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Hamilton lays down Verstappen marker in Abu Dhabi practice

There remains so little between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, who split the practice sessions, but the reigning champion set the fastest lap time.

Hamilton lays down Verstappen marker in Abu Dhabi practice
Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen set the pace in Friday's two Abu Dhabi Grand Prix practice sessions as the Formula One title race remains too close to call.

The championship will be awarded after Sunday's final race, which Hamilton and Verstappen enter all square on 369.5 points.

It is only the second time – after Emerson Fittipaldi and Clay Regazzoni in 1974 – the top two have been tied in the standings ahead of the last grand prix of the season.

Verstappen's superior wins record means he would take the title if neither driver finished in the points, but that seems unlikely – barring a dramatic crash – based on Friday's results.

The Red Bull posted the fastest time in the first session at one minute and 25.009 seconds, with Hamilton back in third, behind Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton hits back in FP2

But Hamilton, Esteban Ocon and Bottas all beat Verstappen in FP2, the defending champion out in front with a time of one minute and 23.691 seconds in a session that was much faster than FP1.

The second session, in which Verstappen was more than six-tenths off the pace, should in theory be more indicative of the race, taking place later in the day at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen's final weekend in Formula One got off to an unconvincing start as the retiring former champion hit the wall at Turn 14 in FP2.

Raikkonen emerged from his car unharmed but left Alfa Romeo with plenty of repairs.


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