to set-up a fan club in Melbourne, and we’re now officially supported by the team and they’ve been great.”

For the first time ever, race goers to Yas Marina Circuit got the chance to purchase a Yas Hot Lap around the iconic F1 Circuit in either a Jaguar F-TYPE or a Radical SST, driven by a racing professional. The all-new experiences proved very popular with fans at Super Thursday.

Organisers advised a limited number of one-day Friday Abu Dhabi Hill tickets are still available.

Please visit www.yasmarinacircuit.com, or telephone the Yas Marina Circuit Call Centre (800 927) or +971 (0) 2 659 9800, or visit Etihad Shops and Virgin Megastores, Yas Central Express stand at Yas Mall. You can also purchase through the YasHUB smartphone app and the Facebook shop: www.facebook.com/yasmarinacircuit

The 2017 edition of the YasHUB app is available to download, allowing visitors to plan every element of their race weekend and stay up-to-date with the latest race news and information.

Golden Circle upgrades – Limited availability

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Yas Marina Circuit prepares to host F1 season finale, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Sport360 staff 22/11/2017

The engines have fallen silent, pit doors are closed, and the grandstands are empty, but Yas Marina Circuit is anything but quiet.

While motorsports fans eagerly await the start of the season-closing 2017 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the task of making sure the Circuit is ready to host the biggest race of the year is well under way.

To make sure everything is perfect before the arrival of the drivers, 60,000 fans, scores of team officials plus dignitaries, celebrities and media from across the world, an army of cleaners, painters, gardeners and technical experts have descended on Yas Marina Circuit.

Al Tareq Al Ameri, CEO of Yas Marina Circuit, said: “The Circuit is a hive of activity leading up to the F1. A huge amount of work goes into preparing for the race weekend to make sure the Circuit looks perfect and the fans in the grandstand and those watching on TV around the world enjoy the best F1 experience. “Since our first Grand Prix in 2009 we have been finely tuning our operations. It’s a massive logistical task that is the culmination of 12 months’ meticulous planning.”   Thanks to the wider cars competing in the 2017 F1 Championship, the grid markings on the start/finish line have been removed and replaced with markings that are 200mm wider than previous slots to accommodate them. Teams of motor racing experts and logistics managers direct fleets of transporters carrying everything required for the F2 Series and GP3 Series teams. These competitions, which will provide the F1 champion drivers of tomorrow, will battle it out for podium honours over the weekend.  As the safety of the drivers, teams and spectators is paramount in F1, experts will go over every inch of the Circuit to make sure vital crash barriers are placed correctly and intact, the track is clean and clear and the Circuit’s medical teams and first responders are positioned to deal with any emergency. The logistics of organising the race weekend also extends to catering for tens of thousands of spectators in the grandstands, making sure the small army of customer service staff are on hand and prepared to help visitors enjoy the F1 experience to the fullest and ensuring sure the world’s media are positioned to get the best view of the action on the track for the hundreds of millions watching around the world.   For more information on the #AbuDhabiGP, visit www.yasmarinacircuit.com

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