Motor racing: Verstappen leads Red Bull one-two in final Abu Dhabi GP practice, Mercedes way back

Motor racing: Verstappen leads Red Bull one-two in final Abu Dhabi GP practice, Mercedes way back

(REUTERS) – Max Verstappen led Alexander Albon in a Red Bull one-two in the final practice session of the Formula One season at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday (Dec 12), as dominant Mercedes found themselves in unfamiliar territory.

The Dutchman lapped the Yas Marina track in 1min 36.251sec, 0.501 of a second clear of his British-born Thai teammate.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo was third for Renault with his French teammate Esteban Ocon in fourth.

World champion Lewis Hamilton, back in action after missing last week’s Sakhir Grand Prix due to Covid-19, was the lead Mercedes in sixth spot, 0.761sec slower than Verstappen.

Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas, who had set the fastest time on Friday, was ninth.

Mercedes, running a special livery with the names of about 2,000 team personnel on their cars, have taken pole in Abu Dhabi every year since 2014. They have started every race but one this season from the front of the grid.

Hamilton indicated on Friday that the Brackley-based team, who this year wrapped up a record seventh straight title double, could use Saturday’s hour-long session to run their cars on higher fuel loads, suggesting normal order could be restored come qualifying.

Lando Norris was fifth for McLaren ahead of Hamilton, who has wrapped up a record-equalling seventh title.

Lance Stroll was seventh for Racing Point ahead of Carlos Sainz in the other McLaren.

Sergio Perez, winner in Sakhir last week who is set to start Sunday’s race from the back of the grid no thanks to engine-related penalties, rounded out the top 10 for Racing Point.

George Russell, who stood in for Hamilton in Sakhir and nearly won the race, was 15th on his Williams return behind Sebastian Vettel, who took part in his final practice session for Ferrari before his move to Aston Martin, who will be commercially rebranded from Racing Point.