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F1 – Russell tops FP1 timesheet as rookies get a chance to shine in Abu Dhabi


Mercedes driver George Russell topped the timesheet at the end of an opening practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that featured 10 rookie drivers. 

A host of F1 regulars made way in the opening hour of practice as with every team bar AlphaTauri fielded reserve drivers or junior series hopefuls at the Yas Marina Circuit in order to fulfil the requirement to run rookies during the year.

In the early stages of the one-hour session Russell was quickly into the groove posting a time of 1:26.313 to lead the way as elsewhere several of the rookie driver ran with aero rakes fitted to aid teams’ development of parts for next season. 

As the session headed towards the 

Just before the halfway point, Russell bolted on a set of Soft compound Pirelli tyres and lowered the benchmark to 1:26.081. Elsewhere, Mick Doohan, filling in for Esteban Ocon at Alpine, and Williams’ regular were involved in a near miss incident at the penultimate corner. Dooha, on a flying lap, arrived at high speed almost colliding with Sargeant who was preparing for his next attempt and moved across just as Doohan went to pass him. Fortunately there was no contact. 

Russell, though, continued to improve and in the final as the session headed towards its final 20 minutes he dropped the P1 time 1:26.072.

That time held as the session’s best until the flag and the Mercedes driver finished a little over two tenths of a second clear of Felipe Drugovich who was in Fernando Alonso’s Astoin Martin. Race regulars filled the next five spots, with Daniel Ricciardo third for AlphaTauri ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll. They were followed by McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, while the next best rookie was Robert Shwartzman who was in Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari. 

Elsewhere, Fredrik Vesto took P12 in Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes ahead of Doohan, while FIA Formula 2 championship leader Théo Pourchaire was 14th for Alfa Romeo in place of Zhou Guanyu. 

He was followed by Pato O’Ward who was standing in for Lando Norris at McLaren, while Formula E champion and Red Bull tester Jake Dennis finished 16th ahead of Red Bull Junior Isack Hadjar as the 2023 championship-winning team replaced both Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez for the session. 

Zak O’Sullivan finished in P18 for Williams ahead of Haas regular Kevin Magnussen and the final place went to Ollie Bearman who stood in for Nico Hülkenberg at the US team. 

2023 FIA Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 George Russell Mercedes 1:26.072 26 220.880
2 Felipe Drugovich Aston Martin 1:26.360 0.288 26 220.143
3 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri  1:26.433 0.361 26 219.957
4 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:26.453 0.381 21 219.906
5 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:26.631 0.559 21 219.454
6 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:26.665 0.593 25 219.368
7 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:26.676 0.604 24 219.340
8 Robert Shwartzman Ferrari 1:26.703 0.631 25 219.272
9 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:26.720 0.648 26 219.229
10 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:26.725 0.653 27 219.217
11 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:26.742 0.670 27 219.174
12 Frederik Vesti Mercedes 1:26.815 0.743 27 218.989
13 Jack Doohan Alpine 1:26.865 0.793 23 218.863
14 Théo Pourchaire Alfa Romeo 1:27.093 1.021 20 218.290
15 Patricio O'Ward McLaren 1:27.114 1.042 23 218.238
16 Jake Dennis Red Bull Racing 1:27.208 1.136 24 218.002
17 Isack Hadjar Red Bull Racing 1:27.244 1.172 20 217.912
18 Zak O'Sullivan Williams 1:27.460 1.388 28 217.374
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:27.462 1.390 26 217.369
20 Ollie Bearman Haas 1:27.569 1.497 24 217.104