Abu Dhabi 2012: First practice
STILL HOPE FOR MCLAREN: Despite Red Bull's lead, McLaren can still claim the 2012 Constructors' championship.
ABU DHABI, UAE - McLaren set the during the first practice session for the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton leading Jenson Button on top of the timesheets.
Red Bull's championship leader Sebastian Vettel was third quickest with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, his closest rival 13 points behind in the standings with three races remaining, fourth as the team tried new aerodynamic updates.
Red Bull's Mark Webber, who can be expected to "ride shotgun" for Vettel during the race, was fifth.
HOPE FOR MCLAREN?
Hamilton (who won in Abu Dhabi in 2011) and Vettel are the only drivers to have qualified on the front row at Yas Marina in three editions of the race.
Such has been their dominance, that they are also the only two to have won the race while Red Bull and McLaren are the only teams to have lapped fastest in the ten practice sessions held there to date.
Hamilton, who set a best time of 1min43, has been quickest in five of those 10 practice sessions.
Button was 0.333 slower while Vettel, winner of the last four races, was 0.765 off Hamilton's pace. Alonso's time of 1min44 was more than a second slower than the pacesetter.
Vettel said: "I don't know. Maybe ask Lewis. Maybe he knows the answer. It's a difficult track, a long lap with a lot of corners. A lot of twisty sections. It's not that easy to get it right."
Red Bull can clinch the constructors' title but McLaren, who are still in contention for that championship, can throw a spanner in the works if they can carry over their practice form to the race.
The session saw a new face in Max Chilton, driving the Marussia but heavily tipped to become Britain's fourth driver on the grid in 2013.
Chilton was 22nd fastest, a second behind team mate Timo Glock.
Reserve driver Valtteri Bottas took Bruno Senna's place at Williams and had exactly the same time as Pastor Maldonado for much of the session until the race driver popped in a quicker lap.
2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: First practice times
1 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1min43.285
2 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min43.618
3 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 1min44.050
4 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1min44.366
5 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull 1min44.542
6 Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes 1min44.694
7 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams 1min45.115
8 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min45.194
9 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams 1min45.347
10 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus 1min45.422
11 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1min45.567
12 Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India 1min45.587
13 Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber 1min45.722
14 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 1min45.743
15 Jules Bianchi (France) Force India 1min45.769
16 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Sauber 1min45.811
17 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso 1min46.649
18 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso 1min46.708
19 Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Caterham 1min47.418
20 Timo Glock (Germany) Marussia 1min47.891
21 Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) HRT 1min48.354
22 Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia 1min48.887
23 Ma Qinghua (China) HRT 1min50.487
24 Giedo van der Garde (Netherlands) Caterham
Stay with Wheels24 for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend.