George Russell sends warning shot for Qualifying after Abu Dhabi GP FP3

Max Verstappen struggled in the final free practice session of the 2023 F1 season


George Russell topped his second session of the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend in FP3, a tenth ahead of Lando Norris while third-placed Oscar Piastri capped a strong McLaren showing.

A curtailed FP2 saw two red flags on Friday night, with Nico Hulkenberg hitting the wall moments after a very long red flag was lifting following Carlos Sainz‘s heavy slam into the barriers in the opening sector.

But it was a much smoother affair in FP3, with a sense of the drivers just going through the motions at the Yas Marina Circuit. Charles Leclerc also hinted track engineers had flattened the bump at turn three that caught Sainz out.

Leclerc was fifth for a Ferrari team that were scratching their heads at Mercedes‘ pace, the Monegasque unable to match Russell in the final sector and finishing seven-tenths back from the leader.

Alex Albon clinched a surprise fourth, with eighth-place teammate Logan Sargeant giving Williams optimism that they can hold off the upgraded AlphaTauri for seventh in the constructors’ championship.

Esteban Ocon, Yuki Tsunoda and Zhou Guanyu completed the top 10, with several big names failing to set competitive times.

Not Russell though, he looks to be a genuine contender for his first pole position of the Formula 1 season.

A tale of two Red Bulls

Max Verstappen on track in free practice for the 2023 Abu Dhabi GP | Clive Rose/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen complained of his Red Bull bouncing in FP2 – after sitting out FP1 in favour of Jake Dennis – and still wasn’t happy here despite making several setup changes throughout the hour.

Verstappen changed the torsion bar in his front suspension several times, but his team will now just have a few hours to lock in his setup ahead of qualifying. He finished 6th, ahead of Sergio Perez but the Mexican looked much more comfortable in his RB19.

The Mexican’s enjoyed a renaissance in recent races and should’ve challenged for pole position in Las Vegas if Red Bull hadn’t miscalculated the Q2 cutoff time and left him sat in the garage as everyone else improved.

However, he’ll hope to rectify that in Abu Dhabi and appears to be the stronger Red Bull before qualifying.


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