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Hamilton pole favourite as Verstappen suffers more rear-wing woe

Hamilton pole favourite as Verstappen suffers more rear-wing woe

Hamilton pole favourite as Verstappen suffers more rear-wing woe

Hamilton pole favourite as Verstappen suffers more rear-wing woe

Lewis Hamilton heads into qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as clear favourite to take pole position as F1 title rival Max Verstappen suffered more rear-wng issues.

Hamilton set the fastest time of practice so far around the revised Yas Marina Circuit with a lap of one minute 23.274secs to finish 0.214s clear of Verstappen, with the rest of the field nowhere in comparison.

Verstappen, who has faced numerous problems in recent races with the rear wing, required a change again midway through the final session due to what team boss Christian Horner said was a 'reliability issue'.

Chief technical officer Adrian Newey was seen to be looking at the DRS actuator before the switch was made, with the new component of the same spec at least allowing Verstappen to finish just over two-tenths of a second adrift of Hamilton.

The conditions were not fully representative, though, with the 27-degree heat of the day and 38-degree track temperature due to be lower later given the slightly cooler twilight climes for both qualifying and the race around the modified layout.

The circuit has been reprofiled since last year's visit due to the constant complaints about its sterile nature, with a fast hairpin now leading onto the long back straight, a 'parabloica-esque' sweep replacing four 90-degree corners, while through the hotel complex and the penultimate corner, the radius of the turns have been opened up.

At this stage, Mercedes appear to have managed to get to grips with the changes more comfortably compared to Red Bull.

Through the session, after initially setting the pace on a set of mediums, Verstappen was soon usurped by Hamilton on the soft compound with a lap of 1:24.241s, five-tenths faster at that point.

After being toppled by Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas shortly after, at the halfway point of the session, seven-time champion Hamilton then delivered his defining lap of 1:23.274s.

It was not all smooth sailing for Hamilton, though, as on his next flying lap, despite setting the fastest first sector, he was untidy through the middle before running off track on his approach to run underneath the hotel.

There was also another brush with Haas driver Nikita Mazepin. Hamilton was given a reprimand for impeding the Russian in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Hamilton knows another this weekend will see him be given a 10-place grid penalty for the race.

On this occasion, after exiting the pits, Hamilton pulled off the track to his left to allow Mazepin by, but with the invitation not accepted, as the Briton set off to return to the circuit, the 22-year-old was forced to run off track himself.

Bottas was third quickest but three-quarters of a second behind Hamilton, with Red Bull's second driver Sergio Perez just 0.022s behind the Finn.

McLaren finally showed some form as Lando Norris was fifth on the timesheet, 0.832s back, followed by AlphaTauri duo Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly.

Ferrari pair Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc then sandwiched McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo to complete the top, with the latter duo just under 1.5s down.

For the third successive session, Mazepin brought up the rear, three seconds behind Hamilton and a remarkable second behind team-mate Mick Schumacher.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix final practice results

1. Lewis Hamilton [Mercedes] 1:23.274

2. Max Verstappen [Red Bull] +0.213

3. Valtteri Bottas [Mercedes] +0.751s

4. Sergio Perez [Red Bull] +0.773

5. Lando Norris [McLaren] +0.832

6. Yuki Tsunoda [AlphaTauri] +0.949

7. Pierre Gasly [AlphaTauri] +0.977

8. Carlos Sainz [Ferrari] +1.321

9. Daniel Ricciardo [McLaren] +1.459

10. Charles Leclerc [Ferrari] +1.484

11. Lance Stroll [Aston Martin] +1.547

12. Esteban Ocon [Alpine] +1.560

13. Kimi Raikkonen [Alfa Romeo] +1.763

14. Antonio Giovinazzi [Alfa Romeo] +1.774

15. Fernando Alonso [Alpine] +1.820

16. Sebastian Vettel [Aston Martin] +1.841

17. George Russell [Williams] +1.946

18. Nicholas Latifi [Williams] +2.048

19. Mick Schumacher [Haas] +2.066

20. Nikita Mazepin [Haas] +3.058

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