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Page last updated at 16:49 GMT, Friday, 30 October 2009

Kovalainen top as McLaren shine

Venue: Yas Marina Dates: 30 Oct - 1 Nov 2009 Coverage: Comprehensive live coverage of Friday practice, Saturday qualifying and Sunday's race - which starts at 1300 GMT - across BBC TV, radio and online platforms. Find full listings here

McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen

Highlights - Abu Dhabi second practice

By Sean Chaney

Heikki Kovalainen snatched top spot from his McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton with one minute remaining of Friday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix practice.

Hamilton led the session for almost an hour before the Finn improved his time by 0.197 seconds to go quickest with a one minute 41.307 secs effort.

Brawn's new world champion Jenson Button was third fastest at the spectacular new £250m Yas Marina track.

Button was second fastest behind Hamilton in the earlier first session.

A frenetic start to the second session saw several drivers top the timesheets in Formula 1's first day/night practice, which started at 1700 GMT local time in the Abu Dhabi twilight to replicate qualifying and race conditions.

Sunday's race will be the first time an F1 race has started in daylight and ended under floodlights and the drivers were quick to get out onto the track to assess the impact of the changing light conditions and the cooler track temperatures.

It looks like we might be quite competitive here

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton earlier had a big off-track moment at the end of the long straight going into Turn 11, which saw the former world champion visiting the vast run off areas that run underneath the Yas Marina grandstands.

Several other drivers joined the 2008 world champion in exploring the limits in the dusty conditions.

Hamilton swapped the lead with his team-mate Kovalainen before Buemi moved into top spot and then proceeded to slice more than half a second from his own time.

Hamilton regained the lead 15 minutes later, with just under an hour remaining in the session, and he twice improved his own marker before Kovalainen's late intervention.

When you look at the layout, it doesn't seem that exciting but when you actually drive it, it's fantastic - the track has a bit of everything

Jenson Button

"It looks like we might be quite competitive here," Hamilton said.

"Our long runs appear to be good, the car feels great and the track is great - it's quite interesting coming from daylight into night time. You don't notice the difference through the twilight.

"They've done an incredible job here. It's a really nice circuit to drive - there are a lot of technical corners, where braking stability is important.

"It's a great track and I really enjoy driving it. The only bit I don't like is the tunnel [out of the pits] - but it's a challenge!

"We feel quite comfortable with the pace we have. Our car seems to behave quite well over the kerbs, we've got the balance feeling quite good."

Button added: "The Yas Marina circuit is certainly an interesting one. When you look at the layout, it doesn't seem that exciting but when you actually drive it, it's fantastic.

"The track has a bit of everything with high- and low-speed corners, positive and negative camber and the walls are pretty close to you most of the way round.

"We had a good first day of practice here with just a few balance issues to work on overnight."

The day ended early for BMW Sauber driver Robert Kubica, who appeared to suffer an engine failure as he accelerated out of the hairpin at Turn Seven - sending thick white smoke into the Abu Dhabi night sky.


There was still time for a late flurry as Toyota's Japanese rookie driver Kamui Kobayashi, who is once again deputising for the injured Timo Glock, moved up to third position before finishing fifth fastest.

Button moved up from ninth to fifth and then into second in the closing stages before Kovalainen's late show.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel was putting in some fast laps in the latter stages but any hopes he had of usurping the McLaren pair were ended when his last hot lap appeared to be impeded by one of the Ferraris.

The German waved his arm angrily at the offending car but had to settle for setting the fourth fastest time of the session.

Lewis Hamilton

Highlights - Abu Dhabi first practice

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see also
Shropshire's Formula 1 connection
30 Oct 09 |  People and Places
Abu Dhabi GP practice as it happened
30 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix practice results
14 Sep 09 |  Results
Discover the new Abu Dhabi track
17 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Zoom in and fly around Yas Marina
29 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Button enjoys absence of pressure
29 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
No Donington GP, says Ecclestone
29 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Rosberg announces Williams exit
29 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Glock not 'risked' for F1 finale
27 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Vettel vows to fight for second
26 Oct 09 |  Formula 1

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