ABU DHABI (REUTERS) - Triple Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton led the way with the fastest lap in first practice for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday.
The Briton, who wrapped up the title in Texas last month, lapped the Yas Marina circuit with a best time of one minute 43.754 seconds.
Mercedes team- mate Nico Rosberg, already assured of second place overall in the championship, was the only other driver to lap inside the 1:44 mark with a time 0.141 slower on a sunny afternoon.
Hamilton won the day-to-night race in Abu Dhabi last year to secure his second title and is again the favourite.
Organisers are also making much of the connection between the number 44 on his car and the 44th National Day anniversary next week of the founding of the United Arab Emirates.
Another victory would also be the 44th of Hamilton's career and he is determined to end the year on a high. So too is Rosberg, who is chasing his third successive win and sixth pole position in a row.
Kimi Raikkonen was third fastest, in 1:44.500, with Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat fourth and sandwiched between the two Ferraris with Sebastian Vettel fifth.
Lotus passed scrutineering, after being granted a waiver on Thursday due to the late arrival of their cars in the paddock due to ongoing financial troubles, but still had a difficult session.
British reserve driver Jolyon Palmer, who is due to replace departing Frenchman Romain Grosjean next season, had to sit out all but the final 12 minutes as the team worked to fix a water leak in his car.