Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Max Verstappen was fastest in the final FP1 of the season ahead of the Mercedes cars of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.
Cars were out as soon as the first practice session went live as the drivers got their first taste of the altered, faster layout of the Yas Marina Circuit. Charles Leclerc was first with an aero rig on the back of his Ferrari for the opening lap, the Monegasque was also sporting an in-helmet camera which gave a great view of him fighting for track position with Max Verstappen.
(FP1) First Practice Results – 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
The soft tyres were the compound of choice for the session and the top of the timesheet was, primarily, occupied by Verstappen and Hamilton with a brief cameo by Fernando Alonso before fifteen minutes had passed.
As the session started Verstappen was on the radio to Red Bull to say that his steering wheel was not aligned correctly and was “badly right hand down”. Twenty minutes later the Dutchman was top of the times with a 1:25.300, over two and a half tenths ahead of Hamilton, but the issue was “getting really annoying to drive” and that it needed to be rectified when he returned to the garage.
The first and only yellow flag of the practice was shown just after the half-way point of the practice when Kimi Raikkonen, in his final race before retirement, spun onto the run-off at T9, but was able to recover and continue in his Alfa Romeo.
With twenty minutes to go, Verstappen was top of the times with a 1:25.009, Hamilton did get within a few hundredths but had his 1:25.042 deleted for running outside the track limits at T16 while setting it. That time would have seen the British driver end P2, but the deletion meant that he finished P3, 0.346 seconds behind the Red Bull, while Bottas was P2 with a 1:25.205.
Fourth was Sergio Perez, just less than a hundredth behind Hamilton while Yuki Tsunoda was the best of the AlphaTauri drivers in P5. Alonso ended the session P6 for Alpine, 0.616 seconds off the leading Red Bull, while Pierre Gasly was a further two tenths behind in the second AlphaTauri.
The two Ferraris were P8 and P9, Leclerc ended with a 1:25.846, five hundredths ahead of his teammate Carlos Sainz. The final spot in the top ten went to Sebastian Vettel, a 1:26.007 saw him the last to set a time within a second of Verstappen. The Aston Martin driver ended his session with a bit of a spin after getting on the kerbs but other than slightly smoking tyres, was fine.
Williams reserve driver, Jack Aitken, was in George Russell’s car for the session and finished P17 with a 1:27.481, 0.006 seconds ahead of Nicholas Latifi in the other Williams car.