Qatar GP: Max Verstappen controls Practice One as stewards deliver verdict on Lewis Hamilton clash
Max Verstappen dominates first F1 practice session in Qatar, 0.4s quicker than Valtteri Bottas and 0.7s ahead of Lewis Hamilton; Stewards rule that Verstappen's defence from Hamilton in Brazil will not be investigated
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 19/11/21 12:55pm
Max Verstappen put the ongoing off-track controversy behind him to storm clear of the field on F1's Qatar debut, much faster than the Mercedes of title rival Lewis Hamilton in first practice.
Hitting the track just before the stewards finally made their decision not to open up a hearing on his feisty defence from Hamilton at the Sao Paulo GP, Verstappen was in majestic form in the Red Bull.
Verstappen posted a 1:23.723 to top the timesheets, 0.4s ahead of AlphaTauri's Gasly and Valtteri Bottas in the lead Mercedes.
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And it was enjoyed a seamless start to Qatar's first-ever F1 weekend for Verstappen compared to Hamilton, who was seven-tenths of a second off the pace and had issues during the opening hour of action.
Hamilton first complained of a lack of power from his engine, and then had to pit with a car issue after running too wide over the kerbs of a dusty and demanding Losail International Circuit, which has been a popular mainstay on the MotoGP calendar.
Shortly after the session, an F1 wait was ended as news filtered out that Verstappen, the championship leader by 14 points, had avoided a hearing into running Hamilton off the track last Sunday in Interlagos.
On the track, it's also looking good for Verstappen and Red Bull.
"I'd say at the moment advantage to the Red Bulls," said Sky F1's Damon Hill. "I'm not just saying that because Max has got the quickest time, it just seems like it's easier for them to do that."
Fellow F1 world champion Jenson Button added: "I wouldn't say they are four tenths quicker than Mercedes. When you look at the Merc, it looks really good, I just don't think they have quite got the balance together."
Hamilton wasn't the only driver to struggle, with Lando Norris also suffering damage, while Mick Schumacher had an off and Lance Stroll was forced back to the garage with a hydraulic issue.
In terms of the pace, the AlphaTauris were certainly competitive with Yuki Tsunoda fifth, ahead of the Ferraris ahead of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc who have, once again, started faster than the McLarens.
Sergio Perez, who has found form in recent races, was only eighth in the other Red Bull and a second off Verstappen's benchmark time.
Qatar GP Practice One Timesheet
|1) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1:23.723|
|2) Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||+0.437|
|3) Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||+0.471|
|4) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+0.786|
|5) Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||+0.925|
|6) Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||+0.990|
|7) Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||+1.067|
|8) Sergio Perez||Red Bull||+1.192|
|9) Esteban Ocon||Alpine||+1.249|
|10) Lando Norris||McLaren||+1.492|
|11) Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren||+1.568|
|12) Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||+1.605|
|13) Nicholas Latifi||Williams||+1.965|
|14) Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+2.034|
|15) Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||+2.105|
|16) George Russell||Williams||+2.148|
|17) Fernando Alonso||Alpine||+2.182|
|18) Mick Schumacher||Haas||+2.976|
|19) Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||+2.989|
|20) Nikita Mazepin||Haas||+3.777|