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Hamilton shines under Saudi lights as heavy Leclerc crash ends practice early

Hamilton shines under Saudi lights as heavy Leclerc crash ends practice early

Hamilton shines under Saudi lights as heavy Leclerc crash ends practice early

Hamilton shines under Saudi lights as heavy Leclerc crash ends practice early

Lewis Hamilton dazzled under the lights ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix but practice ended early following a heavy shunt from Charles Leclerc that destroyed his Ferrari.

Hamilton led the way with a time of one minute 29.018secs but with five minutes remaining Leclerc lost his SF21 out of turn 22 at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, slid across the track and smacked into a Tecpro barrier at around 150mph.

Unsurprisingly, a session that will have raised concerns for the drivers' safety given the closing speeds around this circuit did not resume.

The newest track to the F1 calendar has proudly dubbed itself 'the fastest street track in F1', and so it proved, with the average lap speed set to be around 157mph.

Once the drivers switched to the soft-tyre runs it became a question of managing the traffic, and at times there were some frightening on-board shots.

Notably, the cameras caught Hamilton on a flier in his Mercedes, sweeping through this high-speed track and coming across slow-moving cars who were building up for their laps, avoiding them by inches.

There is now a major worry ahead of qualifying, with turn 24 blind and likely there will be slow drivers through that corner waiting to set a hot lap, with others behind pushing for a time.

Given the circumstances that unfolded in this session, the drivers can expect to discuss the matter with FIA race director Michael Masi in the usual Friday evening drivers' briefing.

Masi has already made clear in his pre-race notes that in-laps and reconnaissance laps will be monitored, with a maximum time to be set now Friday practice has been concluded.

The opening practice session, topped by Hamilton with a time of 1:29.786s, was run in late afternoon sunshine, with conditions naturally different, although not markedly so.

Under the lights, the track temperature was just over 30 degrees centigrade, enough to aid with grip, yet the air temperature remains high in this part of the world in the evening, nudging 29 degrees.

As in FP1, Verstappen was the first driver to set the opening meaningful time, pipping Hamilton's afternoon mark by a few hundredths on the medium compound.

The championship-leading Dutch driver then improved considerably to a 1:29.290s only to be pushed out by Bottas soon after by two-tenths of a second.

Hamilton, though, was not to be outdone as he went on to edge his team-mate by 0.061s, with the Briton's lightning first sector the difference as Bottas was quickest in two and three.

Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen were then snared in traffic on the soft-tyre runs and failed to improve on their earlier times before the drivers then used the remainder of the session for long-run work back on the medium rubber.

AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly did disrupt the order, with a soft-tyre lap that saw him squeeze in between Bottas and Verstappen, finishing 0.081s behind Hamilton.

Leclerc then brought proceedings to a halt, with the Monégasque finishing 10th on the timesheet, 0.754s adrift of Hamilton.

Alpine's Fernando Alonso, fresh from his first podium for seven years at the last race in Qatar, produced another solid performance to finish fifth quickest, 0.423s down.

The two-time champion was followed by team-mate Esteban Ocon, Carlos Sainz in his Ferrari and the AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda, with Red Bull's Sergio Perez down in ninth and so far struggling to adapt to this circuit.

McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo was first of those in the lower half of the timesheet, with team-mate Lando Norris in close attendance just 0.036s down, with Haas driver Nikita Mazepin again bringing up the rear, 2.611s off the pace.


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