Max Verstappen hits back in fierce title fight with Lewis Hamilton after going marginally quicker in Friday practice for the Qatar Grand Prix… but Brit’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas goes fastest at the Losail Circuit
Max Verstappen ended an explosive day in the title battle against Lewis Hamilton narrowly quicker than his rival in Friday practice at the Qatar Grand Prix.
Verstappen came into the weekend subject to a Mercedes review request regarding his defensive driving against Hamilton at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix last time out.
But the Red Bull driver survived any reprimand following the incident where he appeared to force the Brit off the road at Interlagos.
Max Verstappen went narrowly quicker than Lewis Hamilton in Friday practice for the Qatar GP
Verstappen is looking to bounce back from the defeat by Lewis Hamilton in Brazil
The Dutchman then ended the day third quickest at the Losail Circuit less than a tenth quicker than fourth placed Hamilton.
However it appears Mercedes have the overall advantage in Qatar with Valtteri Bottas going quickest, two tenths faster than the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly.
Hamilton took the chequered flag in Brazil last weekend to close the gap in the drivers’ championship to 14 points with three races remaining.
But Verstappen escaped punishment for running the current champion off the road as they duelled for first position on lap 48.
Hamilton is sporting a new rainbow helmet for this weekend’s race at the Losail circuit
Hamilton was only fourth fastest in the opening and second sessions in Qatar
QATAR GP – SECOND PRACTICE
1 Bottas (Fin) Mercedes 1:23.148
2 Gasly (Fra) AlphaTauri 1:23.357
3 Verstappen (Hol) Red Bull 1:23.498
4 Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 1:23.570
5 Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:23.632
6 Stroll (Can) Aston Martin 1:23.705
7 Tsunoda (Jpn) AlphaTauri 1:23.735
8 Perez (Mex) Red Bull 1:23.787
9 Vettel (Ger) Aston Martin 1:24.020
10 Sainz (Spa) Ferrari. 1:24.033
11 Ocon (Fra) Alpine 1:24.041
12 Alonso (Spa) Alpine 1:24.056
13 Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:24.095
14 Ricciardo (Aus) McLaren 1:24.135
15 Raikkonen (Fin) A. Romeo 1:24.631
16 Russell (Gbr) Williams 1:24.954
17 Giovinazzi (Ita) A. Romeo 1:25.072
18 Latifi (Can) Williams 1:25.209
19 Schumacher (Ger) Haas 1:25.575
20 Mazepin (Raf) Haas
Mercedes launched an appeal against the decision not to investigate the incident after onboard camera footage from Verstappen’s car had been released.
While the meeting to decide on the review started on Thursday afternoon it was still unresolved as the cars took to the track on Friday – some 20 hours later, before the FIA decided no further action would be taken just minutes after first practice concluded.
Hamilton, sporting a rainbow flag on his helmet having called on F1 and other sportspeople to speak out against human rights issues which plague countries such as Qatar, endured a difficult start to the session.
Valtteri Bottas went quickest for Mercedes under the night lights in Friday practice
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly took a surprise second in both of Friday’s practice sessions
QATAR GP – FIRST PRACTICE
1 Verstappen (Hol) Red Bull 1:23.723
2 Gasly (Fra) AlphaTauri 1:24.160
3 Bottas (Fin) Mercedes 1:24.194
4 Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 1:24.509
5 Tsunoda (Jpn) AlphaTauri 1:24.648
6 Sainz (Spa) Ferrari. 1:24.713
7 Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:24.790
8 Perez (Mex) Red Bull 1:24.915
9 Ocon (Fra) Alpine 1:24.972
10 Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:25.215
11 Ricciardo (Aus) McLaren 1:25.291
12 Vettel (Ger) Aston Martin 1:25.328
13 Latifi (Can) Williams 1:25.688
14 Giovinazzi (Ita) A. Romeo 1:25.757
15 Raikkonen (Fin) A. Romeo 1:25.828
16 Russell (Gbr) Williams 1:25.871
17 Alonso (Spa) Alpine 1:25.905
18 Schumacher (Ger) Haas 1:26.699
19 Stroll (Can) Aston Martin 1:26.712
20 Mazepin (Raf) Haas 1:27.500