F1 leader Verstappen tops first practice at Qatar GP

Written by The Frontier Post

LOSAIL (AP): Formula One leader Max Verstappen topped the first practice session at the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix on Friday.
The Red Bull driver was .44 seconds quicker than AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly. Verstappen was .47 ahead of Valtteri Bottas and a sizeable .79 faster than his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, the defending champion.
The 5.4-kilometer (3.5-mile) circuit in Losail is north of Doha and has hosted MotoGP races since 2004.
Verstappen looked comfortable and appeared to have better grip than Mercedes.
Hamilton went back to the team garage with 10 minutes left and mechanics worked on his car, although it was not immediately clear if there was an issue with the front wing. He came back out briefly at the end.
There is a second practice later Friday.
Verstappen leads Hamilton by 14 points in the standings with two races left after this one.
Mercedes argued on Thursday for a review of the decision not to penalize Verstappen at the Brazilian GP last Sunday for an incident in which Hamilton was run off course as he attempted a pass for the lead on lap 48.
Hamilton made a pass 11 laps later to win at Interlagos and Verstappen finished second.
Stewards were deciding later Friday as to the admissibility of the review. If the review is accepted and then concludes wrongdoing on Verstappen’s part, he could potentially be hit with a grid penalty for that race or a five-second time penalty.
Verstappen leads Hamilton 9-6 for wins after 19 races.
Following Qatar, the season concludes with the inaugural Saudi Arabian GP in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah and the final race under floodlights in Abu Dhabi.
On Thursday, Hamilton again reiterated his call for more scrutiny on human rights issues in places where F1 races.
F1 has signed a 10-year deal to hold races in Qatar, which hosts next year’s soccer World Cup amid concerns for migrant workers.

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