ABU DHABI (AFP) - Lewis Hamilton's quest to make Formula One history at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix began brightly with the Mercedes driver topping the timesheets after Friday's (Dec 10) opening practice.
Hamilton, chasing an unprecedented eighth world title, goes into Sunday's season-closing race level on points with Max Verstappen.
And it was the Dutch title contender who was quickest out of the blocks at the Yas Marina circuit, taking the honours in the morning session.
Hamilton, placed third, turned the tables under floodlights in second practice with a 1min 23.691 lap to get his weekend off to an encouraging start.
"It doesn't feel too bad," said the 36-year-old Briton.
"It started off good but got a bit worse in P1, then started off better in the second session with some changes we made.
"Now we just have to crank through the data and try to figure out how we can improve, where we home in. The target is always moving, but yes. Otherwise, I feel good."
Alpine's Esteban Ocon led the chasing pack, 0.343sec adrift, followed by Valtteri Bottas on his last run out for Mercedes before moving to Alfa Romeo in 2022.
Verstappen, who won at the circuit last year to end six years of domination by Mercedes, was placed fourth, at 0.641sec.
Hamilton approaches Sunday's closing chapter of a 2021 season that will live long in the memory on a four-timer after wins in Brazil, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
His late season surge sees the pair neck and neck at the top of the drivers' standings - the last time that happened was in 1974.
The maths are simple - whoever finishes in front takes the title.
But Verstappen will prevail should they both end up with equal points or fail to score any on the strength of winning nine races to Hamilton's eight.
The Abu Dhabi track has undergone a major revamp since last year to improve overtaking opportunities.