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Button on top in Abu Dhabi practice

By Alan Baldwin

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Jenson Button set the pace in first practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday as Sebastian Vettel made a quiet return to the circuit where he became Formula One's youngest champion last year.

Vettel's Australian team mate Mark Webber was second on the Yas Marina timing screens, 0.126 slower than Button's best of 1:40.263, denying McLaren a one-two with fellow Briton Lewis Hamilton third.

The Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, who both spun off, were fifth and sixth respectively on a bright afternoon with the track temperature hovering around 40 degrees.

Some less familiar names also enjoyed a moment in the limelight, with Robert Wickens the first Canadian to appear on track in a grand prix weekend since 1997 champion Jacques Villeneuve departed the scene in 2006.

While Wickens replaced Belgian Jerome d'Ambrosio at Virgin Racing for the first session, Frenchmen Jean-Eric Vergne and Romain Grosjean took the wheel at Toro Rosso and Renault respectively.

Vergne was 11th on the timesheets, right up with Toro Rosso's regular race driver Jaime Alguersuari, while GP2 champion Grosjean marked his return to the F1 cockpit with a time quicker than Renault's Vitaly Petrov.

Vettel and Red Bull have already clinched this year's championships but the German can still claim some Formula One records.

If the champion takes pole position on Saturday he will equal the record of 14 in a single season set by Britain's Nigel Mansell in 1992.

If Vettel wins the penultimate race of the year on Sunday, he will remain on track to equal Michael Schumacher's unprecedented tally of 13 triumphs in a season.

The German said, however, that he was not thinking about such milestones.

"It will be wrong to say that I want to beat this record or that record if it is possible," he told reporters. "Then, you are thinking of the record and how to break the record. And I think you will fail if you think that way."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)

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