Max Verstappen had the early edge over Lewis Hamilton on Formula 1’s most dramatic race weekend in living memory, as he topped first practice for the season-ending, title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the heavily revised Yas Marina Circuit.
Verstappen clocked a 1m25.009s on the soft tyres, two tenths clear of Valtteri Bottas, with Hamilton – whom he is level on points with in the fight for the title – 0.346s off the pace in third, a fraction ahead of Sergio Perez, as the top two teams in the constructors’ championship locked out the top four.
Teams didn’t wait very long before sending their respective cars out, with drivers keen to explore the new-look Abu Dhabi track that is set to be around 10-15 seconds faster according to simulations, following the removal of several slower turns.
Verstappen’s leading in time in FP1, which will get beaten as the weekend goes, was around 12 seconds quicker than he managed when he topped the same session last year.
FORMULA 1 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX 2021
Practice 1 results
|1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing||1:25.009|
|2 Valtteri BOTTAS Mercedes||+0.196s|
|3 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes||+0.346s|
|4 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing||+0.354s|
|5 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri||+0.369s|
Yuki Tsunoda was a sensational fifth with his AlphaTauri team mate Pierre Gasly seventh, the pair separated by the Alpine of Fernando Alonso. Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were eighth and ninth respectively as Sebastian Vettel closed out the top 10.
Esteban Ocon – who was one of a number of drivers who got very close to the barriers – was a second off the pace in 11th, with Lando Norris the leading McLaren in 12th.
Kimi Raikkonen, competing on his final weekend in Formula 1, was 13th – a couple of tenths of a second ahead of Alfa Romeo team mate Antonio Giovinazzi with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll 15th.
The second McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo was down in 16th, with Jack Aitken – who was borrowing George Russell’s car for FP1 – quicker than Williams team mate Nicholas Latifi. The Haas pairing of Mick Schumacher Nikita Mazepin rounded out the field.