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Hamilton sets Portugal pace in second practice before heading off grid


Mercedes Lewis Hamilton Portugal Grand Prix

Mercedes’ British driver Lewis Hamilton drives during the first practice session of the Portuguese Formula One Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao on April 30, 2021. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP)

World champion Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in second practice for the Portuguese Grand Prix on Friday before heading off the social media grid to protest online abuse.

The British driver clocked 1min 19.837sec in the Mercedes to edge out Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on 1min 19.980sec with Valtteri Bottas, in the second Mercedes, in third on 1min 20.181sec.

Bottas had set the fastest time in the morning session with 1min 19.648sec.

The afternoon session at Portimao was delayed by 10 minutes to fix a faulty manhole cover before Hamilton set the pace, topping practice for the first time this season.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton leads the season standings by one point from Verstappen after he won the opener in Bahrain before his Dutch rival hit back in the Emilia Romagna GP at Imola.

Hamilton, meanwhile, said he was joining the weekend-long social media blackout featuring a host of international sports bodies as well as individuals in a protest over online abuse.

“While a boycott might not solve this issue overnight, we have to call for change when needed even when it seems like an impossible task,” Hamilton wrote on Instagram where he has 22 million followers.

As he looked ahead to the weekend on the track, Hamilton predicted another tense tussle with Red Bull.

“We look very close, I think it will be tight,” he said.

“I don’t know how Max’s lap went, but mine wasn’t perfect. The car can be even faster and there are improvements possible.”

A third practice session takes place on Saturday at 1100GMT before a 1400GMT start for qualifying.

Verstappen, who was also second fastest in the morning, insisted there was little to separate Red Bull and Mercedes.

However, he was wary of the track conditions.

“The conditions are very similar to last year and the tarmac is super slippery,” said Verstappen.

“It seems tight with Mercedes this weekend again and the car felt alright but we still have some work to do ahead of tomorrow, that’s for sure.”

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