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Verstappen draws first blood in F1 title decider with Hamilton

Verstappen draws first blood in F1 title decider with Hamilton

F1 News

Verstappen draws first blood in F1 title decider with Hamilton

Verstappen draws first blood in F1 title decider with Hamilton

Max Verstappen drew first blood in his F1 title-deciding weekend with Lewis Hamilton around a revamped Abu Dhabi Grand Prix track.

Since last year's visit, and the constant complaints about its sterile nature and the lack of overtaking opportunities, the Yas Marina Circuit has undergone a major reprofiling.

What was once turn seven, that was approached by a slow chicane at turns five and six, has been replaced by a wide, fast hairpin that leads on to the long back straight.

The major change has seen the removal of four 90-degree corners, with a sweeping, 'parabolica-esque' corner in its place that also has a five per cent positive camber.

The final changes have been made around the hotel section, often criticised due to the slow nature of the corners.

The radius of the corners under the hotel, and the penultimate corner, have all been opened up to create a much faster and flowing section of track.

To appreciate the difference the changes have made, last year's leading FP1 time from Verstappen was a one minute 37.378s lap, meaning the circuit is now over 12 seconds faster as the Red Bull driver set the front-running pace again with a lap of 1:25.009s.

Hamilton, who is level on points with Verstappen following an epic, see-saw season, had to settle for third quickest, with Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas splitting the duo.

As the drivers quickly acclimatised to the track changes, it was Verstappen who set the initial benchmark time of 1:25.300s on the soft tyres.

Hamilton followed up soon after with the fastest first sector and a personal best in the middle section, but a slow final sector saw him finish 0.055s down.

Verstappen then set what proved to be the fastest lap of the hour-long session, and although Hamilton managed to close to just 0.033s down, the time was deleted for exceeding track limits in turn 16.

That left Hamilton 0.346s behind Verstappen, with Bottas sandwiching the pair, just under two-tenths of a second down, with Sergio Perez in close attendance to the seven-time F1 champion.

The AlphaTauris of Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly, who are ending the campaign strongly given the pace of their cars, were fifth and seventh quickest, with Alpine's Fernando Alonso splitting the pair.

Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, along with Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel, completed the top 10, with the latter just under a second behind Verstappen.

McLaren pair Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo were off the pace in 12th and 16th, the latter ahead of Jack Aitken, the young Briton being given an FP1 outing with Williams in place of the departing George Russell who will be joining Mercedes next season.

Aitken finished 2.472s behind Verstappen, and almost eight-tenths off Ricciardo.

At the rear, as to be expected, was Haas driver Nikita Mazepin, 3.296s down.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix first practice results

1. Max Verstappen [Red Bull] 1:25.009

2. Valtteri Bottas [Mercedes] +0.196

3. Lewis Hamilton [Mercedes] + 0.346

4. Sergio Perez [Red Bull Racing] +0.354

5. Yuki Tsunoda [AlphaTauri] +0.369

6. Fernando Alonso [Alpine] +0.616

7. Pierre Gasly [AlphaTauri] +0.813

8. Charles Leclerc [Ferrari] +0.837

9. Carlos Sainz [Ferrari] +0.877

10. Sebastian Vettel [Aston Martin] +0.998

11. Esteban Ocon [Alpine] +1.016

12. Lando Norris [McLaren] +1.114

13. Kimi Raikkonen [Alfa Romeo] +1.180

14. Antonio Giovinazzi [Alfa Romeo] +1.400

15. Lance Stroll [Aston Martin] +1.599

16. Daniel Ricciardo [McLaren] +1.667

17. Jack Aitken [Williams] +2.472

18. Nicholas Latifi [Williams] +2.478

19. Mick Schumacher [Haas] +2.689

20. Nikita Mazepin [Haas] +3.296

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