Abu Dhabi GP: Lewis Hamilton heads into qualifying with pace edge over Max Verstappen at F1 decider

Watch live qualifying at 1pm on Sky Sports F1, Main Event and Sky Showcase with build up from 12pm; Hamilton leads the last two free practice sessions, with his P3 advantage over Verstappen by two tenths of a second

Last updated: 11/12/21 11:24


Lewis Hamilton heads into the pivotal hour of final qualifying of the 2021 F1 season with an apparent single-lap lead in his Mercedes after beating title rival Max Verstappen in free practice three at the Abu Dhabi GP.

Hamilton followed his best time on Friday afternoon with fastest on Saturday morning, his best lap of 1: 23.274 about two tenths better than Verstappen could.

Both contenders made small mistakes on the soft tire fast laps throughout the session, with the remodeled Yas Marina circuit proving difficult for all riders to keep the rear tires in the correct temperature range for the entire lap.

Qualifying starts at 13:00 with accumulation on Sky Sports F1, Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Showcase from noon.

Lewis Hamilton comes out of the pits and almost collides with Nikita Mazepin in practice, for the second consecutive week.

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Lewis Hamilton comes out of the pits and almost collides with Nikita Mazepin in practice, for the second consecutive week.

Lewis Hamilton comes out of the pits and almost collides with Nikita Mazepin in practice, for the second consecutive week.

Hamilton, meanwhile, was involved in an unintended lockout crash with Haas’ Nikita Mazepin for the second consecutive practice session. The Russian driver was making a fast lap and had to go off the track to avoid the Mercedes when Hamilton exited the pit lane.

There was a high-speed near miss in Saudi Arabia last week, for which Hamilton received a reprimand, his second of the season, one far from a 10-spot drop on the grid.

Valtteri Bottas was third fastest in the second Mercedes, with Sergio Perez fourth in the other Red Bull.

Evaluating the progress of the race, 2016 world champion and Sky F1 expert Nico Rosberg said: “At the moment, Lewis is in the shape of his life here this weekend. Incredible.

“He started racing and recording lap times. But Max is only two tenths behind. It is so close.

Nico Rosberg and Natalie Pinkham give the Soccer AM crew the truth about the F1 final between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

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Nico Rosberg and Natalie Pinkham give the Soccer AM crew the truth about the F1 final between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

Nico Rosberg and Natalie Pinkham give the Soccer AM crew the truth about the F1 final between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

“Red Bull is trying a few things with the rear wing, they still don’t feel very comfortable, which is not a good sign. They are trying to make the rear wing work less because the Mercedes are much faster on the straight. It looks like it’s going in the right direction, so let’s see.

“You can never rule out Max Verstappen. He remains totally open.”

Lando Norris, meanwhile, showed an encouraging pace for McLaren, taking fifth place ahead of AlphaTauri duo Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly.

The third session was the last session of the weekend which took place in the light of day; qualifying and the race both take place under the spotlight in “twilight” conditions.

Times sheet of practice three of the Abu Dhabi GP

Driver Squad Weather
1) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1: 23.274
2) Max Verstappen Red Bull +0.214
3) Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +0.751
4) Sergio Perez Red Bull +0.773
5) Lando Norris McLaren +0.832
6) Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +0.949
7) Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +0.977
8) Carlos Sainz Ferrari +1.321
9) Daniele Ricciardo McLaren +1.459
10) Charles Leclerc Ferrari +1.484
11) Walk with the spear Aston Martin +1.547
12) Esteban Ocon Alpine +1.560
13) Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo +1.763
14) Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo +1.774
15) Fernando Alonso Alpine +1.820
16) Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +1.841
17) George Russell Williams +1.946
18) Nicholas Latifi Williams +2.048
19) Mick Schumacher Haas +2.066
20) Nikita Mazepin Haas +3.058

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