MADRID, 18 Nov. (EUROPA PRESS) -
The British driver Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) was the fastest in the first Free Practice session of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the last of the season and on the Yas Marina track, ahead of his teammate, George Russell, in a session that served as a rehearsal for the battle that Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) and Sergio Pérez (Red Bull) will wage this weekend for the runner-up.
With a time of 1:26.633, the seven-time world champion wanted to steal the lead from Leclerc and Pérez, who took turns at the top of the time sheet for most of the session. Russell did not miss the 'party' and accompanied the Stevenage man in second place, two tenths behind (1:26.853), to also be the judge of that fight until the end between Ferrari and Red Bull. Thus, Hamilton, Russell, Leclerc and Pérez ended up separated by only three tenths.
Although the most significant aspect of this first contact with Yas Marina was the changes of drivers to which the teams are obliged. Up to eight changes in seats, which caused the Spanish Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) and Fernando Alonso (Alpine) not to get into their cars. Thus, Jack Doohan replaced the Asturian; Robert Shwartzman, from Madrid; Liam Lawson, to Max Verstappen (Red Bull); Felipe Drugovich, to Lance Stroll (Aston Martin); Patricio O'Ward, to Lando Norris (McLaren); Robert Kubica, to Guanyu Zhou at (Alfa Romeo); Pietro Fittipaldi, to Mick Schumacher (Haas); and Logan Sargeant, to Nicholas Latifi (Williams).
The session began with an incident involving Mexican O'Ward, who postponed his start at Yas Marina for a few minutes due to problems with his car. Leclerc started at the top with a time of 1:28.724. But his 'leadership' did not last long, because 'Checo' Pérez lowered the clock by six tenths after the first ten minutes. There began the duel between the two protagonists of the weekend, with the runner-up at stake, in what could be a rehearsal for Saturday and Sunday.
Halfway through the session, Sargeant crashed when he spun into the first corner, bringing out a yellow flag, although without serious damage to his car. After the first 30 minutes, Albon took first, going down from 1:28, already on soft, and with Esteban Ocon also in the top positions, third, just 51 thousandths behind Williams.
Mercedes, one of only two teams with its two starting drivers on the track, started behind, but with the track hot and already on softer tyres, their performance improved. This allowed Hamilton to surpass by two tenths the 1:26.888 completed by a fast Leclerc to take first. Russell followed in the footsteps of his teammate and placed second, repeating the Brazil double, albeit with swapped positions.
There were no more significant changes in the times in the last five minutes, with Leclerc third and 'Checo', fourth (1:26.967). The Mexican's teammate Lawson was the fastest rookie in fifth, with Vettel, Shwartzman, Bottas, Albon and Gasly completing the Top 10.