Formula One: Red Bull's Max Verstappen tops first Qatar practice

Doha, Nov 19 (IANS): Red Bull's Formula 1 championship leader Max Verstappen lapped fastest in first practice, outpacing team driver Pierre Gasly by four-tenths of a second as Valtteri Bottas finished third in the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix on Friday. Title contender Lewis Hamilton ended the session more than seven-tenths of a second off the pace, complaining of a lack of power on the circuit's long straight.

Verstappen, the Dutch 24-year-old who leads Mercedes' seven times world champion, Lewis Hamilton, by 14 points with three races remaining, produced the quickest time of 1:23.723 seconds in a dusty but uneventful session.

The Dutch driver led the way in the early part of the session. But Bottas bolted a set of soft tyres to jump to the top of the order but Verstappen was soon back in charge thanks to a similarly equipped lap of 1:23.723 that was the session's best until he concluded the lap. Bottas was close to holding on to second place, but Gasly went for a late run on softs at the end of the session and jumped three-hundredths of a second ahead of the Finn with a lap of 1:24.160.

Bottas was third on the timesheets, 0.471 off Verstappen's pace, for Mercedes with Hamilton fourth.

Hamilton was 0.786 slower than his title rival and also ran wide over kerbs at turn 14 before pitting with a damaged front wing.

Yuki Tsunoda finished the session in fifth place, while Carlos Sainz was the lead Ferrari in sixth place with team-mate Charles Leclerc in seventh. Sergio Pérez took eighth for Red Bull ahead of Alpine's Esteban Ocon and Norris.

However, Norris also fell foul of Losail's kerbs. The Briton was forced to return to the pit lane after losing power after running wide in Turn 15 and clattering along the serrated kerb on the outside of the corner. He was able to return to the track later in the session.



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Title: Formula One: Red Bull's Max Verstappen tops first Qatar practice

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