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Verstappen fights back from first-lap clash to finish fourth in Abu Dhabi

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Not content with his charge from P15 to the podium in Brazil two weeks ago, Max Verstappen capped off his breakout Formula 1 season by fighting back from a first-lap clash to finish fourth in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

Verstappen, 19, qualified sixth for Red Bull in Abu Dhabi, but dropped towards the back of the pack following contact with Nico Hulkenberg at the first corner.

The Dutchman managed to fight back and perfect a one-stop strategy to get into the thick of the podium fight late on, crossing the line fourth and less than 1.7 seconds shy of victory.

“It was very enjoyable,” Verstappen told NBCSN after the race.

“[I thought] let’s see where we end up now after the spin. But good pace. Managed to hold onto the super-softs for a long time.

“Not ideal to do a one stop. The overtaking, to finish fourth, was a great result. It was not plan A. We had to change it, but it worked.”

After a breakout season that has seen Verstappen claim his first F1 race win and finish the year fifth in the final standings, many are tipping the Dutchman for a title challenge in 2017.

“I’m just very happy where I am at the moment. You have to keep improving,” Verstappen said.

So is a title bid realistic? “If the car is good enough from testing, for sure,” the Dutchman added.

Hamilton tops second Abu Dhabi F1 practice with new track record

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Lewis Hamilton swept to the top of the timesheets in second Formula 1 practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday evening, beating Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel by one-tenth of a second.

Hamilton trailed Vettel through the daytime-run opening practice session, but managed to strike back by recording a new track record at the Yas Marina Circuit for Mercedes.

Hamilton recorded a fastest lap time of 1:37.877 to finish one-tenth of a second clear of Vettel at the checkered flag, appearing to have an edge across a single lap on the ultra-soft tire.

Red Bull threw its hat into the ring as a possible rival for pole through Daniel Ricciardo, who finished the session third-fastest, three-tenths of a second back from Hamilton at the head of the field.

Kimi Raikkonen ended FP2 in fourth place in the sister Ferrari, finishing within half a second of Hamilton, and managed to edge out fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas, who was a further two-tenths back in P5.

Max Verstappen failed to get in a quick flying lap during FP2, ending the session one second down in P6 for Red Bull.

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon’s tight intra-team fight at Force India continued through FP2 as the pair were separated by just 0.01 seconds, taking seventh and eighth respectively to finish as the leading midfield drivers.

Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso completed the top 10 for Renault and McLaren, with Felipe Massa following in 11th for Williams on his final Friday appearance in F1.

Massa was fortunate to avoid an accident with Ricciardo during the final 15 minutes of the session after a mix up at the hairpin when the Brazilian tried to get a wider line for the back straight.

Running in Abu Dhabi continues with final practice at Yas Marina on Saturday morning from 5am ET on the NBC Sports app, followed by qualifying at 8am ET on NBCSN.