GP2 Series veteran Davide Valsecchi confirmed his testing form at Abu Dhabi's new Yas Marina circuit by topping the times in the first practice session of the category's third Asia Series, which opens in support of the Formula One finale this weekend.
The Italian, now driving for iSport International, posted a time of 1min 53.689secs to end the half-hour session a massive 1.4secs clear of ART Grand Prix rookie Marcus Ericsson, with Michael Herck a surprise third for DPR, just ahead of Luca Filippi and Edoardo Piscopo.
The session started on a dirty, slippery track but, despite Filippi claiming an early top spot for Meritus, Valsecchi toppled his countryman just nine minutes in and remained the quickest man on track until the chequered flag.
Behind the flying Italian, the majority of the field kept fighting, with the notable exception of rookie Josef Kral, whose Super Nova Dallara stopped at turn four before the mid-point of the session.
The Czech's fellow new faces made their presence felt, however, with Sam Bird (ART), Fabio Leimer (Ocean), Kral, Edoardo Piscopo (DAMS) and Alexander Rossi (Ocean) all featuring at the front in the first 15 minutes. Although new All-Japan F3 champion Ericsson eventually claimed best rookie honours, with Piscopo in fifth, the rest finished the session sixth, seventh, ninth and twelfth respectively.
In the midst of the young guns, Filippi and Roldan Rodriguez - now at Coloni - tried to keep up with Valsecchi, but never came close. With most of the pack in the pits, Herck came out to take advantage of better grip and a clear track to set his best lap time and slipped into second place - only to be edged out by Ericsson a few minutes before the chequered flag appeared.
Valsecchi subsequently rubbed salt into the early wounds inflicted on his rivals by finding even more pace, improving in all three sectors and going seven tenths quicker than his previous best.