Hamilton on top in opening practice

ABU DHABI: Lewis Hamilton took first blood by topping the times ahead of his Mercedes team-mate and world championship leader Nico Rosberg in Friday's opening practice ahead of this weekend's title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The defending three-time world champion clocked a best lap time of one minute and 42.869 seconds to outpace Rosberg by 0.374 seconds at the Yas Marina circuit.

Dutch teenager Max Verstappen was third ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, the pair just four-tenths of a second off the pace and only one-tenth behind Rosberg.

German Rosberg, 31, needs only to claim a podium finish in Sunday's race to clinch his first drivers world title. He leads Hamilton by 12 points ahead of the 21st and final race of the season.

Briton Hamilton can take the title if he wins the race and Rosberg fails to take a podium finish.

German Sebastian Vettel was fifth fastest for Ferrari, 1.1 seconds adrift of the leading pace, ahead of Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India, Finn Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari, Mexican Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso, retirement-bound Brazilian Felipe Massa of Williams and Swede Marcus Ericsson of Sauber.

The session featured few incidents, but Russian Daniel Kvyatt suffered a puncture on his Toro Rosso car and Frenchman Romain Grosjean struggled with his Haas and spun off the circuit before recovering.

The second session due to be run later Friday will be in cooler conditions as the sun goes down over the spectacular venue. — AFP