The Red Bull driver posted a 1m25.009s around the revised Yas Marina Circuit to head Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas by 0.196s at the top of the timesheets, while championship rival Hamilton was third-quickest. 

Hamilton had managed to get within 0.033s of Verstappen’s benchmark but had his best lap time deleted for track limits at the final corner, leaving him 0.346s adrift of the Dutchman. 

Both drivers head into the last round of the season level on points, setting up a tantalising winner-takes-all contest in the Abu Dhabi finale.

Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez pipped Yuki Tsunoda to the fourth-fastest time, with the AlphaTauri racer completing the top five. 

Fernando Alonso briefly topped FP1 but eventually slipped back to sixth for Alpine, ahead of Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri. 

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Next up came the Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in eighth and ninth, while Sebastian Vettel rounded out top-10 for Aston Martin, just under a second off the pace. 

The four-time world champion saved a big spin coming out of the hotel section in the closing moments of FP1. 

Standing in for Williams regular George Russell during the final first practice session of the season, Jack Aitken outpaced Nicholas Latifi by just 0.006s. 

FP2 will take place in more representative conditions under the lights that will be  replicated in qualifying and the grand prix itself.