The afternoon session was thrown into chaos by a sandstorm that swept the circuit during the one-hour lunch break, with track conditions treacherous for the opening two hours that followed.
Once the racing line had cleaned up, lap times began to better those of the morning's running, with Verstappen asserting himself with a one minute 30.674secs on the medium-compound Pirelli tyres and completing a day-high 139 laps.
Mercedes was on the back foot following a gearbox issue for Valtteri Bottas in the morning session that limited the Finn to just six laps, but then Hamilton's session was far from simple.
The world champion requested a change of pedals after just seven laps of his own, before his second stint on the track was halted by a loose wing-mirror, whilst three offs late-on summed up his and Mercedes' day, with the seven-time champion 2.238s down.
McLaren had a strong first day, with Lando Norris bettering new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo's morning-best time en route to second quickest, just two-tenths-of-a-second shy of Verstappen.
Other standout performances came from Esteban Ocon for Alpine, who finished a quarter-of-a-second back from Norris with 129 laps under his belt, with his best lap on the soft tyres.
Antonio Giovinazzi also impressed for Alfa Romeo as he held a top-five spot for much of the session before being bumped down to sixth late on, with the Italian finishing 1.271s down.
Yuki Tsunoda came within five-tenths of a second of matching team-mate Pierre Gasly in an impressive first official outing in the AlphaTauri AT02. The duo ended up eighth and ninth of the 17 drivers who took part.
Carlos Sainz, meanwhile, brought himself up to speed in the Ferrari. After shrugging off a clumsy early spin, the Spaniard was fifth quckest after posting 57 laps.
Roy Nissany impressed for Williams, lapping consistently faster than both Haas drivers - Nikita Mazepin familiarising himself with the VF21 as Mick Schumacher had done in the morning.
Lance Stroll propped up the time-sheets for much of the afternoon after focusing on long-run simulations for Aston Martin, who missed just over 90 minutes of the second session with an electrical issue.
The Canadian, however, jumped to fourth in the final 20 minutes of the day on a set of test tyres.
Official test times - day one
1 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1m30.674s Medium
2 Lando Norris (McLaren) 1m30.889s Medium
3 Esteban Ocon (Alpine) 1m31.146s Soft
4 Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) 1m31.782s Test
5 Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 1m31.919s Medium
6 Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) 1m31.945s Medium
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