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Lewis Hamilton goes fastest in practice ahead of Abu Dhabi title showdown

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Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time in the floodlit second practice session ahead of this weekend’s title-deciding Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix.

Hamilton’s title rival Max Verstappen was quickest in FP1 but the Mercedes driver turned up the heat after sundown and posted the fastest time of the day.

Lewis Hamilton goes fastest in practice

The 36-year-old Briton says he feels good as he chases a record-breaking eighth Formula 1 World Driver’s Championship.

 “It doesn’t feel too bad,” said Hamilton.

“It started off good but got a bit worse in P1, then started off better in the second session with some changes we made.

“Now we just have to crank through the data and try to figure out how we can improve, where we home in. The target is always moving, but yes. Otherwise, I feel good.”

The Abu Dhabi track has undergone a major revamp since last year to improve overtaking opportunities, and on the evidence of opening practice it appears to suit Mercedes better than Red Bull.

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“We’re still learning and understanding a few things,” reported the 24-year-old Verstappen.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said the boffins will be hard at work trying to find more speed to make up the difference in pace with Mercedes.

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“We’ve still got 24 hours or 23 hours (before qualifying) to try and find a better set-up and a bit more pace.”

Verstappen off the pace

After Verstappen topped FP1, Hamilton set the FP2 benchmark of 1m23.691s under the floodlights on soft tyres, with 25 minutes remaining, then switched to mediums for his race simulation.

That put Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, who had shot up with a lap of 1m24.034s just before Hamilton, in second place by 0.343s – and Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas third overall by a gap of 0.392s having previously drifted into the Turn 12 barriers on his medium-tyred laps. That slide saw him switch to soft tyres after just 15 minutes of the session.

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Red Bull, therefore, rounded out the top five, Verstappen (six-tenths down on Hamilton) P4 ahead of Sergio Perez in fifth. The championship contender had a competitive time of 1m24.989s chalked off early in the session during his medium-tyred runs, switched to softs for his qualifying simulations before keeping softs on for his long runs.

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