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Perez leads Red Bull 1-2 in Abu Dhabi final practice, Hamilton avoids grid penalty

Sergio Perez was fastest from teammate Max Verstappen in the final practice for the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Sergio Perez led a Red Bull 1-2 from teammate Max Verstappen in the final practice session of the year at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

With Verstappen also topping FP2 on Friday, Red Bull underlined their status as favourites to take pole position and the win at the last event of the Formula 1 season.

The majority of the field elected to stay in the pit lane for the first 15 minutes as they wanted to wait for more representative track conditions to conduct their qualifying simulations.

Qualifying will be held after sunset at 18:00 local time (14:00 UK) so the warmer and sunny conditions of FP3 were not entirely representative.

Perez was fastest on the mediums at the halfway point of the session, quicker than the Ferrari and Alpine drivers who also set their times on the C2 compound.

Lewis Hamilton then went fastest on the softs, before everyone put on the soft tyres for the remaining 20 minutes at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Perez immediately went fastest on a 1:24.982, which was 0.240 seconds quicker than Hamilton and 0.413 seconds quicker than George Russell.

Verstappen, who didn’t appear until 35 minutes into the session which suggested he was very happy with his car balance from Friday, was expected to go quicker but went wide at Turn 5 on his run so slotted into second, 0.152 seconds behind Perez.

Lando Norris put in a stunning lap to go fifth, ahead of Ferrari‘s Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc who are set for a difficult weekend.

Leclerc said his soft tyres were “gone” after four corners and added “it is not looking good”. It looks like Ferrari will be out of contention for pole position, as has been the case for most of the events following the summer break.

Daniel Ricciardo was eighth in what could be his final event in F1, with the retiring Sebastian Vettel ninth and Alex Albon showing great pace for Williams in 10th.

Hamilton avoids grid penalty

Hamilton was investigated for failing to slow down when the red flags came out for debris after Pierre Gasly suffered a failure to his wheel cover.

Gasly ran over the exit kerb at Turn 9 when the damage occurred, although he thinks the part broke earlier on the lap.

When the red flags were called, Hamilton appeared to overtake Kevin Magnussen into Turn 5, which was noticed by Norris.

The stewards announced the Mercedes driver will not be penalised as Hamilton “took every reasonable action to comply with the regulations in that he immediately reduced speed in a safe manner at the earliest opportunity upon the first indication of the red light”.

A similar incident happened with Verstappen at the 2021 Dutch GP, which resulted in the same the decision – no penalty.

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