Lewis Hamilton at speed Friday in Saudi Arabia. (LAT Images Photo)
Lewis Hamilton at speed Friday in Saudi Arabia. (LAT Images Photo)

Hamilton Fastest Early In Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia – Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes topped both practice sessions on the opening day of action for the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Friday at the new Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

Hamilton set the fastest time of the day during the second of two practice sessions with a fast lap of 1:29.018. He was followed closely by his Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, on the combined speed charts.

“The track was rapid – unbelievably quick and with a lot of grip as well,” Hamilton said. “Once you get in the rhythm, it’s beautiful to drive. The grip was very high from the moment we went out and was similar in both sessions. Traffic can be a problem here, it’s Monaco-esque and the closing distances to other cars was definitely getting dangerous. We tried a couple of things with our setup, and although we aren’t rapid on single run pace compared to the others, our long run pace seemed pretty good.

“The Medium and Hard tire both performed well, the Soft is probably a little too soft for the high-speed sections, it feels like the tyre is giving up slightly. I’m generally happy with the setup, we changed a few things in between sessions, and we’ll work with the guys in the factory back home to make sure we have the correct setup for tomorrow.”

AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly was third overall, with championship leader Max Verstappen fourth fastest overall with his time from practice two. Renault’s Fernando Alonso, who earned his first podium in seven years during the last Grand Prix, was fifth fastest overall.

The second practice ended prematurely when Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crashed in turn 23. Leclerc walked away from the big hit uninjured. 

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