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First blood to Verstappen

NEWS STORY
10/12/2021

Ahead of today's opening session, the air temperature is 27 degrees C, while the track temperature is 39 degrees.

As was the case last week, this being an evening race this morning's session, and that tomorrow, are largely unrepresentative of what we can expect for qualifying and Sunday's race.

However, with this being deemed a new circuit following the changes to the layout since last year, the teams will at least have the opportunity to acquire some much needed data.

At Williams, Jack Aitken is replacing Russell, the only reserve driver on duty this morning.

The lights go green and in no time at all there are ten drivers on track sporting all three compounds. That said, Giovinazzi I the only driver using hards.

Among the first out is Hamilton, who is sporting softs, as is Verstappen. Indeed, 3 minutes in and all bar Sainz are on track.

Raikkonen posts the first time of the weekend, a 28.876, but this is soon beaten by Bottas and then Hamilton (27.148).

Leclerc's car, which is sporting the helmet camera, is sporting a massive sensor at the rear.

"My steering wheel is quite badly right-hand down," complains Verstappen who nonetheless goes on to post a 26.463.

Norris goes second with a 26.782, however his time is deleted after exceeding the track limits which are being imposed at Turns 7, 15 and 16. Latifi, Sainz and Alonso are similarly penalised.

A 26.290 sees Hamilton go top as Perez has his time deleted.

Indeed Turn 16 - the final corner - is clearly an issue as drivers continue to have their times deleted, some of them on multiple occasions.

Alonso goes top with a 26.271 as Sainz complains of his brakes "pulling" on entry to Turn 6.

"That was a close one," admits Ocon following a close encounter with the barriers at Turn 14. Meanwhile, a big, big lock-up for Raikkonen in Turn 1.

Verstappen improves to 25.602 as Hamilton responds with a 25.820.

Vettel is told that he "picked up a bit of paint" at Turn 15, as he continues to have his times deleted for erring at Turn 16.

Bottas goes third with a 26.094, only to be demoted when Perez stops the clock at 25.994.

Twenty-three minutes in and Leclerc is the only driver yet to post a time, the Ferrari driver having had a change of rear wing following his work with the sensor.

At which point the majority of drivers head back to their garages, which gives Leclerc the opportunity to come out to play. He subsequently goes 14th with a 27.262.

As they begin to head out again, most are now sporting the red-banded rubber.

In the Red Bull garage the mechanics are working on Verstappen's steering.

"No time for a double cool," Leclerc is told as teammate Sainz lists a number of issues with his car.

On fresh softs, Gasly improves to fifth (26.119).

Another spin for Raikkonen who is heading into his final (F1) race weekend.

The protagonists head out on fresh softs, Verstappen posts a 25.300, while Hamilton responds with a 25.355. Perez goes third with a 25.544 and Bottas leapfrogs Gasly with a 25.558 to go fourth.

Ocon has a problem, his gearbox sounding like a bucket of nails. "I went to neutral, what do I do?" Told he went to a "false neutral", the Frenchman is offered a number of possible solutions.

Tsunoda goes fifth with a 25.821, ahead of Gasly, Vettel, Norris, Ocon and Alonso.

Verstappen improves to 25.009 - the quickest time in FP1 last year was 37.378.

As Hamilton closes to within (0.033s) of his rival, Raikkonen is unhappy with the balance of his car.

However, Hamilton's time is deleted for exceeding the limits at Turn 16, as teammate Bottas posts a 25.205 to close to within 0.196s of Verstappen.

Tsunoda improves to fourth with a 25.378, ahead of Perez, Alonso, Gasly, Leclerc, Sainz and Vettel.

A very, very close encounter as Perez leaves the pits not having been warned that Raikkonen, on a flying lap, was in close proximity.

The Mexican subsequently improves to fourth with a 25.363.

"Mistake, Turn 6, front lock," sighs Sainz. The Spaniard subsequently has his time deleted for exceeding the limits at Turn 7.

Perez reports that the front of his car is still "chattering".

As the clock ticks down, with 3:45 remaining, it's all about longer runs on high fuel as opposed to beating the clock.

Ricciardo has completed the most laps (25), ahead of Gasly (24) and Bottas, Alonso, Vettel, Norris, Stroll, Aitken and Latifi on 23. Leclerc (17) has completed the least.

The session ends. Verstappen is quickest, ahead of Bottas, Hamilton, Perez, Tsunoda, Alonso, Gasly, Leclerc, Sainz and Vettel.

Ocon is eleventh, ahead of Norris, Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Stroll, Ricciardo, Aitken, Latifi, Schumacher and Mazepin.

Check out our Friday gallery from Yas Marina, here.

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