Free Practice Report 1 for the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2020 ?? F1 Racecast ?? December 11 to December 13

Max Verstappen in play in the Red Bull RB16.
Max Verstappen in play in the Red Bull RB16.

Rudi Kerzifuli / Getty Images

Max Verstappen scored the fastest time in the inaugural training session of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton returned to Mercedes.

Hamilton missed the Sakhir Grand Prix after testing positive for COVID-19 in Bahrain, but returned in Abu Dhabi after a series of negative tests to finish fifth fastest in first training on Friday.

Verstappen’s best time, 1: 37.378, was 0.034 seconds faster than Hamilton’s fellow Mercedes Valtteri Bottas as Red Bull hopes to take the fight to world champion for the last time in 2020.

Esteban Ocon was the third-fastest team for Renault, 1.1 seconds behind Verstappen and just 0.032 seconds behind Red Bull II by Alex Albon.

Hamilton was 1.3 seconds behind speed but put his time on solid composite tires while the top four put their times on lighter tires. He also lost 20 minutes of track time early in the session after it appeared his front brakes were still operating during the first lap to get back on track, leading to overheating and a call from the pit wall to return to the garage.

Racing Point finished the sixth and seventh sessions, with Sakhir Grand Prix winner Sergio Perez behind teammate Lance Stroll. However, the components of the new power unit installed on Perez’s car this weekend mean it will start from the back of the grid regardless of where it qualifies on Saturday.

Perez will be joined in the back of the grid by Kevin Magnussen, who also has a penalty kick and watched his car driven by Haas 2021 driver Mick Schumacher in the opening training sessions.

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Schumacher was confirmed as Haas’ driver for next year last week and finished his first full Formula 1 training session at 18, 2.8 seconds behind Pietro Vittipaldi, who continues to fill in the place of Roman Grosjean this weekend.

Robert Kubica stood for one training session at Alfa Romeo in Antonio Giovinazzi’s car as part of his role as backup driver and achieved the fastest time in the 15th time.

Daniel Ricciardo ended the stakes at the bottom of the schedule after his loss of fuel pressure brought him off the right track after just three laps.

Queenie Bell

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