24 November 2023

George Russell fastest as rookies handed chance in first Abu Dhabi practice

24 November 2023

George Russell finished fastest in opening practice for the concluding round of the Formula One season in Abu Dhabi.

Triple world champion Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton sat out the first running with 10 rookie drivers blooded at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Three Britons were among them with Zak O’Sullivan, 18, and Jake Dennis, 28, making their Formula One weekend debuts for Williams and Red Bull respectively.

Ollie Bearman, 18, who in Mexico made history by becoming the youngest British debutant at a Grand Prix, was handed his second practice appearance by Haas.

Dennis, in a Red Bull machine which Hamilton has described as the fastest ever seen in Formula One, finished 16th of the 20 runners, 1.1 seconds off the pace.

O’Sullivan was 18th – seven tenths behind Williams’ Logan Sargeant – with Bearman 20th and last, albeit only a tenth slower than Kevin Magnussen in the other Haas.

Mercedes are facing up to ending the season without a single victory – the first time that has happened in 12 years.

But the troubled Silver Arrows will take some confidence from ending the opening running at the top of the order.

Russell finished 0.288 sec clear of Aston Martin stand-in Felipe Drugovich – who finished highest of the substitute drivers – with Daniel Ricciardo third for AlphaTauri.

Valtteri Bottas was fourth in his Alfa Romeo, ahead of Lance Stroll and Oscar Piastri.

The day’s concluding session – which will see the return of Verstappen, Hamilton and McLaren’s Lando Norris – gets under way at 5pm local time (1pm GMT).

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