Formula One F1 - Qatar Grand Prix - Losail International Circuit, Lusail, Qatar - November 20, 2021 Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas during practice REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
November 20, 2021
(Reuters) – Valtteri Bottas led seven times Formula One world champion team mate Lewis Hamilton in an ominous Mercedes one-two in final practice for the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix on Saturday.
Red Bull’s championship leader Max Verstappen, who is 14 points clear of Hamilton with three races remaining in the Middle East, was third fastest but 0.341 seconds off the pace set by Bottas.
Bottas, who has taken three pole positions in the last four races and lapped fastest in Friday practice, put in a best time of one minute 22.310 seconds and was 0.078 quicker than Hamilton.
Verstappen did fewer laps than Hamilton after losing time as Red Bull worked on his car’s fluttering rear wing — a topical issue after the team made accusations about apparent wing flexing on Hamilton’s Mercedes.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, who was consistently fast on Friday, was fourth with Verstappen’s team mate Sergio Perez fifth.
Russian rookie Nikita Mazepin, who missed Friday’s second session as his Haas team changed the chassis, had another frustrating session and again failed to set a time with the engine control unit and loom needing to be replaced.
Qualifying for the floodlit night race is scheduled to start at 1400 GMT.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, Editing by Hugh Lawson)