George Russell topped the timesheets in FP1 for the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, laying down a marker in Mercedes‘ battle with Ferrari for second place in the constructors’ championship.
There were ten rookies taking part as teams scrambled to complete their quota of free practice drivers for the season, with Felipe Drugovich the standout for Aston Martin recording a very impressive second place at less than three-tenths back from Russell.
Daniel Ricciardo completed the top three, AlphaTauri are just seven points behind Williams for seventh place in the constructors’ championship and have unusually brought upgrades to the Yas Marina Circuit.
Valtteri Bottas was just two-hundredths behind Ricciardo in fourth, while Lance Stroll was a late improver but still came home well over a quarter of a second back from his rookie teammate.
Oscar Piastri attempted to dob Carlos Sainz in to the stewards at the end of the session and was awkwardly just ahead of the Spaniard, whose stand-in teammate Robert Shwartzman was very impressive, in eighth and 0.027 seconds behind.
Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda rounded out the top 10, the large number of rookies making it difficult to draw any major conclusions.
Jack Doohan had a major scare when he came around the penultimate corner on a flying lap to find Sargeant sat on the racing line, both then dived to the inside at the same time with the Australian telling the Alpine pitwall he ‘nearly had the biggest crash of his life’.
But the session was largely incident-free, impressive given the inexperience on display.
Rookie report: Three standouts
Aside from Drugovich and Shwartzman, no other rookies cracked the top 10 but Jack Doohan also had a good outing finishing less than two-tenths behind Pierre Gasly.
Oliver Bearman was hamstrung by Haas‘ uncompetitive run-plan, ending the session dead-last but only a tenth behind his teammate.
“Need to Box, my helmet is nowhere near tight enough”Jake Dennis on Red Bull team radio
The Red Bull shootout between Jake Dennis and Isack Hadjar went the way of the Nuneaton native, but only just with Dennis claiming 16th place by a handful of hundredths.
Mercedes‘ Frederik Vesti, Alfa Romeo‘s Theo Pourchaire, McLaren‘s Pato O’Ward and Williams‘ Zak O’Sullivan were both well behind their teammates.