TITLE CONTENDERS: Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg headed the timesheets for practice 1 at the Abu Dhabi GP. Image: AP / Luca Bruno.
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - Lewis Hamilton overcame a minor scare to post the fastest time in the first practice for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday (November 25).
Early in the session, Hamilton was on the quicker ultrasoft tire compound when the rear of his car spun, but he regained control.
In hot and dry conditions on the Yas Marina circuit, Hamilton was 0.374 seconds quicker than Formula 1 rival Nico Rosberg, and 0.428sec better than Dutch teen Max Verstappen.
READ: As it happened - Abu Dhabi GP 1st practice
Dramatic title decider
Verstappen's Red Bull team mate, Daniel Ricciardo, was fourth, followed by Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who won the first of his four straight F1 titles here in 2010 when he was driving for Red Bull.
That dramatic championship went to the last race and so is this one.
Hamilton is bidding to win the title for the third straight time and fourth overall, but the odds are in Rosberg's favor.
The German driver leads the championship by 12 points and can afford to finish third even if Hamilton wins on Sunday.
There is a second practice in the evening, when track temperatures will be similar to those expected for the race, which begins at 3pm local time.
In what is expected to be his final GP, British driver Jenson Button drove with a bright yellow helmet similar to the one he wore during his F1 title-winning campaign with Brawn in 2009.
READ: Rosberg says he has 'no problem' shaking hands with Hamilton, this video begs to differ...
Although Button has an option with McLaren for the 2018 season, he said on Thursday he does not expect to race again. Brazilian Felipe Massa, who drives for Williams, is categorically retiring after this race.
Both started their F1 careers at age 20.
Meanwhile, French driver Romain Grosjean's frustrating recent form continued as he came back to the garage before the end because of a braking issue on his Haas car.