Motorcycle racing-Hamilton against Verstappen in opening match in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia Grand Prix
Formula One F1- Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – December 2, 2021 Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes during Hassan Ammar/Pool press conference via REUTERS

December 3, 2021

(CNN) – Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton drew his first blood as he overcame Formula One rival Max Verstappen to finish fastest in the opening practice session of the Arab Grand Prix. Saudi Arabia opens.

The Briton crossed the 6.1-kilometer lap in one minute 29,786 seconds in his Mercedes, edging out Verstappen by just 0.056 seconds.

Valtteri Bottas of Finland finished third in the other Mercedes, two tenths of a second behind his teammate’s speed.

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is ​​the first of only two races left on this year’s Formula One calendar, with a generational battle between 36-year-old Hamilton and 24-year-old Verstappen coming to the end. end.

Verstappen leads Hamilton by eight points in the overall standings and has the first shot to complete the first title with an idle race this weekend.

Hamilton, who only needs to finish fifth to keep fit for his final battle in Abu Dhabi next week, is trying for a third straight win to force his way through the final race in his quest for the title. unprecedented eighth world champion.

Verstappen, quickly out of the areas, set an early pace as drivers caught up with the incredible flat outbursts of the Jeddah track.

Hamilton, whom Mercedes expected to have the upper hand in terms of the lap’s high-speed layout, dialed himself gradually, rising to the top of the timesheet with 15 minutes of an hour-long session to run.

The Dutch player responded with a late kick with a soft tire but could not usurp Hamilton’s throne.

Behind the top three, French tennis player Pierre Gasly is fourth for AlphaTauri. Antonio Giovinazzi, making room for Alfa Romeo for Chinese rookie Guyanyu Zhou next season, is fifth.

Carlos Sainz led Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc in sixth, with McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and former champions Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel completing the top 10 for Alpine and Aston Martin respectively.

The Jeddah track, which runs along the Red Sea, is expected to be the second fastest on the calendar, just behind Italy’s “Temple of Speed”, Monza.

Encircled by walls, drivers and crews feared lengthy stops in the event of any problems.

However, despite drivers exploring its limits, Friday’s open was nothing short of steady.

The track also received much praise, as well as the efforts of the organizers to complete it in time.

Teams also carried tributes to Sir Frank Williams in their cars, team co-founder Williams, who passed away on Sunday. The lineup, among the sport’s most successful kits, went on sale last year but continues to race under the Williams name.

(Story corrected to change slug and read third consecutive win in sixth paragraph)

(Reporting by Abhishek Takle; editing by David Evans and Rohith Nair) Motorcycle racing-Hamilton against Verstappen in opening match in Saudi Arabia

Huynh Nguyen

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