McLaren shine on practise for inaugural Abu Dhabi GP

McLaren shone in the opening practice for the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton on top and Heikki Kovalainen quickest after nightfall.


AFP - Heikki Kovalainen topped the times in the second free practice session for the season-ending and inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix here on Friday.

Britain's Lewis Hamilton, who dominated the first session, was the man to beat for most of the second session being held in twilight and darkness but his 28-year-old Finnish teammate just managed to outpace his McLaren Mercedes in the final minutes.

Kovalainen clocked a best time of one minute and 41.307 seconds, beating Hamilton by just one-tenth of a second although the entire top ten were only separated by six-tenths of a second.

New world champion Jenson Button of Britain wound up third fastest for Brawn GP ahead of his season-long rival German Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull, who was fourth.

Japanese Kamui Kobayashi of Toyota finished fifth, in only his second Grand Prix, a terrific effort on the opening day on a new circuit, ahead of Swiss Sebastian Buemi of Toro Rosso.

German Nico Rosberg, in his last appearance for the Williams team, was ninth and Finn Kimi Raikkonen, who is bidding farewell to Ferrari, was 10th.

Two times champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso, who is leaving Renault for Ferrari, was down in 16th place ahead of Italian veteran Giancarlo Fisichella, in the second Ferrari, with Renault-bound Pole Robert Kubica propping up the order in 20th place after his BMW Sauber suffered an engine failure.

If Kubica's demise was a spectacular burst of colour, it was as nothing compared to the spectacle provided as the lighting took over the track when the sun set, notably around the Yas Hotel, a centre-piece of the development.

The hotel is covered by a skin of computerised lighting that changes colour, but on Friday evening was a shade of blue that complemented the fading sea and sky during the evening.

After a hot day, the second free session was run in cooling conditions as the sun dropped and the action was lit up by the most powerful outdoor event lighting system on earth, according to claims made by local sources.

The first session was run in an air temperature of 43 degrees and track temperature of around 33, but by the evening's second run, it was 31 and 30 respectively.

In the first session Hamilton clocked a fastest lap of 1:43.939 to outpace Button, the two Britons together leaving Vettel out of reach in third place.

Barrichello was fourth in the second Brawn ahead of German Nick Heidfeld for BMW Sauber and Swiss Sebastien Buemi of Toro Rosso.

German Adrian Sutil sat out most of the session with a gearbox problem but still clocked the seventh best time for Force India.

This left Australian Mark Webber of Red Bull, Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari in the second Toro Rosso and Italian veteran Jarno Trulli, for Toyota, to complete the top ten.

The session was slow to start as the cars and their drivers were tentative to raise the pace on a new track covered in sand and dust.

When they did they were caught out most at Turn 19, a sharp left-hander just after running under the Yas Hotel complex, close to the marina.

Both Ferrari drivers were well down the field as the teams worked steadily to prepare for Sunday's twilight day-night race that will be run under the most powerful floodlights used for any outdoor event in world sport.

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