Abu Dhabi FP1: Russell fastest from Drugovich and Ricciardo

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George Russell dominated the opening practice for this weekend’s Abu Dhabi, the Mercedes driver comfortably leading Aston Martin rookie Felipe Drugovich and AlphaTauri’s Daniel Ricciardo.

Amid warm track conditions, Russell produced his best effort on the soft tyre, a 1m26.072 flyer that outpaced Drugovich by 0.288s.

Save for a number of hairy moments suffered by several drivers out on track, on their own or as the result of finding another driver on their trajectory, it was a clean session.


The final FP1 of 2023 kicked off with a flurry rookies and young drivers out on track, including a full rotation at Red Bull Racing where Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez were both replaced by Formula E world champion Jake Dennis and Isack Hadjar.

Otherwise, Robert Shwartzman (Ferrari), Frederik Vesti (Mercedes), Jack Doohan (Alpine), Pato O'Ward (McLaren), Oliver Bearman (Haas), Theo Pourchaire (Alfa Romeo), Felipe Drugovich (Aston Martin) and Zak O'Sullivan (Williams) were all in action to showcase their skills.

For the final time of the year, the track went green in FP1, with Lance Stroll the first driver to take to the track, the Canadian eventually followed by F1’s entire field of contenders.

Russell, running on the medium tyre, laid down the first reference lap with a 1m27.673s that allowed the Mercedes driver to precede Sainz and Ricciardo.

Meanwhile, Red Bull’s Dennis made a quick pit stop to tighten his helmet, realizing the difference in speed between F1 and Formula E.

Despite buzzing his pit wall to complain about a steering issue on his Mercedes, Russell continued to lower his own benchmark by a comfortable margin, the Briton leading Stroll, Tsunoda and Ricciardo.

A solid start therefore for AlphaTauri and its updated AT04.

Alpine’s Doohan narrowly avoided a major catastrophe when he exited the final corner on a hot lap only to find the slow-moving Williams of Sargeant veering into his path. It was a heart-stopping moment for the rookie, and one that was to be investigated by the stewards.

As the session passed its halfway mark, Gasly closed within 0.648s of Russell’s best while Vesti leapfrogged both AlphaTauri’s to move up to third.

Track evolution and a switch to the softs encouraged the field to up the pace in the closing stages of the session. This saw Piastri move into the runner-up spot but the McLaren driver was still over half a second adrift of Russell.

Proper qualifying simulations were now in order, which reshuffled the order up front, save for Russell who remained on top. But Drugovic, Bottas and Ricciardo slotted in behind the Mercedes leader.

There were no further changes among the top four in the final minutes of running, with Drugovic winning bragging rights as the fastest rookie, the Brazilian incidentally also outpacing Stroll who clocked in fifth.

Piastri followed thereafter, leading Sainz, Shwartzman, Gasly and Tsunoda. From Vesti to O’Sullivan, the rookies filled positions 12 to 18 while Haas” Kavin Magnussen and Ollie Bearman closed out the field.

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