Lewis Hamilton cranks the heat up on rival Max Verstappen by setting fastest practice time ahead of inaugural Saudi Arabia Grand Prix – with championship race poised to go down to the wire
- Lewis Hamilton set the fastest practice time lap at the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix
- The Championship race is coming down to the final two events of the season
- Hamilton has cranked up the pressure on his bitter rival Max Verstappen
- He has won the last two races to close within eight points of the title leader
Lewis Hamilton’s surge to a potential record eighth Formula One world title continued at pace as he set the fastest time in first practice for the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver has won the last two races to close within eight points of championship leader Max Verstappen heading into the final two grands prix of the year.
Hamilton led the way off the track on Wednesday, speaking out against human rights issues and the treatment of the LGBTQ+ community in Saudi Arabia, admitting he was not comfortable racing in the country.
Lewis Hamilton has set a high bar in Saudi Arabia with the fastest time in qualifying
The inaugural race in Jeddah features as the penultimate event in a thrilling championship race
But he was certainly at home on the track on Friday, as a time of one minute 29.786 seconds saw him beat Verstappen by just 0.056 seconds, with the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas in third.
Workers were still preparing the new venue into the late hours of Thursday night, with a planned ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the circuit promptly cancelled as final touches were put into place.
The Formula Two practice session also started late due to a minor “operational issue” before the F1 cars hit the Jeddah Corniche Circuit for the first time at 16:30 local time.
Hamilton also opted to wear pride colours on his helmet to draw attention to important issues
With the track untested and both qualifying and Sunday’s race taking place in the evening, this session was more of a feeling-out hour for the drivers.
But nevertheless, Hamilton will be pleased to top the timesheets, with Pierre Gasly fourth fastest for AlphaTauri and the Aston Martin of Antonio Giovinazzi fifth.
Ferrari were sixth and seventh in the form of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, as Daniel Ricciardo, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel rounded off the top 10.
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