Max Verstappen regained his confidence and poise when he topped the Red Bull times ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell in opening practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The two-time world champion showed no reaction to recent events after ignoring team orders in Brazil, where Russell claimed his first victory, and then launched an angry attack on the media and social media on Thursday.
“I am very happy with how that session went. Of course we will always try to refine things overnight, but we need to be competitive in qualifying,” she said.
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Chasing a 15th win in a single season, Verstappen posted a best lap of one minute and 25.146 seconds to edge Russell by more than three-tenths of a second.
Verstappen’s morning ride was taken by Liam Lawson.
It was a convincing performance from the young New Zealander in his first race in a Red Bull for his third FP1 appearance of the season.
“I think the car was in a good window. Liam did a really good job in FP1, calm and stable, so that’s all we want, right?” Verstappen said. formula1.com.
“In FP2 we tried a few things and in the long runs the car worked quite well, so I’m very happy with that.”
However, there was an unfortunate moment for the Kiwi, who crossed the line, telling the team he was “used to driving lower” in his Formula 2 car.
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Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was third, ahead of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes, Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull and Carlos Sainz in the second Ferrari.
All of this suggested that the top three teams will be locked in a close contest in Sunday’s season finale race at the Yas Marina circuit.
Russell, in an upbeat mood after his victory in Sao Paulo, said he believed Mercedes remained “a bit behind” Red Bull on pure pace after the “silver arrows” spent much of Friday testing new parts for 2023.
“We had a very strong day in terms of what we have learned,” he said. “We did quite a bit of testing in FP1 looking forward to next year and this is one of our last chances to test.
“In FP2 the track temperature was obviously cooler and it changed the conditions completely, but it felt fast out there. I think Red Bull just has their legs on us in a single lap, probably two tenths ahead and in a long run, maybe even more.”
Hamilton felt more optimistic.
“I felt pretty good in the first session, but in FP2 the balance was a bit off,” he said.
“I made some changes between sessions and they weren’t the right ones, so I had a bit of a problem with oversteer and that was my limitation.
“The Red Bulls were a bit quicker, but that was to be expected as this is not our strongest race.
“So, we’ll work hard overnight and we’ll be there and hopefully we’ll be able to put up a good fight.”
George Russell claims his first F1 victory | 03:15
Leclerc said he was a bit disappointed with their lack of pace, adding that Ferrari needs to make overnight progress on set-up if it is to be competitive.
“It was a clean Friday, at least, which we haven’t had for a long time, so this is good. On the other hand, it seemed that we lacked a bit of rhythm, especially in the race stages”, he said.
Ninth on the timesheets was Daniel Ricciardo in his last weekend with McLaren. After a rollercoaster season that saw his contract cut, Ricciardo found himself sliding on a slippery patch of new asphalt in his McLaren pit box ahead of his last race with the team.
Earlier, influential Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko had said sky sports germany that the Australian driver was set to return to Red Bull next year, as a third driver, ending speculation linking him to Mercedes.
The revelation that Ricciardo was heading to Red Bull in 2023 was taken by many paddock watchers as a sign that Mercedes was ready to offer Mick Schumacher a similar reserve and test role in 2023, following his release by Haas. .
Eight regular drivers gave up their seats to the ambitious bookings for the session.