Max Verstappen made a good start to the weekend on which he will likely clinch his third world title by setting the pace in first practice in Qatar.
The Dutchman was 0.334 seconds ahead of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari, with the second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc third.
Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was fourth, using the slower medium tyres. The three drivers ahead were on softs.
McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris in ninth and 10th were on hard tyres when they set their best times.
George Russell was eighth fastest, also on the medium tyres, while Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton was down in 13th.
Verstappen’s pace-setting time came despite what appeared to be a difficult session for Red Bull.
Verstappen had a number of off-track moments, at least as many as any other driver, and spent much of the session in a lower position before his final run.
Verstappen is likely to win the title in Saturday’s sprint race – he will do so as long as he does not lose six points or more to team-mate Sergio Perez. There are eight points for a win, on a sliding scale down to one for eighth place.
His team-mate Sergio Perez jumped up from last place to fifth with his soft-tyre run at the end of the session.
Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda was sixth fastest, ahead of Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg, then Russell and the McLarens.
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