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Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Max Verstappen tops George Russell in Practice Two as world champion halts Mercedes' flying start

Mercedes topped first practice but Max Verstappen hits back in P2, 0.341s ahead of George Russell; Charles Leclerc third and Lewis Hamilton a distant fourth; Watch Abu Dhabi GP final practice at 10.30am on Saturday, qualifying at 2pm

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.

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Lewis Hamilton comes close to rear-ending Kevin Magnussen after the Haas driver was driving slowly on the racing line during P2 of the Abu Dhabi GP.

Both Mercedes drivers struggled with traffic towards the end of their laps, and Sky Sports F1's Karun Chandhok still felt their Friday was "encouraging" as a whole.

"It's going to be tough to beat Max Verstappen, who seems to be well hooked up around the circuit with the car working very well," he said.

"But there's no reason why Mercedes can't have two cars on the podium again."

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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.

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Watch from Max Verstappen's helmet cam as the sun goes down at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi.

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.

Can Merc score Brazil repeat? Hamilton: We're right there

Mercedes and whether they could challenge Red Bull was the big on-track talking point coming into the weekend, and the Silver Arrows' P1 times only increased expectation. P2 was a setback, although not a necessarily unsurprising one given the form of the Red Bull, and Verstappen, all season.

"The car was in a good window," said Verstappen. "On the long runs also the car was working well, so really happy about that.

"Should be [good for the weekend]. I'm just very happy with how that session went for me. Of course you try to find a few things but overall it was good."

Hamilton said changes to his Mercedes' car setup between the sessions were the main reason for his bigger-than-anticipated deficit, although expects Red Bull to be fast over the rest of the weekend.

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Martin Brundle goes trackside at Turn 14 of the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi.

"We'll make some changes overnight... but otherwise, we're relatively competitive, we're right there.

"I think it looks a little bit closer [than Brazil]. I think the Red Bulls look a little bit quicker here, which is expected. We didn't expect this to be our strongest race.

"But we'll work hard overnight and we're generally right there, so hopefully we can put on a good fight."

Russell added: "So pleased we're much closer than we were at Spa, where it's not too dissimilar to this.

"I think we'll be fighting for it. I'd like to think we can fight for the top three in qualifying, and who knows where that can take us on Sunday."

Abu Dhabi GP Practice Two Timesheet

Driver Team Time
1) Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:25.146
2) George Russell Mercedes +0.341
3) Charles Leclerc Ferrari +0.453
4) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.615
5) Sergio Perez Red Bull +0.706
6) Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.786
7) Estaban Ocon Alpine +0.892
8) Fernando Alonso Alpine +0.897
9) Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +0.978
10) Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +1.154
11) Lando Norris McLaren +1.231
12) Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +1.249
13) Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +1.333
14) Lance Stroll Aston Martin +1.401
15) Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +1.534
16) Alexander Albon Williams +1.604
17) Mick Schumacher Haas +1.693
18) Kevin Magnussen Haas +1.769
19) Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +1.890
20) Nicolas Latifi Williams +2.116

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