With Louis Hamilton returning to Mercedes, Max Verstappen set a very quick time in the opening training session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Hamilton Zakir missed the Grand Prix after a positive test for COVID-19 in Bahrain, but returned to Abu Dhabi after a series of negative tests, setting a fifth pace in practice since Friday.
Verstappen’s best time, 1: 37.378, was 0.034 seconds faster than Hamilton’s Mercedes team’s Voltaire Botas, as Red Bull hopes to take the fight to world champions for the last time in 2020.
Stephen O’Connor was ahead of Renault in third speed, 1.1 seconds behind Verstappen and 0.032 seconds ahead of Alex Alban’s second Red Bull.
Hamilton was at 1.3 seconds in speed, but set his time on the hard compound tires while the first four individuals set their times smooth. He also lost 20 minutes of track time at the beginning of the session as his front brakes continued to appear on his first lap back on track, resulting in a rise in temperature and a call to return to the garage from the pit wall.
Racing Point finished sixth and seventh, behind Zakir Grand Prix race winner Sergio Perez’s teammate Lance Stroll. However, the new power unit components fitted to Perez’s car this weekend, he will start from the back of the stage on Saturday regardless of where he qualifies.
Perez will be attached to the back of the grid, he will be fined the grid by Kevin Magnussen, and will see his car driven by 2021 come driver Mick Schumacher in practice.
Schumacher was confirmed as the Haas driver next week, finishing his first full F1 training session on the 18th, with 2.8s clear about the Pietro Fitness that will continue to fill in for Romain Crosszine this weekend.
Robert Cubica arrived at a training session at the Alfa Romeo in the car of Antonio Giovinci as part of his reserve driver role and set the 15th fastest time.
Daniel Ricciardo finished the session at the bottom of the timesheets after the loss of fuel pressure, and three times later he found himself stopped on the track.
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