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Vettel edges out Hamilton in opening session

NEWS STORY
12/11/2010

Ahead of the opening practice session for the season finale, the air temperature is 28 degrees C while the track temperature is 29 degrees. Humidity is 48%.

However, the main talking point - in terms of the weather - is that here, in Abu Dhabi, in the desert, we've had rain, and lots of it. It began just after the start of the GP2 practice session - around two hours ago - and pretty much continued for the next hour or so. What did we say about Bernie and rain dancing?

As Mat Coch texts: "The standing water was initially so bad the Porsches were leaving a wake - no word of a lie or exaggeration - which you could see for a good minute or so after a car had been through. Drainage doesn't seem to exist so much around the wiggly bits towards the end of the lap. The start of the lap looked fine. However, with the heat once it stopped raining it soon dried up, the track is not bone dry now but pretty close.

Tyre choice this weekend is medium (prime) and super-soft (option). In this first session, Fairuz Fauzy is in Heikki Kovalainen's Lotus, the only reserve driver on duty this morning.

As Klien heads down the pitlane, followed by di Grassi, Alguersuari and Buemi, the track has most dried with only the pitlane still looking quite damp. Indeed, those drivers out on track are on intermediates. The session has been declared wet but the desert sun should soon sort that out.

Five minutes into the session all but Hamilton have been out with Liuzzi - using an old pre-season test chassis - and Kobayashi having completed two installation laps. A number of drivers make little errors on the slippery track, including Schumacher, with Fauzy spinning but keeping away from the barriers.

Glock is the first driver to make the switch to slicks however, the Virgin soon comes to regret his decision, the track still not quite dry enough for the dry tyres.

Webber goes out for a solo run, the rear end of the Red Bull covered in high-vis flow paint as he tries out a number of ideas for Adrian Newey.

As Piero Ferrari - son of team founder Enzo - chats with Alonso, Vettel is in an animated conversation with a Renault engineer.

Hamilton is on track (on slicks), his team intending to use a new rear wing this weekend. In the Red Bull garage Vettel is now chatting with Helmut Marko.

After an interminable period of total inactivity, Rosberg (inters) finally breaks the deadlock. With 53:55 on the clock we have yet to see a time on the timesheets.

While one understands that conditions are not ideal, they're not exactly that bad either. This being such an important event one would have thought that the teams could put on a slightly better show for those fans in the stands and those watching on TV.

In the Toro Rosso garage Alguersuari admits that he wants to see how someone else deals with slicks - a view that appears to be shared by the other twenty-three drivers.

With nothing else happening, what better time to thank Paul for going along to the launch of Mick Rock's book in Shoreditch last night and getting us a dedicated copy. Mick Rock being the photographer who took so many of those iconic pictures of Lou Reed, David Bowie, Iggy, Queen and so many more. Indeed, Paul was so impressed he bought a copy.

At which point hoorah… Hulkenberg and Petrov head down the pitlane. The Russian, on slicks, struggles to keep the car under control. It really is a lot more slippery than it appears. Fact is, with only four or so days of rain a year (!!!) the circuit isn't really equipped for such conditions. The good/bad news is that further rain is expected this weekend.

Petrov, despite the horrible handling of the car, crosses the line to post the first time of the weekend (1:51.465). Moments later, Hulkenberg, also on slicks, posts 51.207. Fastest time in last year's opening session was 1:43.939.

As more and more drivers pour on to the track, Petrov gets down to 47.794.

Massa is the first of the big guns to go out, the Brazilian going third on his first flying lap with a 48.886. As he looks set to improve - having gone quickest in S1 - he is told to pit, the team having encountered a "small telemetry problem". However, the Ferrari driver stays out and goes second with a 47.280.

Webber goes seventh (49.320) as Alonso goes ninth (58.680) as Vettel and Hamilton remain in their respective garages.

Alonso improves to second (46.419) and Webber third (46.626) but there is still a long, long way to go.

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