Romain Grosjean operated under the radar for the majority of the first practice session at Yas Island but popped up in the last few minutes to take the plaudits with a lap of 1:44.241 that included a particularly rapid final sector. For much of the session P1 appeared to be in the keeping of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. He eventually had to settle for P2, nearly two-tenths behind.
Until the last two minutes, the Briton had fastest times in all three sectors and had done enough to see off the twin threats of Red Bulls, with Sebastian Vettel finishing third and Mark Webber fourth. Nico Rosberg was fifth in the second Mercedes, followed by Kimi Räikkönen in the second Lotus. Seventh was Paul di Resta for Force India, followed by the McLaren of Jenson Button and the Williams of Pastor Maldonado. Sergio Pérez rounded out the top ten in the second McLaren.
Pérez was the first driver to set a time, shortly after 30 minutes had elapsed. His return to the pits triggered an interesting half-hour where the lead swapped many times as drivers got their medium compound tyres up to temperature and went faster as their runs progressed. Grosjean briefly popped into the lead at the halfway mark before Vettel took top spot and then traded the place with Räikkönen and Rosberg.
It was Hamilton, however, who rose to the top of the order with an hour gone. Initially, he was the quickest man in the first and third sector, but then an improved lap with a quickest middle sector consolidated his position at the top of the timesheet.
Vettel and Webber got close to Hamilton’s time in the latter stages but when neither of those could topple the Mercedes driver, it looked like he would finish the session in front but instead it was Lotus’s Grosjean who appeared at the last.