Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fastest in first practice ahead of the final race of the season, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Dutchman was three hundredths faster than the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas with the Renault of Esteban Ocon third.
Like in Bahrain this session wasn’t the most reprehensive session as this is a twilight race, which saw many of the teams use the opening session as a test session for next year. Mercedes are still expected to be the team to beat having dominated this race since 2014.
Verstappen’s fastest lap was also set on the soft tyre while the Mercedes set their fastest times on the slowest compound of tyres, that left Lewis Hamilton only fifth fastest over a second off the pace. Ocon showed that Renault has pace this weekend at this stage, four-tenths ahead of there main rivals Racing Point.
Alex Albon was fourth fastest, but the British-Thai driver was over a second behind teammate Verstappen. Albon needs a strong weekend if he is to secure his future with Red Bull, he set his fastest time on the soft tyre, which should have put him closer to Verstappen.
It was a largely uneventful session, although Albon had a spin at the chicane of Turns 11 and 12, and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo failed to set a lap time after stopping on track with a fuel-pressure problem.
Lewis Hamilton was fifth on his return to Mercedes following his recovery from Coronavirus, saw him manage twenty laps and him over a second off the pace. However, the seven-times champion lost some time on track with a braking issue, which was quickly resolved.
The problem was his front brakes appeared to stay on during his first lap back on track, resulting in temperatures going too high and a call from the pit wall to return to the garage.
Racing Points Lance Stroll was sixth fastest going a tenth quicker than his teammate Sergio Perez. However the Mexican knows he will be starting from the back of the grid because of an engine change, he will be joined by Kevin Magnussen who was replaced by Mick Schumacher for the session.
Schumacher could only go eighteenth on his first outing but was over two and a half seconds faster than Pietro Fittipaldi. Daniil Kvyat was eighth going a hundredth faster than his teammate Pierre Gasly, while Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top ten.
Carlos Sainz was eleventh going almost a hundredth faster than his new teammate for next year Charles Leclerc, the Spaniard current teammate Lando Norris was thirteenth. Ferrari appeared to focus their efforts on next year car, with a new floor on the car.
Sebastian Vettel was fourteenth starting his final weekend with Ferrari. The four-times champion was two seconds off the pace and had several laps deleted for track limits.
Robert Kubica stood in for Antonio Giovinazzi at Alfa Romeo as part of his programme for the team, finishing fifteenth as he got in some more laps ahead of next week’s test day. Kubica was eight tenths behind Raikkonen.
George Russell was sixteenth on his return to Williams, but the Englishman remained six tenths ahead of teammate Nicholas Latifi. Schumacher was eighteenth on his debut for Haas, the German going over two and half seconds ahead of Pietro Fittipaldi.