Hamilton ahead of Verstappen before crucial qualifying

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

By James Galloway

Last Updated: 11/12/21 11:27am

Lewis Hamilton heads into the crucial final qualifying hour of the 2021 F1 season with an apparent single-lap advantage in his Mercedes after outpacing title rival Max Verstappen in Practice Three at the Abu Dhabi GP.

Hamilton followed up his quickest time on Friday afternoon with the quickest of Saturday morning, his best lap of 1:23.274 some two tenths better than Verstappen could manage.

Both contenders made small mistakes on fast soft-tyre laps during the course of the session, with the remodelled Yas Marina circuit proving tricky for all drivers to keep their rear tyres in the correct temperature range for the whole lap.

Qualifying is at 1pm with build-up on Sky Sports F1, Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Showcase from midday.

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Lewis Hamilton exits the pits and almost collides with Nikita Mazepin in practice, for the second week in a row.

Lewis Hamilton exits the pits and almost collides with Nikita Mazepin in practice, for the second week in a row.

Hamilton, meanwhile, was involved in an inadvertent blocking incident with Haas’ Nikita Mazepin for the second final practice session running. The Russian driver was on a fast lap and had to run off track to avoid the Mercedes as Hamilton exited the pit lane.

There was a higher-speed near-miss in Saudi Arabia last week, for which Hamilton earned a reprimand – his second of the season, one away from a 10-place grid drop.

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

Assessing the state of play at the front, 2016 world champion and Sky F1 pundit Nico Rosberg said: “At the moment, Lewis is in the form of his life here this weekend. Unbelievable.

“He has hit the ground running and putting the lap times in. But Max is only two tenths back. It’s so close.

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Nico Rosberg and Natalie Pinkham give the Soccer AM crew the lowdown on the F1 finale between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

Nico Rosberg and Natalie Pinkham give the Soccer AM crew the lowdown on the F1 finale between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

“Red Bull are trying some stuff with the rear wing, they don’t feel too comfortable yet which is not a good sign. They are trying to run less rear wing because Mercedes are so much quicker on the straight. It seems to be going in the right direction, so let’s see.

“You can never count Max Verstappen out. It remains totally open.”

Lando Norris, meanwhile, showed encouraging pace for McLaren to take fifth ahead of AlphaTauri pair Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly.

Practice Three was the final session of the weekend to take place in daylight; qualifying and the race are both staged under floodlights amid ‘twilight’ conditions.

Driver Team Time 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) Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +1.459 10) Charles Leclerc Ferrari +1.484 11) Lance Stroll 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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