Van der Garde leads the way in final practice

Giedo van der Garde won the first battle for dominance in this morning's practice session in Abu Dhabi, coming out on top in the last lap of a fierce skirmish on the timing screens ahead of Oliver Turvey and David Valsecchi. The Dutchman's best time of 1:50.600 gave him this morning's bragging rights by two tenths from his rivals in warm, sunny conditions as the drivers reacquainted themselves with the modern circuit.

With the F1 teams yet to arrive at the circuit ahead of the session there was no rubber on the track to give the drivers a hand, and the early running was tempered by the need to avoid the walls at all costs ahead of this afternoon's qualifying session.

Valsecchi, van der Garde and Sergio Perez set the early running as the lap times steadily ticked down, along with the clock. It wasn't until the field had changed to the second set of tires that they started to push hard: champion elect Pastor Maldonado was having a torrid time as he looked in vain for grip, just managing to stay off the wall underneath the hotel.

The same spot saw Marcus Ericsson spin into a stall with a few minutes remaining. But it was the last minute of the session that saw the most drama: Fabio Leimer set a stunning lap to take the top spot with a minute to go, with Perez crossing the line just behind him a mere tenth down and Turvey squeezing between them a few seconds later.

After the checkered flag dropped Valsecchi looked to have done enough for P1 until van der Garde just pipped him, and Turvey was the last to cross the line and also squeeze past his teammate.

A large rainstorm hit the circuit just after the teams returned to the pits, washing away all of the rubber: it promises to be a madcap qualifying session this afternoon.

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