Britain’s Lewis Hamilton headed rival Nico Rosberg in first practice at the title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Hamilton is 12 points behind the German and has to win the race and hope his Mercedes team-mate finishes lower than third if he is to win the championship.
Hamilton was 0.374 seconds quicker than Rosberg, with the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo next.
Second practice gets under way at 13:00 GMT, with coverage starting on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra at 12:55.
- Hamilton ‘proud’ of 2016 performance
Reigning world champion Hamilton, 31, will be hoping Red Bull or Ferrari can get between him and Rosberg – that is realistically his best chance of an unlikely fourth title.
However, the Mercedes car has such superiority that Hamilton’s best hope is for a problem to hit Rosberg.
“My sole goal is to win the race,” Hamilton said on Thursday. “Nico’s been really quick here the last couple of years so it will be a challenge for sure but one I’m certain that I can face head on and do well.
“In terms of the championship, if it doesn’t go the way I’d hope, well, the championship generally hasn’t gone the way I’d hoped up until now.
“So 2016 has generally not been a spectacular year, but there’s been lots of positives to take out from it and either way I will take all the positives into next season.”
Rosberg, 31, can afford to cruise around behind Hamilton driving a cautious weekend but says he is targeting a race win as the best way to clinch the title.
“The most important thing is to do an awesome performance, because that’s going to give both, isn’t it?” he said.
“I’m doing whatever it takes to give the best possible performance and that’s the same thing that I’ve done for all the other races.”
He added that he is “not thinking about what if because that wouldn’t be the right approach for me”.
- The day Button came from last to win
- Listen: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix preview
Hamilton’s best time was set on the soft tyre while Rosberg’s was on the theoretically quicker ultra-soft.
The pair were separated by 0.192secs on the ultra-soft tyre, but unlike Rosberg, Hamilton improved when he ran the soft.
The Red Bulls were very close to Rosberg – Verstappen was only 0.054secs behind the German and Ricciardo a further 0.065secs adrift.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were fifth and seventh fastest, separated by Force India’s Sergio Perez on the super-soft tyre.
Former world champion Jenson Button, who announced on Thursday that this will be his last race barring a change of heart and unlikely opportunity in the future, was only 20th as McLaren’s weekend got off to a difficult start.
Button was asked to return to the pits midway through the session with a technical problem.
His team-mate Fernando Alonso was 18th fastest, 0.748secs quicker than Button.
Jolyon Palmer was 16th for Renault, one place and 0.153secs ahead of team-mate Kevin Magnussen.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix first practice results
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix coverage details
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/formula1/38103543