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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Lotus driver Romain Grosjean posted the fastest time in the first practice session of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday.

The Frenchman has finished third in each of his past three races and clocked a best lap of 1 minute, 44.241 seconds in hot temperatures to finish .192 seconds ahead of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and .258 clear of four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton won in Abu Dhabi two years ago and has taken pole position twice, including at last year's race.

Abu Dhabi is the only race of the year that starts in the late afternoon and ends in the evening.

Because qualifying and the race itself are held at twilight, when the track is considerably cooler at sunset, little useful data can be gained from the first practice session in the hot heat of the early afternoon.

The second practice session will be held later Thursday afternoon.

About midway through the session, Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg locked his front left tire as he broke heavily coming into a chicane and almost slid off the track before regaining control.

It was a poor first run for Ferrari, with former champion Fernando Alonso in 12th and Felipe Massa in 17th.