Lewis Hamilton topped the first practice session in Saudi Arabia, with championship rival Max Verstappen lingering close behind.

Teams began to spend their practice time configuring the car’s setup for the brand new circuit and getting the drivers accustomed to pushing hard around the tight corners.

Championship leader Max Verstappen took to the circuit early, initially negotiating the fast track with hard tires. The Dutchman set a benchmark time of 1:33.614.

Meanwhile, Valtteri Bottas ran his first laps on soft tires, lapping 1.2 seconds slower than Verstappen’s time. He took second place until Pierre Gasly slipped ahead by a couple of tenths.

Lewis Hamilton’s first outing on soft tires was only good enough for 7th fastest, going 2.3 seconds slower than Verstappen’s improved 1:30.920. Soon after, he went quicker with a 1:30.014.

McLaren was high up early in the session, with Lando Norris trailing Verstappen in second for a brief moment 20 minutes in. Charles Leclerc was also near the top on the timing sheets, keeping close to Norris in the top 4.

The halfway mark of the session saw Verstappen retain the fastest lap, the two Mercedes drivers following over half a second behind. The Red Bull star seemed to be rapid on the hard tire compound.

With 20 minutes to go, the Ferrari pair leaped to the top positions. Sainz clocked a lap half a second slower than Verstappen, with Leclerc just a few hundredths shy of the Spaniard. Also at the 20-minute mark, Verstappen lost his lead as Bottas lapped 5 milliseconds quicker.

Minutes after the Finn stole the fastest lap, his teammate Hamilton responded to post a 1:29.786. With 15 minutes to go, now the Mercedes duo led Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly. Antonio Giovinazzi sat an impressive 5th fastest.

With under a minute remaining, Verstappen was one of the many to venture onto the track one more time. However, he only managed P2, just 5 hundredths of a second off his championship rival.

Lewis Hamilton completed the session quickest, Verstappen splitting him and his teammate in P3.

1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:29.786
2Max VerstappenRed Bull+0.056
3Valtteri BottasMercedes+0.233
4Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri+0.477
5Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo+0.532
6Carlos SainzFerrari+0.778
7Charles LeclercFerrari+0.814
8Daniel RicciardoMcLaren+0.822
9Fernando AlonsoAlpine+1.056
10Sebastian VettelAston Martin+1.100
11Sergio PerezRed Bull+1.174
12Lando NorrisMcLaren+1.237
13Lance StrollAston Martin+1.243
14Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri+1.258
15Esteban OconAlpine+1.313
16George RussellWilliams+1.510
17Mick SchumacherHaas+1.557
18Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo+1.739
19Nicholas LatifiWilliams+2.035
20Nikita MazepinHaas+3.678

I am a 17-year-old motorsport fan and writer who possesses a strong passion for machines that go fast. I am from Australia but I aspire to be a journalist covering motor racing series and events all over the globe.