By Andrew Benson
Chief F1 writer at Yas Marina
Sebastian Vettel crashed his Ferrari late in first practice at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The German, who flew into Abu Dhabi late following the birth of his third child, spun at Turn 19 and hit the wall.
It damaged his wheel and suspension but Ferrari should repair the car’s left-rear corner for the second session.
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas set the pace in a low-key and inconclusive session.
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Vettel’s crash, which brought the session to a close a couple of minutes early, was caused when he caught the inside kerb a little too hard as he turned into the left-hander under the bridge that joins the two parts of the distinctive W hotel at the Yas Marina circuit.
The German was fourth fastest, 1.949 seconds slower than Bottas, whose best time was set on medium tyres at the start of a weekend at which the Finn knows he will start from the back because of a grid penalty for using too many engine parts following his failure at the last race in Brazil.
Bottas was 0.535secs quicker than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in a session that was previously interrupted by a stoppage after Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault suffered engine failure.
The session was earlier red-flagged for 15 minutes while Ricciardo’s car was recovered from the last-corner run-off.
Lewis Hamilton was third fastest ahead of Red Bull’s Alexander Albon.
The first session in Abu Dhabi is often largely irrelevant in terms of giving a read on competitiveness because it is run in the early afternoon, whereas qualifying and the race are at twilight and therefore have very different, much cooler track conditions.
And that was especially the case this time, with Albon nearly 0.5secs off Hamilton, who was 0.6secs behind his team-mate, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel a further 0.1secs behind and Haas driver Romain Grosjean sixth ahead of the second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.
A number of teams were trying out new parts that are part of their development programme for 2020 – which will continue at the post-season Pirelli tyre test on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The second session, which starts at 17:00 local time (13:00 GMT), will be a much more accurate guide to how the teams shape up for this final race of the season.
Ricciardo’s engine failure – in a high-mileage power-unit that was due to be changed for Saturday anyway – further muddied the waters.
The Renault deposited a lot of oil at the final corner – and on Pierre Gasly’s closely following Toro Rosso – and cement dust was laid down to soak it up.
That meant the track was in worse condition for the final laps, when in any case most teams would usually have switched to higher fuel loads for race preparation.
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