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Verstappen beats Hamilton in final practice for Bahrain GP

Max Verstappen beat Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton's leading time to go fastest in the final practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix ahead of qualifying later Saturday.

The Red Bull driver was .26 ahead of Hamilton and .37 ahead of Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton was quickest in both practice runs on Friday and looked set to make it a hat trick when he overtook Bottas and Verstappen with about 10 minutes left in the hour-long session. But Verstappen came back out and returned to the top of the leaderboard.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands, foreground, and Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany steer their cars during the third free practice at the Formula One Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. (Tolga Bozoglu, Pool via AP)

Hamilton recently secured a record-equaling seventh F1 title and is bidding for a record-extending 98th career pole position.

But he could face competition from Verstappen, who is bidding for only his third pole.

Alexander Albon's Red Bull was fitted with a new chassis after he crashed heavily following a mistake in the second practice. Albon drove well this time and placed fourth.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain steers his car during the third free practice at the Formula One Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. (Brynn Lennon, Pool via AP)

Hamilton and other drivers have been complaining about the new Pirelli tires, saying they are too heavy and Vettel calling them even worse than before.

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Racing Point driver Sergio Perez of Mexico steers his car during the thrid free practice at the Formula One Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. (AP PhotoKamran Jebreili, Pool)

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany steers his car during the thrid free practice at the Formula One Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. (AP PhotoKamran Jebreili, Pool)