Verstappen edges Bottas in Abu Dhabi practice as Hamilton makes return
George Russell, who nearly won on his Mercedes debut last weekend, was 16th fastest in his Williams
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen pipped Valtteri Bottas to top the time sheets in Friday’s opening Formula One practice session for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton made a quiet return to action.
The Dutchman set a time of one minute, 37.378 seconds around the Yas Marina circuit to go 0.034 seconds quicker than Bottas with Hamilton 1.3 seconds slower in fifth.
The 35-year-old Hamilton, who missed last week’s Sakhir Grand Prix after testing positive for Covid-19, suffered brake problems that sent him back to the garage just three laps after he hit the track. The Briton was back out with half the 90-minute session still to run.
Yet Hamilton, who has already wrapped up a record-equalling seventh world title, set his best time on the slowest hard tyres compared to the quickest softs used by Verstappen and Bottas.
Frenchman Esteban Ocon, fresh from having secured his maiden Formula One podium last week in Sakhir, was third for Renault.
Red Bull’s Alexander Albon, who spun on what would have been his quickest lap, was fourth.
Lance Stroll was sixth for Racing Point ahead of team mate Sergio Perez.
The Mexican, who celebrated an emotional first Formula One win last week, is carrying power unit-related penalties and is set to start Sunday’s race from the back of the grid.
Daniil Kvyat was eighth for AlphaTauri ahead of team mate Pierre Gasly.
Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top-10 for Alfa Romeo.
The Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel were 12th and 14th respectively.
Mick Schumacher, son of seven-times champion Michael, made his grand prix weekend debut, taking over Kevin Magnussen’s Haas. The 21-year-old German, who will make his race debut with the US-owned team next year, was 18th.
George Russell, who stood in for Hamilton in Sakhir and nearly won on his Mercedes debut, was back in his Williams. The Briton was 16th.
Daniel Ricciardo's Renault stopped on the track with a fuel pressure problem in an otherwise uneventful session, which teams largely used as a test to try out minor tweaks to the rules that are set to come in next year.