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Saudi Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton sets pace early in practice with Max Verstappen in third

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

Several drivers, including seven-time world champion Hamilton, also got away from close range, as they were almost overtaken by slower cars as they completed their laps.

Spaniard Fernando Alonso, on the podium in the last race in Qatar, finished fifth for Alpine ahead of his teammate Esteban Ocon.

Carlos Sainz finished seventh for Ferrari ahead of Japanese AlphaTauri rookie Yuki Tsunoda.

Max Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez finished ninth, while Leclerc completed the top 10 despite his crash.

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is ​​the first of two remaining races on this year’s Formula 1 calendar, with the bitter generational battle between Hamilton and Verstappen nearing its conclusion.

Verstappen leads Hamilton by eight points in the overall standings and has his first chance to win a first title with a race to go this weekend.

Hamilton, who must finish at least fifth to keep the battle alive until the Abu Dhabi final next week, aims for a third straight win to force a showdown in the final race in his quest for an eighth world title unprecedented.

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


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