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F1 Abu Dhabi GP: Russell heads final practice from Norris

George Russell set the fastest time in the last Formula 1 practice session of 2023 to beat Lando Norris in FP3 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

George Russell set the fastest time in the last Formula 1 practice session of 2023 to beat Lando Norris in FP3 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Russell overhauled an early benchmark from Sergio Perez to put his car on top with a 1m25.163s, and later increased the pace as the circuit improved over the course of the session; on his second soft-tyre run, he put together a 1m24.829s.
Despite a series of challenges from other drivers as they worked their way through the soft-tyre allocations that were left untouched during the oft-interrupted FP2, Russell upped the ante with a 1m24.418s to cement his place at the top.
With both qualifying and the race being held in night-time conditions, the overall conditions were unrepresentative of those set to be experienced over the rest of the weekend. Nonetheless, it was at least an opportunity for the drivers who had running hampered on Friday to gain a feel for the circuit.
During the second half of the session, Russell faced renewed challenges from Esteban Ocon and Alex Albon; although the two set the better opening pair of sectors, neither could match the Briton in the final sector. Albon fell a tenth short of Russell's earlier headliner, who then found more time on another run with a 1m24.418s.
Norris was close to moving past his 2018 F2 title rival but suffered a slide on the kerb at Turn 16 and thus fell 0.095s short as he just held onto his sideways-aligned McLaren.
This was enough for the Bristol-born racer to collect second in the session over team-mate Oscar Piastri, who had set two times good enough for third place in the overall order.
Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60

Albon's effort managed to stand up against a flurry of final improvements among the Ferrari and Red Bull drivers, locking the Anglo-Thai driver into fourth place having set the best opening pair of sectors of the session.
Ferrari had prioritised medium-tyre running throughout the majority of the session and only switched to the softs towards the end. FP2 leader Charles Leclerc attempted to reclaim his position from Friday, but lost two-tenths in each sector to Russell's benchmark and thus had to be content with the fifth fastest time - beating Max Verstappen by half a tenth.
Verstappen revealed that he was struggling with a loose rear-end, and felt that he was "sliding a lot"  and bouncing as he was unable to move past Russell and Perez on his opening flying lap and fell half a second short of the Mercedes driver's pace.
After Russell raised the bar, Verstappen sought to beat the new benchmark; despite setting a best middle sector, a shortfall in the final sector resulted in a half-second deficit once again. His 1m25.153s at the end was enough to push Ocon down to seventh, although arguably did not get the best from his tyres after aborting the previous lap thanks to a wayward first sector. 
Logan Sargeant ensured both Williams were in the top eight, as Yuki Tsunoda and Zhou Guanyu completed the top 10 with their own efforts in the final 15 minutes of the session.
Perez showed strongly at the start of his final timed lap but lost ground in the final sector and could only place 11th - just 0.033s clear of Lewis Hamilton.
Carlos Sainz was able to participate in FP3 after a rebuild to his Ferrari overnight following his Friday crash but propped up the order as he encountered traffic in the final sector of his best soft-tyre lap.

Abu Dhabi GP FP3 results 

 
 
       
Driver Info
 
 
 
   
Cla Driver # Chassis Engine Laps Time Interval km/h
1 United Kingdom G. Russell Mercedes 63 Mercedes Mercedes 14

1'24.418

  225.207
2 United Kingdom L. Norris McLaren 4 McLaren Mercedes 16

+0.095

1'24.513

0.095 224.954
3 Australia O. Piastri McLaren 81 McLaren Mercedes 16

+0.392

1'24.810

0.297 224.166
4 Thailand A. Albon Williams 23 Williams Mercedes 17

+0.511

1'24.929

0.119 223.852
5 Monaco C. Leclerc Ferrari 16 Ferrari Ferrari 27

+0.681

1'25.099

0.170 223.405
6 Netherlands M. Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1 Red Bull Red Bull 19

+0.735

1'25.153

0.054 223.264
7 France E. Ocon Alpine 31 Alpine Renault 18

+0.776

1'25.194

0.041 223.156
8 United States L. Sargeant Williams 2 Williams Mercedes 17

+0.787

1'25.205

0.011 223.127
9 Japan Y. Tsunoda AlphaTauri 22 AlphaTauri Red Bull 15

+0.804

1'25.222

0.017 223.083
10 China Z. Guanyu Alfa Romeo 24 Alfa Romeo Ferrari 23

+0.840

1'25.258

0.036 222.989
11 Mexico S. Perez Red Bull Racing 11 Red Bull Red Bull 21

+0.841

1'25.259

0.001 222.986
12 United Kingdom L. Hamilton Mercedes 44 Mercedes Mercedes 26

+0.874

1'25.292

0.033 222.900
13 France P. Gasly Alpine 10 Alpine Renault 18

+0.885

1'25.303

0.011 222.871
14 Spain F. Alonso Aston Martin Racing 14 Aston Martin Mercedes 25

+0.925

1'25.343

0.040 222.766
15 Canada L. Stroll Aston Martin Racing 18 Aston Martin Mercedes 24

+0.987

1'25.405

0.062 222.605
16 Finland V. Bottas Alfa Romeo 77 Alfa Romeo Ferrari 16

+1.002

1'25.420

0.015 222.566
17 Germany N. Hulkenberg Haas F1 Team 27 Haas Ferrari 22

+1.166

1'25.584

0.164 222.139
18 Australia D. Ricciardo AlphaTauri 3 AlphaTauri Red Bull 15

+1.179

1'25.597

0.013 222.105
19 Denmark K. Magnussen Haas F1 Team 20 Haas Ferrari 20

+1.234

1'25.652

0.055 221.963
20 Spain C. Sainz Ferrari 55 Ferrari Ferrari 29

+1.295

1'25.713

0.061 221.805

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