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F1 Abu Dhabi GP: Russell tops first practice with 10 rookies in action

George Russell topped FP1 at Formula 1’s 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – the Mercedes driver leading the way for nearly all of the session’s one-hour duration.

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Jake Grant / Motorsport Images

FP1 featured 10 drivers making way for rookies, as all the teams bar AlphaTauri, which had regulars Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo in the AT04s still sporting their Las Vegas livery, completed their rookie practice running requirement for the year.

For Red Bull to do this, it needed both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez to make way, with 2023 Formula E world champion and Red Bull development driver Jake Dennis and Isack Hadjar taking over at the wheels of the RB19s for the opening hour of weekend running at the season finale.

Russell dominated in the early stages – the Mercedes driver taking the benchmark time down from Lance Stroll’s initial 1m31.035s on the medium tyres to 1m26.313 just into the session’s second quarter with a series of improvements either side of a trip to the pits.

Lots of cars, including those of Robert Shwartzman and Felipe Drugovich in Charles Leclerc and Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari and Aston Martin respectively, ran giant aerodynamic measuring rakes as the teams used the time to evaluate parts ahead of the 2024 campaign.

Just before the halfway point, where Russell went faster again with a 1m26.081s this time on the soft tyres, Mick Doohan (in Esteban Ocon’s Alpine) and Logan Sargeant nearly collided at the penultimate corner.

Doohan was arriving at high speed through the double right complex that ends the Yas Marina lap while Sargeant slowly prepared for his next flying tour, when the Williams driver moved right just as Doohan had opted to pass him on the inside and they nearly came together. The incident will be investigated after the session.

Towards the end of the session Hadjar and Stroll also had a moment at the end of the track’s first long straight, with the Red Bull junior having to jink around the Aston approaching the Turns 6 and 7 chicane.

Jake Dennis, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Jake Dennis, Red Bull Racing RB19

Russell improved the best time to a 1m26.072s approaching the final third – this time only just going quicker via a last-gasp improvement in the final sector.

That remained as the session’s best time to the end, with Drugovich ending up second ahead of Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas and Stroll.

Then came Oscar Piastri, Carlos Sainz, Shwartzman, Pierre Gasly and Tsunoda.

Several drivers had major sideways moment coming out of the final corner and at track where it is very hard to keep the soft tyres alive over a full lap – including Sainz, Stroll, Williams junior Zak O’Sullivan and McLaren F1 reserve and IndyCar racer Pato O’Ward.

Cars bottoming out was also a significant feature of the session, with Shwartzman and Theo Pourchaire (in for Zhou Guanyu at Alfa Romeo) nearly losing their machines as they struck the ground through the fast, flowing opening corners, with McLaren telling Oscar Piastri it was seeing the effect across its cars.

The teams used the opening session to assess their initial ride height work on a track that has been resurfaced at Turns 6, 7, 10 and 11.

The session was concluded with the a test of the new rain light warning systems on the rear of the cars.

F1 Abu Dhabi GP - FP1 results

Driver Info
Cla Driver # Chassis Engine Laps Time Interval km/h
1 United Kingdom G. Russell Mercedes 63 Mercedes Mercedes 26


2 Brazil F. Drugovich Aston Martin Racing 34 Aston Martin Mercedes 26



0.288 220.143
3 Australia D. Ricciardo AlphaTauri 3 AlphaTauri Red Bull 26



0.073 219.957
4 Finland V. Bottas Alfa Romeo 77 Alfa Romeo Ferrari 21



0.020 219.906
5 Canada L. Stroll Aston Martin Racing 18 Aston Martin Mercedes 21



0.178 219.454
6 Australia O. Piastri McLaren 81 McLaren Mercedes 25



0.034 219.368
7 Spain C. Sainz Ferrari 55 Ferrari Ferrari 24



0.011 219.340
8 Russian Federation R. Shwartzman Ferrari 39 Ferrari Ferrari 25



0.027 219.272
9 France P. Gasly Alpine 10 Alpine Renault 26



0.017 219.229
10 Japan Y. Tsunoda AlphaTauri 22 AlphaTauri Red Bull 27



0.005 219.217
11 United States L. Sargeant Williams 2 Williams Mercedes 27



0.017 219.174
12 Denmark F. Vesti Mercedes 42 Mercedes Mercedes 27



0.073 218.989
13 Australia J. Doohan Alpine 61 Alpine Renault 23



0.050 218.863
14 France T. Pourchaire Alfa Romeo 98 Alfa Romeo Ferrari 20



0.228 218.290
15 Mexico P. O'Ward McLaren 29 McLaren Mercedes 23



0.021 218.238
16 United Kingdom J. Dennis Red Bull Racing 36 Red Bull Red Bull 24



0.094 218.002
17 France I. Hadjar Red Bull Racing 37 Red Bull Red Bull 20



0.036 217.912
18 United Kingdom Z. O'Sullivan Williams 45 Williams Mercedes 28



0.216 217.374
19 Denmark K. Magnussen Haas F1 Team 20 Haas Ferrari 26



0.002 217.369
20 United Kingdom O. Bearman Haas F1 Team 50 Haas Ferrari 24



0.107 217.104

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