Russell fastest in FP3, followed by the McLarens,as Verstappen struggles to find a set-up for his RB

Spread the love

Photo credits: AMG Mercedes F1

Quite a controversial filled start for this Abu Dhabi weekend, with two red flags interrupting FP2 and pit-lane overtakes.

In Friday practice, Max Verstappen came quite close to being squeezed into the wall when he overtook George Russell and Lewis Hamilton in the pits.

As he reached the pit exit he also overtook the Alpine of Pierre Gasly, while Fernando Alonso passed by an AlphaTauri.

While Verstappen shrugged off the encounters as “silly” shenanigans F1 race director Niels Wittich decided it would be better to prevent a repeat of that by banning drivers from overtaking in the pit exit for the remainder of the weekend.

That being set, it is time for the last free practice session of the season ahead of this afternoon’s qualifying in Yas Marina.

First cars to go out on track are the Aston Martins of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll along with Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc.

Out running after a heavy crash in the opening minutes of FP2 is Carlos Sainz, who goes fastest in 1m26.609s, a time that is soon beaten by Sergio Perez who closes his lap in 1m25.417s, over one second faster on soft tyres.

A switch to the softest compound for the Astons who had gone out on Hards earlier for the first out-lap, just as Pierre Gasly takes his Alpine up to P2. Next one up to try and beat Perez’s best effort is Hamilton, who only manages to sit in second place – half a second behind. A time that is beaten by Stroll and then by Lando Norris, but still no better than the Red Bull.

With Charles Leclerc in P5 on Mediums, it’s ultimately George Russell who takes the top spot in 1m25.163s.

Meanwhile Max Verstappen comes out on soft tyres and goes second, in a slidy RB19 as he complains on the radio about its rear and is called back into the garage for some adjustments.

Halfway into the session and it’s still George Russell leading the timesheet, followed by Verstappen and Oscar Piastri, who put his McLaren only 0.566s behind.

While Haas is struggling with both Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg towards the bottom of the order in P20 and P18, only split by Zhou, Williams is finding a stable place in the top ten.

In the last quarter of this last free practice session and we are yet to see a run on Softs for the Ferraris, who are both still on medium tyres.

Verstappen is yet again entering the pitlane, not satisfied with the set-up of his Red Bull, as mechanics work their way on the front suspension this time.

Entering the top three is Lando Norris, who in second place splits his teammate Piastri and Russell who keeps his P1 with only 0.095s margin on the McLaren of the Brit.

One more attempt for a quicker lap for Verstappen who slides up at Turn 5 and decides to give up on his lap and it’s yet another trip to the garage for some changes for the Dutchman, to try and fix the “bottoming” and “jumping” he chirped about on the radio.

As the closing minutes approach the Ferraris finally come out on soft tyres, but ultimately it’s P5 for Charles Leclerc, right ahead of a struggling Verstappen and only P19 for his teammate Carlos Sainz.

Cold brakes almost send Hulkenberg off track, but he manages to keep it together at Turn 1.

As the chequered flag is waved, only half a second splitting the drivers in a top-four completed by Alex Albon, in a track that was flattened – as Leclerc confirmed on the radio in the final runs – to take out the Turn 3 bump that cost the first red flag in yesterday’s FP2.