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Saudi Arabia GP: Hamilton sets pace in practice with Verstappen in 3rd


The Mercedes driver was joined by teammate Valtteri Bottas in a one-two with Hamilton after the 36-year-old lowrered his benchmark to 29.018 seconds.

Several drivers, including seven-times world champion Hamilton, also got away with near misses as they were nearly caught out by slower moving cars while on their flying laps.

Spaniard Fernando Alonso, on the podium at the last race in Qatar, was fifth for Alpine ahead of team mate Esteban Ocon.

Carlos Sainz was seventh for Ferrari ahead of AlphaTauri’s Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda.

Max Verstappen’s team mate Sergio Perez was ninth, while Leclerc rounded out the top 10 despite his crash.

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is the first of only two races left on this year’s Formula One calendar, with the hard-fought battle of the generations between Hamilton and Verstappen racing towards its conclusion.

Verstappen leads Hamilton by eight points in the overall standings and has his first shot at wrapping up a maiden title with a race to spare this weekend.

Hamilton, who needs to finish at least fifth to keep the battle alive into next week’s Abu Dhabi finale, is gunning for a third win in a row to force a last-race showdown in his quest for an unprecedented eighth world title.

Mercedes could also wrap up a record eighth constructors’ title on Sunday if they score 40 points more than Red Bull.

Teams carried a tribute on their cars to Frank Williams, co-founder of the Williams team, who died aged 79 nL1N2SJ0AF on Sunday.

The team, among the sport’s most successful outfits which was sold to new owners last year but continues to race under the Williams name, carried the words: “I feel the need, the need for speed,” on the halo cockpit protection device.

The line was Williams’ favourite quote from the film Top Gun starring Tom Cruise.

Additional reporting from Reuters

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