• Max Verstappen was the fastest driver in the opening practice for the Qatar Grand Prix.
• Lewis Hamilton was fourth fastest behind teammate Valtteri Bottas.
• Verstappen leads Hamilton in the championship by 14 points.
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Red Bull's Formula 1 championship leader Max Verstappen lapped fastest in first practice for the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix at the Losail circuit on Friday.
The Dutch 24-year-old, who leads Mercedes seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton by 14 points with three races remaining, produced a quickest time of 1:23.723 seconds in a dusty but uneventful session.
AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly, who also has a Honda engine, was second and 0.437 seconds slower with a late quick run.
'Are we slow?'
Valtteri Bottas was third on the timesheets, 0.471 off Verstappen's pace, for Mercedes with Hamilton fourth.
Hamilton was 0.786 slower than his title rival, and also ran wide over kerbs at turn 14 before pitting with a damaged front wing.
"Are we slow on the straight or something?" the Briton asked over the radio. "No, not particularly," race engineer Peter Bonnington replied.
Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda made it two AlphaTauri drivers in the top five with Ferrari's Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc sixth and seventh.
The session took place with F1 still waiting on stewards to decide their response to a Mercedes request for a review of an incident between Verstappen and Hamilton in Brazil last Sunday. The times and mid-afternoon temperatures were not representative of the rest of the weekend, with Sunday's race held at night under floodlights.