Max Verstappen finished fastest in practice in Qatar as he closes in on a hat-trick of world championships.
The Dutchman needs to finish only sixth in Saturday’s sprint race to clinch the title and he made light work of Friday’s sole practice at the Lusail International Circuit.
Verstappen finished three tenths clear of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, with Charles Leclerc third in the other scarlet car.
That's your lot – practice is DONE!
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 6, 2023
Fernando Alonso took fourth spot for Aston Martin, one place ahead of Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez.
George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished only eighth and 13th for Mercedes.
Verstappen has dominated this season – winning 13 of the 16 races staged – and he will claim his third straight title if he scores three points in the 19-lap sprint race.
First, Verstappen must qualify for Sunday’s main event and, on the evidence of the early running, he appears favourite to take pole position.
— Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) October 6, 2023
The Dutch driver soared to the top of the time sheets of the one-hour running in the final minutes with a healthy third-of-a-second advantage to the rest of the field.
Russell was almost a second back in the lead Mercedes, with Hamilton 1.2 sec behind Verstappen.
Qualifying takes place at 8pm local time (6pm BST).