DEPARTING McLAREN DRIVER Lewis Hamilton has set the pace in first practice at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with team-mate Jenson Button second.
Hamilton, who signed a deal with Mercedes for next season, posted the quickest lap of one minute 43.285 second, 0.333 ahead of Button.
Championship leader Sebastian Vettel was third in his Red Bull (+0.765) ahead of nearest challenger Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari (+1.081).
Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber (+1.257) was fifth ahead of Michael Schumacher (Mercedes), Pastor Maldonado (Williams), Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), Valtteri Bottas (Williams) and Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus).
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa was 11th while Sergio Perez, who recently signed on with McLaren to replace Hamilton, was 16th in his Sauber.
Hamilton has a good record at the track having won the race last year and finished second at the Yas Marina Circuit in 2010.
Vettel leads Alonso by 13 points in the title battle with three races to go but knows only too well how precarious his position is.
The German suffered puncture damage and was forced to retire from last year’s Abu Dhabi GP, the only race he failed to finish in his second title-winning season.