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Hamilton returns as Verstappen leads the way early on in Abu Dhabi

Hamilton returns as Verstappen leads the way early on in Abu Dhabi



Hamilton returns as Verstappen leads the way early on in Abu Dhabi

Hamilton returns as Verstappen leads the way early on in Abu Dhabi

Lewis Hamilton shook off the effects of his recent self-isolation from Covid-19 with a straightforward run-out in a first practice session for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that was topped by Max Verstappen.

Hamilton, who only flew into the UAE on Thursday afternoon after returning negative results on numerous Covid tests since contracting the virus 11 days previously while in Bahrain, completed 24 laps in the cockpit of his Mercedes W11.

There was an early issue with the brakes for Hamilton and Mercedes to contend with, notably the front-left that locked on occasion, although it was resolved after around 20 minutes.

The seven-time F1 champion finished fifth quickest with a time of one minute 38.744 seconds, albeit set on the hard tyre compared to the four drivers ahead of him whose best laps were all posted on the soft compound.

Verstappen led the way with a lap of 1:37.378s, just 0.034s ahead of Valtteri Bottas in his Mercedes, with third-quickest Esteban Ocon in his Renault a full second adrift.

Alex Albon, in a pivotal weekend for his career, as his future remains unclear, was fourth quickest, 1.169s down on team-mate Verstappen, and suffering a spin along the way which saw him flat-spot a set of soft tyres that will not have helped his cause.

Behind Hamilton was Racing Point's Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez, with the latter to start from the back of the grid on Sunday due to power unit penalties.

Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly were eighth and ninth on the timesheet, both on the medium tyre, separated by a mere 0.010s, with Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen completing the top 10, with the Finn 1.821s behind Verstappen.

McLaren duo Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, who complained of "oversteering through every single corner" in his McLaren midway through the session, sandwiched Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who was on the hard tyre.

Sebastian Vettel, in his final weekend with the Scuderia, was a lowly 14th, 2.292s back on the medium compound, followed by Robert Kubica, the Pole enjoying an FP1 session ahead of regular race driver Antonio Giovinazzi.

George Russell, on his return to Williams after his stunning debut weekend in the Sakhir Grand Prix in replacing Hamilton, was down in 16th ahead of team-mate Nicholas Latifi.

Mick Schumacher, on his first FP1 outing in place of Kevin Magnussen at Haas, was 3.857s down, with team-mate Pietro Fittipaldi a further three seconds back.

Without a time to his name, Daniel Ricciardo propped up the standings as his Renault sustained a fuel-pressure problem on his fourth installation lap.

Renault confirmed the Australian's R.S.20 was using a Friday engine that was due to be changed on Friday night ahead of running on Saturday, ensuring there will be no penalty.


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