Abu Dhabi, FP1: Verstappen quickest ahead of Mercedes drivers

The season showdown in Abu Dhabi has started


By Franck Drui

10 December 2021 - 11:38
Abu Dhabi, FP1: Verstappen quickest (...)

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen beat Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton to the top of the timesheet in the opening practice session for Formula 1’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Verstappen outpaced Bottas by almost two tenths of a second with Hamilton opening his weekend on the heavily reprofiled Yas Marina circuit by finishing more than three tenths of a second off the pace of his championship rival in the opening exchanges of this title-deciding event.

Versatappen set the early pace in the session, despite complaining to his team that he was struggling with a steering wheel that was badly “right-hand down”. Even so, the Dutchman eclipsed Hamilton by two tenths of second in the opening runs.

Hamilton then improved to close to within a tenth but the Red Bull driver widened the gap once more with his next run, posting a time of 1:25.009.

The Mercedes driver went for another flying lap and this time he almost matched the Dutchman but his lap, just 0.033 off the Red Bull driver, was quickly deleted for exceeding track limits at the final corner.

The deletion left the door open for Bottas to edge past his Mercedes team-mate to claim P2. The Finn, competing in his final race weekend for Mercedes before a move to Alfa Romeo next year, ended the session 0.196s behind Verstappen.

Sergio Perez was fourth for Red Bull just 0.008 behind Hamilton, while Yuki Tsunoda made an impressive start to the weekend with fifth place for AlphaTauri. The Japanese driver continued his good form of recent weekends by beating team-mate Pierre Gasly by almost half a second.

The French driver finished the session in seventh place, behind Alpine’s Fernando Alonso. Charles Leclerc finished eighth for Ferrari ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz and the top 10 was rounded out by Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel.

Elsewhere, Jack Aitken made his first practice session appearance of the season deputising for George Russell. Aitken finished 17th, six thousandths of a second clear of Nicholas Latifi.

01 Max Verstappen Red Bull Honda RB16B 1:25.009 23
02 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes W12 1:25.205 27
03 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W12 1:25.355 25
04 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Honda RB16B 1:25.363 24
05 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda AT02 1:25.378 23
06 Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault A521 1:25.625 26
07 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri Honda AT02 1:25.822 28
08 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF21 1:25.846 20
09 Carlos Sainz Ferrari SF21 1:25.886 26
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Mercedes AMR21 1:26.007 26
11 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault A521 1:26.025 25
12 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes MCL35M 1:26.123 26
13 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Ferrari C41 1:26.189 25
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Ferrari C41 1:26.409 25
15 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes AMR21 1:26.608 26
16 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Mercedes MCL35M 1:26.676 29
17 Jack Aitken Williams Mercedes FW43B 1:27.481 27
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes FW43B 1:27.487 27
19 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari VF-21 1:27.698 24
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas Ferrari VF-21 1:28.305 22

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