RACE DEBRIEF

    Max Verstappen sat out FP1 in Abu Dhabi but returned to top the timesheets in FP2, which led the Dutchman to praise Red Bull Junior driver Liam Lawson but also his championship-winning RB18.

    Lawson finished fifth in FP1, just two-tenths off Sergio Perez, before Verstappen returned to his cockpit and set the benchmark of 1m 25.146s in FP2 – with Mercedes’ Sao Paulo Grand Prix winner George Russell going second and 0.341s off the pace in the second session.

    READ MORE: Verstappen leads Russell and Leclerc during twilight second practice in Abu Dhabi

    “It was alright to be honest,” said the reigning champion, who has won a record 14 Grands Prix in 2022. “I think the car was in a good window. Liam did a very good job in FP1, just calm and steady, so that’s all what we want, right? Then FP2, no real problems, the car was in a good window, we tried a few things and in the long run also the car was working quite well, so I’m pretty happy with that.”

    Team mate Perez took fourth in FP1 and fifth under the floodlights in FP2, and the Mexican explained why both sessions were dramatically different as he evaluated his car’s performance.

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    Verstappen ended Friday "pretty happy"

    “We are competitive in the long runs,” began Perez. “We’ve got a bit of time to find in the short runs, so a few bits to analyse to see what we can do better.

    “They were very interesting sessions, very different from the morning to the afternoon,” added Perez. “We’re just exploring different balance [set-ups] around the car, so I think generally, we feel we have plenty of information, especially for tomorrow. But more than anything for Sunday.

    “This morning was a bit tricky with the temperatures, so it was very different [in] the afternoon. In that regard, it’s something we need to take into account because this was the most representative session of the weekend.”

    HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the action from FP1 in Abu Dhabi as Hamilton leads Mercedes 1-2

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    Perez finished fourth and fifth in the Friday sessions

    FP1 stand-in Lawson remarked that his third practice session of the season – and first for Red Bull having appeared twice previously for AlphaTauri – was a “cool experience.”

    “Really, really cool,” said the New Zealander. “Obviously, a cool experience for me. First time officially in the Red Bull, so I was a little bit nervous, honestly, before the session, but the car was really, really good.

    “I would love to have another go after what I found is a big jump from hards to softs in terms of lap time, so getting ready for that was a bit tough, but overall, I think it was a good session,” said Lawson.