Max Verstappen on top in opening practice session

Max Verstappen topped the times ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in Friday’s opening practice ahead of this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Dutchman, who appeared certain to win the Brazilian race two weeks ago before colliding with Esteban Ocon’s Force India, clocked a best lap time in one minute and 38.491 seconds as the Red Bulls delivered their speed in the closing stages.

Verstappen was more than four-tenths of a second clear of Renault-bound Australian Ricciardo.

Valtteri Bottas was third ahead of his Mercedes team-mate new five-time champion Lewis Hamilton, the man who profited and triumphed in Brazil, but Bottas was a full second adrift of Verstappen’s lap.

Hamilton, who finished with engine troubles in Brazil, was granted permission to change his car number from 44 to 1 for this final race of the year and also wore a gold helmet.

Frenchman Ocon, who is unlikely to be in Formula One next season, was fifth ahead of Kevin Magnussen of Haas, Sauber-bound Kimi Raikkonen in his final race with Ferrari and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel in the second Ferrari.

Carlos Sainz of Renault and Romain Grosjean of Haas were ninth and 10th while two-time champion Fernando Alonso began his final weekend before retirement by winding up 19th for McLaren ahead of Robert Kubica, in his role as Williams’ reserve driver on Friday ahead of his switch to racing for the team next year.

Times in first practice session:

1. Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull-Renault) 1min 38.491sec, 2. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Red Bull-Renault) 1:38.945, 3.Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes) 1:39.452, 4. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 1:39.543, 5. Esteban Ocon (FRA/Racing Point Force India-Mercedes) 1:40.102, 6. Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas-Ferrari) 1:40.235, 7. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN/Ferrari) 1:40.417, 8. Sebastian Vettel (GER/Ferrari) 1:40.453, 9. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Renault) 1:40.588, 10. Romain Grosjean (FRA/Haas-Ferrari) 1:40.663, 11. Pierre Gasly (FRA/Toro Rosso-Honda) 1:40.671, 12. Nico Hulkenberg (GER/Renault) 1:41.023, Sergio Perez (MEX/Racing Point Force India-Mercedes) 1:41.075, 13. Brendon Hartley (NZL/Toro Rosso-Honda) 1:41.137, 14. Lance Stroll (CAN/Williams-Mercedes) 1:41.493, 15. Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA/Sauber-Ferrari) 1:41.662, 16. Marcus Ericsson (SWE/Sauber-Ferrari) 1:41.928, 17. Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL/McLaren-Renault) 1:42.114, 18. Fernando Alonso (ESP/McLaren-Renault) 1:42.313, 19. Robert Kubica (POL/Williams-Mercedes) 1:42.992 str/pb FERRARI NV Renault

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