Lewis Hamilton’s professed doubts about how competitive the Mercedes cars could be in Abu Dhabi proved to be wide of the mark after the first Formula 1 practice session at Yas Marina Circuit.
After a middling start, he and Mercedes teammate George Russell, who won his first grand prix last week in Brazil, shot to the top of the timesheet after switching to soft tyres midway through the hour.
Hamilton posted a time of 1:26.633, with Russell 0.22 behind.
The move proved an upset for championship runner-up contenders Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez. The Ferrari and Red Bull drivers were nudged into third and fourth place after occupying one and two for the majority of the session.
Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas made a bid to break up the cosy twosome’s party, as did Williams’ Alex Albon, but the runner-up rivals seemed destined to shake off all contenders. Not so, though.
Red Bull's reserve driver Liam Lawson, filling in for world champion Max Verstappen, took fifth spot, while Sebastian Vettel, who is racing in his 299th and final F1 race, improved on a moderate start to take sixth for Aston Martin
Another reserve driver, Ferrari’s Robert Shwartzman, was next in line, while Daniel Ricciardo proved he is still up for the fight with an eighth placing in his McLaren.
Bottas and Albon rounded out the top 10.
The session’s first dramatic moment came as Williams driver Logan Sargeant span his car in a shower of smoke, narrowly avoid collision with the barrier at turn 1.