Lewis Hamilton cranks the heat up on rival Max Verstappen by setting fastest practice time ahead of inaugural Saudi Arabia Grand Prix – with championship race poised to go down to the wire

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  • Lewis Hamilton sets fastest practice time lap at Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
  • The championship race is coming to the final two events of the season
  • Hamilton has increased the pressure on his bitter rival Max Verstappen
  • They have closed within eight points of the title leader by winning the last two races.

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Lewis Hamilton’s potential for a record eighth Formula One world title continued on the fast track as he set the fastest time in first practice for the opening Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver won the last two races to enter the last two Grands Prix of the year within eight points of championship leader Max Verstappen.

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Hamilton led off the track on Wednesday by speaking out against human rights issues and treatment of the LGBTQ+ community in Saudi Arabia, admitting he was not comfortable racing in the country.

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Lewis Hamilton sets a high bar in Saudi Arabia with fastest time in qualifying

The inaugural race in Jeddah marks the final event in a thrilling championship race.

The inaugural race in Jeddah marks the final event in a thrilling championship race.

But he was certainly at home on the track on Friday, clocking one minute 29.786 seconds to beat Verstappen by just 0.056 seconds, with Valtteri Bottas’ second Mercedes in third.

Workers were still preparing for the new venue as of late Thursday, with a planned ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the circuit immediately canceled as the final touches were done.

Formula Two practice sessions also started late due to a minor “operational issue” before F1 cars hit the Jeddah Corniche circuit for the first time at 16:30 local time.

Hamilton also opted to wear the colors of pride on his helmet to draw attention to important issues

Hamilton also opted to wear the colors of pride on his helmet to draw attention to important issues

With the track not tested and both qualifying and Sunday’s race taking place in the evening, the session was a feeling-out time for the drivers.

But still, Hamilton will be pleased to top the timesheet, with Pierre Gasly fourth fastest to AlphaTauri and Antonio Giovinazzi’s Aston Martin fifth.

Ferrari were sixth and seventh as Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, while Daniele Ricciardo, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top 10.

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