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F1 champion Hamilton leads 1st practice for Saudi Arabian GP

Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time Friday in the first practice for the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The British veteran was 0.056 seconds ahead of championship leader Max Verstappen of Red Bull and 0.223 ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Verstappen led for the first forty minutes of the hour-long session on the 6.2-kilometer (3.8-mile) street circuit, which sits on a 30-kilometer (18.6-mile) coastal resort area in Jeddah.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands speaks during a press conference at the Formula One corniche circuit, in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. The F1 race, which will take place from Dec. 3-5, will be the first time Saudi Arabia hosts the premier sporting event. (AP PhotoHassan Ammar, Pool)

Hamilton initially struggled to adapt to the track while Verstappen twice improved his best time before Hamilton found some extra speed.

A second practice session was scheduled for later in the day.

Verstappen leads Hamilton by eight points — with nine wins to seven — in a closely fought duel that will see a champion crowned next weekend in Abu Dhabi.

Mclaren driver Lando Norris of Britain In action during practice session for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jiddah, Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. (AP PhotoAmr Nabil)

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Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland arrives at the Formula One corniche circuit, in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. The F1 race, which will take place from Dec. 3-5, will be the first time Saudi Arabia hosts the premier sporting event. (AP PhotoAmr Nabil)