Carlos Sainz feared he’d injured Ferrari mechanic during Abu Dhabi pit-stop

Carlos Sainz feared Ferrari had suffered another pit-stop calamity during practice ahead of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Sainz had come in for a tyre change during Friday’s second session at the Yas Marina Circuit. As he pulled away, the Spaniard noticed a mechanic’s hand still on his front right wheel.

Worried he had injured the tyre-changer, Sainz, to his credit, quickly got on his team radio to ask: “Check the mechanic is okay, yeah? Had his hand over the tyre I think.”

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To his relief, he was told by his engineer: “Everybody is okay.” Sainz was praised on social media for showing concern for the mechanic, with several calling him a “gentleman”.

Meanwhile, Max Verstappen returned to the track on which he won his controversial world championship last year by setting the fastest time in practice. A year on from taking the maiden title, which denied Lewis Hamilton a record eighth crown, the Dutch driver set the pace under the lights at Yas Marina.

The Red Bull driver, who has won 14 of the 21 races staged so far on his charge to championship number two, finished ahead of George Russell, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc third. Hamilton finished fourth.

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Seven-time world champion Hamilton was top of the time sheets in the opening running on Friday, but he ended the day six tenths adrift of Verstappen. His deficit to Verstappen, at a track which is predicted to suit Red Bull, suggests Hamilton’s unique record of winning a race in every F1 season he has competed will come to an end on Sunday night.

Verstappen finished 0.341 seconds clear of Russell. Perez, who enters the final round in Abu Dhabi level on points with Leclerc, finished fifth, one spot ahead of Sainz.

Sebastian Vettel, who will take part in his 299th and final grand prix on Sunday, was 12th in his Aston Martin. Daniel Ricciardo, who also will not be on the grid in 2023 after being axed by McLaren, took ninth, two places ahead of his team-mate Lando Norris.

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