Grosjean sets first practice pace in Abu Dhabi

Romain Grosjean continued his recent upturn in form as the Lotus driver set the pace in the first practice session for this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Frenchman has finished fourth in the last three races as he looks to prove to the team he can lead them in to the 2014 season and his time of one minute 44.241secs left him clear of the field at the Yas Marina circuit.

Fellow Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen, who caused a stir in the paddock with his absence on Thursday, could only manage the sixth fastest time of the session, over half a second adrift of team-mate Grosjean.

Lewis Hamilton ended the 90 minutes in second as the Mercedes team set out to have another strong weekend after taking the upper hand over Ferrari in the race for second place in the constructors’ title.

Newly-crowned world champion Sebastian Vettel was third with Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber taking fourth ahead of the second Mercedes of Nico Rosberg.

Ferrari are 14 points adrift of Mercedes in the standings but did not send out any signals they will trouble the German manufacturer this weekend as Fernando Alonso took 12th and Felipe Massa 17th.

Paul Di Resta is yet to have his seat at Force India confirmed beyond the end of the current campaign and, after a welcome return to the points in India last weekend, the Scotsman finished with the seventh quickest time.

Fellow Briton Jenson Button was next for McLaren with team-mate Sergio Perez, also unsure of his future in the sport, in 10th.

The Williams of Pastor Maldonado was sandwiched between the two McLarens in ninth whilst 13th was the best fellow Williams driver Valtteri Bottas could achieve.

Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg saw a string of four points finishes in a row come to an end in India and the German, who has designs on a Lotus drive for next year, finished with the 11th fastest time, once again out-pacing team-mate Esteban Gutierrez who ended the session four places further down the order.

The Torro Rosso duo of Jean-Eric Verne and Red Bull-bound Daniel Ricciardo were languishing in 16th and 18th places, respectively as Briton James Calado took advantage of a run in a Force India to go 14th.

Both Caterham’s finished ahead of their Marussia counterparts as Charles Pic and test driver Heikki Kovalainen ran quicker than Jules Bianchi and Rodolfo Gonzalez, who ran in place of Max Chilton.

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