Verstappen fastest in first Abu Dhabi GP practice
Red Bull's Max Verstappen set the early pace before his Formula One title showdown with Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton by going fastest in Friday's opening practice for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Dutchman lapped the revised 5.2km Yas Marina track in 1:25.009 seconds — 0.196 seconds quicker than the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas with Hamilton third.
Hamilton initially set a lap less than half-a-tenth slower than Verstappen's benchmark and the pair looked set to end the first hour of practice neck and neck.
But that time was deleted as the Briton was found to have exceeded track limits, with the 36-year-old's next best effort — 0.346 seconds adrift of Verstappen — counting as his fastest of the session.
Verstappen and Hamilton head into Sunday's race, a winner-takes all showdown, level on points with the Dutchman ahead 9-8 on wins.
Sunday evening could see either Verstappen celebrating a maiden title or Hamilton winning an unprecedented eighth.
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