Abu Dhabi GP: Verstappen outpaces Mercedes duo in FP1

Max Verstappen set the pace for Red Bull through first practice in Abu Dhabi as the Formula 1 field got its first taste of the reprofiled Yas Marina Circuit.

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Championship leader Verstappen started the race weekend on the right foot as he finished ahead of Mercedes duo Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton in FP1, lapping almost two tenths of a second clear.

Opening practice on Friday afternoon marked the first opportunity for drivers to sample the altered corners at Yas Marina, including the Turn 5 hairpin, the sweeping Turn 9 and the Turn 12-15 complex under the hotel.

Most of the field focused on soft-tyre running throughout the one-hour session, with Verstappen managing to set the early pace during the first runs for Red Bull despite reporting an issue with his steering wheel.

Verstappen told Red Bull that his steering was "right-hand down" and "really annoying" to drive, yet he still managed to outpace Hamilton by two tenths of a second during the opening runs.

Hamilton was able to improve with his first flying lap of his second run, sitting just 0.055 seconds off Verstappen, only for the Red Bull driver to pull three tenths of a second clear with a lap of 1m25.009s.

Hamilton worked up another hot lap, but was 0.033s down on his title rival before having the lap deleted after exceeding track limits at the final corner, where a number of drivers got caught and had times scrubbed.

It meant that Mercedes teammate Bottas ended the session in P2, finishing 0.196s behind Verstappen as the Dutchman's lap went unbeaten in the closing stages.

Hamilton ended up third ahead of Sergio Perez, who was just 0.008s behind the Mercedes driver in fourth place for Red Bull.

Yuki Tsunoda made an impressive start to the weekend by finishing fifth for AlphaTauri, lapping almost half a second quicker than teammate Pierre Gasly, who was two places further back in seventh.

Tsunoda and Gasly were split by Fernando Alonso, who finished sixth for Alpine in a car that will adorn his recent 'El Plan' quote on its rear wing for the race weekend.

Despite taking almost 20 minutes to set his first timed lap in FP1, Charles Leclerc managed to finish the session eighth for Ferrari ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz, who was ninth. Sainz reported after his first run that his car felt "quite bad", but was able to improve his lap time in the closing minutes.

Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top 10 for Aston Martin ahead of Esteban Ocon in the second Alpine. Ocon narrowly missed the wall at Turn 14 early in the session, and later got stuck into false neutral, forcing him to slow on track and complete a fix before getting up to speed again.

Lando Norris finished 12th for McLaren, while Kimi Raikkonen started his final F1 weekend by finishing 13th despite a spin at the reprofiled Turn 9. teammate Antonio Giovinazzi finished close behind in P14 ahead of Lance Stroll and Daniel Ricciardo.

Jack Aitken made his first practice session appearance of the season for Williams as he deputised for George Russell. Aitken finished 17th, six thousandths of a second clear of Nicholas Latifi in the sister Williams car.

Mick Schumacher ended FP1 19th for Haas as teammate Nikita Mazepin propped up the timesheets in P20, a further half a second off the pace.

Cla Driver Chassis Laps Time Gap
1 Netherlands Max Verstappen
Red Bull 23 1'25.009
2 Finland Valtteri Bottas
Mercedes 27 1'25.205 0.196
3 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes 25 1'25.355 0.346
4 Mexico Sergio Perez
Red Bull 24 1'25.363 0.354
5 Japan Yuki Tsunoda
AlphaTauri 23 1'25.378 0.369
6 Spain Fernando Alonso
Alpine 26 1'25.625 0.616
7 France Pierre Gasly
AlphaTauri 28 1'25.822 0.813
8 Monaco Charles Leclerc
Ferrari 20 1'25.846 0.837
9 Spain Carlos Sainz Jr.
Ferrari 26 1'25.886 0.877
10 Germany Sebastian Vettel
Aston Martin 26 1'26.007 0.998
11 France Esteban Ocon
Alpine 25 1'26.025 1.016
12 United Kingdom Lando Norris
McLaren 26 1'26.123 1.114
13 Finland Kimi Raikkonen
Alfa Romeo 25 1'26.189 1.180
14 Italy Antonio Giovinazzi
Alfa Romeo 25 1'26.409 1.400
15 Canada Lance Stroll
Aston Martin 26 1'26.608 1.599
16 Australia Daniel Ricciardo
McLaren 29 1'26.676 1.667
17 United Kingdom Jack Aitken
Williams 27 1'27.481 2.472
18 Canada Nicholas Latifi
Williams 27 1'27.487 2.478
19 Germany Mick Schumacher
Haas 24 1'27.698 2.689
20 Russian Federation Nikita Mazepin
Haas 22 1'28.305 3.296
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