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Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas drives during the second practice session ahead of the Qatari Formula One Grand Prix at the Losail International Circuit, in the city of Lusail. Image Credit: AFP

Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes set the pace in practice today ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix as the Formula 1 title battle heads into its final three races.

The Finn was 0.209 seconds quicker than Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly, with championship rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton third and fourth.

Just 0.072secs separated Verstappen’s Red Bull and Hamilton’s Mercedes.

The Dutchman was fastest from Bottas in the first session but Hamilton admitted he was struggling.

“I’m definitely not close. I’m a little bit slow, so we need to figure that out tonight,” he said.

Fifth fastest

McLaren’s Lando Norris was fifth fastest, ahead of Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin and Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.

There were no major incidents as drivers and teams familiarised themselves with the Losail circuit outside Doha.

Hamilton starts the weekend 14 points behind Verstappen in the championship.