By Matt Morlidge at Yas Marina
Last Updated: 18/11/22 2:08pm
Max Verstappen halted Mercedes’ flying start to the final weekend of the Formula 1 season by comfortably topping the timesheets in Practice Two for the Abu Dhabi GP for Red Bull.
The world champion, surprisingly off the pace last weekend in Brazil as Mercedes sealed their first win of 2022, missed first practice at Yas Marina after sitting out for young driver Liam Lawson but didn’t take long to find his rhythm in P2, the more representative floodlit practice session.
Verstappen posted a 1:29.146 and appeared to have more in the locker as he beat closest challenger George Russell by 0.341s, with Charles Leclerc a tenth further back in the Ferrari.
Lewis Hamilton, who led a Mercedes one-two earlier in the afternoon, was a distant fourth, and almost had a coming together with Haas’ Kevin Magnussen in Abu Dhabi, the scene of his title heartbreak last year.
Both Mercedes drivers struggled with traffic towards the end of their laps.
Sergio Perez was fifth for Red Bull, but over seven-tenths off his dominant team-mate, with Carlos Sainz just behind in the other Ferrari, who struggled and appear to have been usurped by Mercedes in 2022’s pecking order.
Leclerc and Perez are locked on points heading into the 2022 season-ender.
Alpine were best of the rest with Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso seventh and eighth, ahead of McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, who is leaving the team – and, temporarily at least, the F1 grid – after this weekend.
Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, who will wave a more permanent goodbye to F1 this weekend, was 12th in P2 for Aston Martin.
More to follow.