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Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen react to a mixed Friday at the Abu Dhabi GP as title-deciding weekend begins; Verstappen topped P1 before Hamilton dominated P2; Watch Decider in the Desert all live on Sky Sports this weekend, with qualifying at 1pm on Saturday

Last Updated: 10/12/21 9:33pm

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Sky F1’s Karun Chandhok analyses Lewis Hamilton’s and Max Verstappen’s fastest laps in second practice ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Sky F1’s Karun Chandhok analyses Lewis Hamilton’s and Max Verstappen’s fastest laps in second practice ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton topped one practice session apiece on the opening day of their title showdown at the Abu Dhabi GP, with the latter expecting another “super close” duel despite Mercedes’ apparent single-lap advantage in the second session.

The Mercedes driver finished an unusually large six tenths of a second faster than fourth-placed Red Bull rival, who acknowledged that their short runs in the floodlit even session “didn’t go to plan” and they were “lacking a bit of pace”.

But Verstappen was more competitive in the later heavier-fuel longer runs during simulations of Sunday’s race stints.

Reflecting on his first day’s work at the Decider in the Desert, Hamilton said: “It was OK; it has been a relatively decent day.

“I like the changes they have made to this track. It has made the track much more enjoyable and much more flowing.

Hamilton was satisfied with the performance of his Mercedes in the first two practice sessions ahead of the Abu Dhabi GP

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Hamilton was satisfied with the performance of his Mercedes in the first two practice sessions ahead of the Abu Dhabi GP

Hamilton was satisfied with the performance of his Mercedes in the first two practice sessions ahead of the Abu Dhabi GP

“Obviously close between us all but we’ve got through our sessions. Still a bit unknown in terms of pace but I’m sure it’s going to be super close like it has been in the previous races.”

Verstappen had topped the opening session in Abu Dhabi’s warmer daytime conditions.

“We are still learning and understanding a few things,” said the Dutchman, last year’s Abu Dhabi race winner.

“Of course the short run didn’t go to plan, lacking a bit of pace, but the long runs were quite a bit more competitive so that’s also important.”

Verstappen says he's happy with the changes that have been made to the Yas Marina circuit for this weekend's Abu Dhabi GP

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Verstappen says he’s happy with the changes that have been made to the Yas Marina circuit for this weekend’s Abu Dhabi GP

Verstappen says he’s happy with the changes that have been made to the Yas Marina circuit for this weekend’s Abu Dhabi GP

Hamilton also felt there were also improvements to make to his W12.

“It doesn’t feel too bad,” said the Mercedes driver. “It started off good and then got a bit worse in P1, then started off better in the second session with some changes we made.

“Now we’ve just got to crank through the data and try to figure out how we can improve, where we hone in, the target is always moving. But otherwise feel good.”

Who will be happier at the end of the opening day?

Hamilton and Verstappen's thrilling championship battle finishes with a winner-takes-all Abu Dhabi GP. Watch live on Sky Sports this weekend

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Hamilton and Verstappen’s thrilling championship battle finishes with a winner-takes-all Abu Dhabi GP. Watch live on Sky Sports this weekend

Hamilton and Verstappen’s thrilling championship battle finishes with a winner-takes-all Abu Dhabi GP. Watch live on Sky Sports this weekend

Sky F1’s Jenson Button:

“Lewis seems a lot more relaxed where the car is. When you see Max’s lap, he has a lot more understeer and every time you see Checo [Perez] get close to him in lap time on their qualy runs, it’s normally because the car is understeering.

“So Max has got to find something that works for him; he doesn’t like an understeering car, he likes the car to be a little bit more on the nose and he’s very, very good at working with a car that’s quite pointy, whereas most drivers can’t.

“So that’s his strength and he can’t use that strength with the balance they have. So they’ll be hoping he can find a set-up and I’m sure they can.”



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