Abu Dhabi, FP1: Verstappen quickest as Hamilton returns for Mercedes

Bottas 2nd, Ocon 3rd


By Olivier Ferret

11 December 2020 - 11:37
Abu Dhabi, FP1: Verstappen quickest (...)

Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen set the fastest lap of the opening practice for the final round of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as Lewis Hamilton finished fifth on the timesheet as he returned to the cockpit for Mercedes following his recovery from COVID-19.

Hamilton completed his 10-day quarantine in Bahrain and after returning a number of negative tests was free to travel to Abu Dhabi following confirmation from the authorities that he could do so. Mercedes confirmed he returned a further negative test on arrival and thus he is eligible to compete this weekend.

However, despite the champion’s return, it was Verstappen who led the way in the daytime session at Yas Marina Circuit, with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas second and last weekend’s first-time podium finisher Esteban Ocon of Renault third.

Bottas set early pace on soft compound Pirellis but when Verstappen eventually bolted on the red-banded compound after avoiding them early on he took top spot with around half an hour left in the session.

The Red Bull driver logged a best time of 1:37.378s to edge Bottas by just 0.034 seconds. Ocon who finished second at the Bahrain International Circuit last weekend continued his recent run of good form with a time 1.1 seconds off Verstappen’s time.

It was a less successful outing for the Frenchman’s team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, however. The Australian, who is making his final appearance for Renault before a switch to McLaren in 2021, suffered a fuel pressure problem early on and completed just four laps.

Second Red Bull driver Alex Albon took fourth place on the timesheet but he ended the session 1.169s behind team-mate Verstappen. The Thai driver also suffered a spin Turns 12/13 in an otherwise error-free session.

Hamilton took fifth spot with his best time coming on hard compound tyres. In all, he completed 20 laps on his return to duty for Mercedes.

Racing Point drivers Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez finished sixth and seventh respectively ahead of the AlphaTauri pair of Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly, while Kimi Raikkonen completed the top 10 for Alfa Romeo.

Elsewhere, Mick Schumacher made his grand prix weekend debut with his 2021 team Haas. The FIA Formula 2 champion finished 18th with a best of 1:41.235, which put him almost 3 second clear of team-mate Pietro Fittipaldi who is again standing in for the injured Romain Grosjean this weekend.

01 Max Verstappen Red Bull Honda RB16 1:37.378 26
02 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes W11 1:37.412 32
03 Esteban Ocon Renault RS20 1:38.515 34
04 Alex Albon Red Bull Honda RB16 1:38.547 25
05 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W11 1:38.744 24
06 Lance Stroll Racing Point Mercedes RP20 1:38.831 25
07 Sergio Perez Racing Point Mercedes RP20 1:38.956 25
08 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri Honda AT01 1:39.150 27
09 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri Honda AT01 1:39.160 30
10 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Ferrari C39 1:39.199 22
11 Carlos Sainz McLaren Renault MCL35 1:39.330 27
12 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF1000 1:39.344 25
13 Lando Norris McLaren Renault MCL35 1:39.352 28
14 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari SF1000 1:39.670 19
15 Robert Kubica Alfa Romeo Ferrari C39 1:39.905 19
16 George Russell Williams Mercedes FW43 1:40.446 24
17 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes FW43 1:41.063 27
18 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari VF-20 1:41.235 23
19 Pietro Fittipaldi Haas Ferrari VF-20 1:44.069 24
20 Daniel Ricciardo Renault RS20 -:—.--- 3

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