DOHA (SID) – Max Verstappen has found his way to the Formula 1 premiere in Qatar the best of it all. In his first free practice session at Losail, the Red Bull driver set the fastest lap to date and distant world champion Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes by more than seven tenths of a second.
In 1:23.723, Verstappen was almost half a second ahead of Frenchman Pierre Gasly, who surprisingly came second in the AlphaTauri. Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas trailed him for third, while Hamilton finished fourth. The world champion is 14 points behind Verstappen in the third final race of the season on Sunday (3pm CET/sky).
Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel finished the opening practice 12th, and Mick Schumacher finished 18th in Haas. These drills took place in the early afternoon, so the warm conditions weren’t particularly meaningful: qualifying and the race after dark. Under the spotlights.
Formula 1 is visiting Qatar for the first time at this weekend’s race. The track, which was originally designed for motorcycles, was added to the calendar for Australia in no time. At least some drivers had the opportunity to get acquainted with it beforehand in the simulator, and for others – like Schumacher – it is completely new.
Qatar was also awarded a first class long-term contract. After the FIFA World Cup in 2022, the racing series will come to the emirate for an initial ten-year period from 2023. Like FIFA, Formula 1 has also been criticized for doing business with Qatar despite the critical human rights situation in country.
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