Pierre Gasly got his Abu Dhabi weekend started to plan after topping the timesheets in this morning’s Free Practice session in the emirate, grabbing P1 late in a busy session ahead of former teammate Alex Lynn and title rival Antonio Giovinazzi.

The Red Bull tester stopped the clocks at 1:50.940 late in an exciting session which saw the top spot swapping throughout, with the Williams tester making a late bid to bump his old teammate off but missing by just 0.062, with Gasly’s PREMA teammate stopping the clocks at just over a tenth off him.

The session got underway in the usual hot, dry conditions, with times tumbling almost immediately: Jordan King, Nobuharu Matsushita, Gasly and Giovinazzi all found their way to P1 on the timesheets, but in a session which saw many drivers having off-track escapades it was clear that they were all pushing hard.

Mitch Evans pulled up early with a mechanical gremlin, but with most of the field coming in for fresh rubber the marshals were able to remove his stricken car quickly. When they returned it seemed clear that sector 2 would make the difference: Gasly set his best time at the 35 minute mark, but there was still time to be found in S2. Lynn found it and ran P2, Giovinazzi did too but struggled on the final sector and couldn’t improve.

Gasly had his engine cover off with a few minutes to go, but he soon returned to the circuit: with the clock running out he had no need to push more, and was satisfied to lean on his earlier efforts. Behind the top 3 Matsushita will be annoyed to be pipped at the end of the session, but leads Norman Nato, Oliver Rowland, Jordan King, Johnny Cecotto and Sergey Sirotkin, all of whom were within a second of the top spot and looking for more this afternoon.

GP2 Press Release