Verstappen heads Bottas in F1 practice

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen edged out Valtteri Bottas in an uneventful opening practice session for the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Dutchman was 0.2s faster than his Mercedes rival, with Lewis Hamilton 0.346s off the pace at the end of the opening 60-minutes.

It began with most drivers heading straight out, Hamilton on a set of softs as was Verstappen.

At Ferrari, Charles Leclerc’s car had an aero rake attached to the rear of his car.

It was an unusual development given this weekend marks the final round of the season ahead of a dramatic aerodynamic change for next year.

Free Practice 1 in Abu Dhabi is always largely unrepresentative, given it’s held in the afternoon sun where the meaningful running takes place at dusk or later.

However, it does afford teams an opportunity to gauge aero levels and fuel burn.

Hamilton set the early pace, 1:27.148s leaving him atop the timesheets over Pierre Gasly.

Verstappen soon went faster, logging a 1:26.463s to move 0.6s clear of Hamilton shortly before Norris went second fastest on a 1:26.782s.

Times continued to tumble in the opening 10 minutes, Hamilton bringing the target down to 1:26.290s.

Ferrari pitted Leclerc, replacing the rear wing on the Monegasque driver’s car.

While busy on track, it was relatively uneventful, with a locked brake at Turn 5 seeing him run wide.

Bottas had a moment at Turn 1, as did Raikkonen, running wide after pinching the left-front brake.

Esteban Ocon had a wobble exiting Turn 14, only narrowly keeping the Alpine out of the barrier on corner exit.

Leclerc’s first timed lap saw him slot into 14th fastest, one spot back from team-mate Carlos Sainz, with a 1:27.418s.

Shortly after the halfway point in the session, Verstappen was fastest with a 1:25.300s, 0.252s up on Hamilton with Perez in the second Red Bull third best.

Their pace was indicative of drivers beginning to push harder on track.

Things at the top of the timesheet condensed with Hamilton closing to 0.055s of Verstappen’s 1:25.009s.

Track limits were a feature, with Turn 7 and Turn 16 both proving hot spots – the former a result of drivers running off at Turn 6 after locking a brake.

The incidents were comparatively minor, largely a result of the vast run off areas, with the only yellow flag throughout a result of Raikkonen spinning at Turn 9.

Fourth best at the end of the session was Perez, then Yuki Tsunoda, Fernando Alonso, Gasly, and the two Ferraris.

Practice 2 is set to follow at 00:00 AEDT this evening.

Results: Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Free Practice 1

Pos Num Driver Team Time Diff Laps
1 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:25.009 23
2 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:25.205 +0.196s 26
3 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:25.355 +0.346s 25
4 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing 1:25.363 +0.354s 24
5 22 Yuki Tsunoda Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:25.378 +0.369s 22
6 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:25.625 +0.616s 26
7 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:25.822 +0.813s 28
8 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:25.846 +0.837s 20
9 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:25.886 +0.877s 25
10 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:26.007 +0.998s 26
11 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:26.025 +1.016s 25
12 4 Lando Norris McLaren 1:26.123 +1.114s 26
13 7 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 1:26.189 +1.180s 25
14 99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 1:26.409 +1.400s 25
15 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:26.608 +1.599s 26
16 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:26.676 +1.667s 29
17 89 Jack Aitken Williams 1:27.481 +2.472s 27
18 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:27.487 +2.478s 26
19 47 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:27.698 +2.689s 23
20 9 Nikita Mazepin Haas 1:28.305 +3.296s 22

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