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Hamilton airs engine concern as Verstappen sets early Qatar pace

Hamilton airs engine concern as Verstappen sets early Qatar pace

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Hamilton airs engine concern as Verstappen sets early Qatar pace

Hamilton airs engine concern as Verstappen sets early Qatar pace

Max Verstappen set the early pace ahead of this weekend's inaugural Qatar Grand Prix in a session in which Lewis Hamilton experienced double trouble.

Around the Losail International Circuit, situated 30 minutes north of Qatari capital Doha, F1 championship leader Verstappen posted a time of one minute 23.723secs, finishing just over four-tenths-of-a-second clear of AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly.

Hamilton was fourth on the timesheet, 0.786s adrift of Red Bull rival Verstappen, and three-tenths down on third-quickest in Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, but it was an uncomfortable first practice for the seven-time champion.

Just 10 minutes into the session Hamilton delivered an alarming report, declaring "I feel massively down on power".

Hamilton is known to be down to his last two power units from the pool - one of which was recently introduced in Turkey, and the other at the last race in Brazil.

Mercedes opted not to declare which of the two units was potentially at fault, although Toto Wolff did recently state the most powerful system - ie the latest - would likely be reserved for the last two races.

With 10 minutes remaining, Hamilton was told to box and then "We may have a car issue", which swiftly materialised as damage to the front wing after running hard over turn 14 and a few minutes delay to conduct repairs.

The circuit has become renowned over the years since it was opened in 2004 as a bike track, providing a challenge for two wheels but fast and flowing for four, with numerous medium-to-high-speed corners.

FP1 was about getting a feel for the track, in particular given its dusty nature due to it being in a desert area and with track and air temperatures far from representative given qualifying and the race will be under the lights and in cooler conditions.

For this session, an air temperature of 28 degrees provided a track temperature of 40, while the FIA also allowed the drivers to 'get on with it' without taking a stringent view on the five areas of track limits that may cause an issue over the weekend.

Given Gasly's performance, team-mate Yuki Tsunoda suggested AlphaTauri had the early measure of the circuit by finishing just under a second down in fifth, followed by Ferrari pair Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.

Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Perez, along with Alpine's Esteban Ocon and Lando Norris in his McLaren completed the top 10, the latter 1.492s down. Ocon and Norris were on the medium tyres, with the top eight above them all on softs.

Norris, however, did endure a short spell in the garage due to a sensor issue on his MCL35M, leading to seven or eight laps less on track compared to his rivals.

In the lower half of the audio, Daniel Ricciardo was 11th quickest, less than a tenth of a second behind team-mate Norris, with Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel 0.037s back.

The four-time champion's team-mate Lance Stroll suffered a hydraulics issue on his brakes, leaving him down in 19th, with just 11 laps to his name and nearly three seconds behind Verstappen.

Haas driver Nikita Mazepin brought up the rear, 3.777s adrift.

Qatar Grand Prix first practice times

1. Max Verstappen [Red Bull] 1:23.723

2. Pierre Gasly [AlphaTauri] + 0.437

3. Valtteri Bottas [Mercedes] +0.471

4. Lewis Hamilton [Mercedes] + 0.786

5. Yuki Tsunoda [AlphaTauri] +0.925

6. Carlos Sainz [Ferrari] +0.990

7. Charles Leclerc [Ferrari] +1.067

8. Sergio Perez [Red Bull] +1.192

9. Esteban Ocon [Alpine] +1.249

10. Lando Norris [McLaren] +1.492

11. Daniel Ricciardo [McLaren] +1.568

12. Sebastian Vettel [Aston Martin] +1.605

13. Nicholas Latifi [Williams] +1.965

14. Antonio Giovinazzi [Alfa Romeo] +2.034

15. Kimi Raikkonen [Alfa Romeo] +2.105

16. George Russell [Williams] +2.148

17. Fernando Alonso [Alpine] +2.182

18. Mick Schumacher [Haas] +2.976

19. Lance Stroll [Aston Martin] +2.989

20. Nikita Mazepin [Haas] +3.777

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