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FP3: Russell leads Norris as Verstappen struggles during final Abu Dhabi GP practice

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Mercedes driver George Russell topped the timesheets in Saturday afternoon’s third and final practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, leading the way from McLaren’s Lando Norris while Max Verstappen continued to battle balance problems aboard his Red Bull.

After a disrupted first day of running, FP3 gave the field a chance to catch up on mileage and dial their cars in further at the Yas Marina Circuit, albeit with the side note that the conditions were largely unrepresentative compared to the evening qualifying session and race.

PRACTICE DEBRIEF: Will Red Bull face a fight in Abu Dhabi after a disrupted opening day?

Across several soft tyre runs, Russell worked his way down to a benchmark time of 1m 24.418s to finish just under a tenth clear of Norris, with the latter’s team mate, Oscar Piastri, three tenths back in third position.

Fourth went to the Williams of Alex Albon, as the Grove outfit push to secure P7 in the constructors’ standings, with Charles Leclerc the lead Ferrari in fifth but commenting over the radio that “I don’t understand” where the pace had gone after topping FP2.

Abu Dhabi 2023

Practice 3 results

PositionTeam NameTime
1RUS1:24.418
2NOR+0.095s
3PIA+0.392s
4ALB+0.511s
5LEC+0.681s
View Full Results

It was another difficult session for reigning world champion Verstappen, whose balance struggles on Friday continued across the final practice hour, prompting several slips and slides and a host of set-up changes in a bid to make progress.

After an aborted late run on soft tyres, a final set of tweaks and one more effort at least triggered a rise to sixth on the timing screen, but the Dutchman was the best part of a second adrift and clearly not comfortable behind the wheel of the RB19.

READ MORE: Leclerc hails positive start after setting early pace in Abu Dhabi but warns of ‘work to do’

Esteban Ocon was the fastest of the Alpines in seventh, as he continues to recover from illness, while Williams rookie Logan Sargeant, AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu rounded out the top 10 places.

The other Red Bull and Mercedes machines of Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton had quiet sessions en route to 11th and 12th respectively, followed by Pierre Gasly’s Alpine and the Aston Martins of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 24: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving (55) the Ferrari SF-23

Drivers made up for lost time during final practice at the Yas Marina Circuit

Valtteri Bottas compromised his late run on softs with a heavy lock-up and off-track excursion at Turn 1, leaving the Alfa Romeo man 16th, as Haas pair Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen sandwiched the AlphaTauri of Daniel Ricciardo in positions P17 to P19.

Hulkenberg and Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz were both back on track after red flag-causing shunts in FP2, with the latter bringing up the rear of the field, some 1.2 seconds off the pace, via a low-key performance.

READ MORE: Horner details contact with Hamilton’s dad but denies ‘serious discussion’ over Red Bull move

Drivers and teams will now take a short break before gearing up for Saturday evening’s all-important qualifying hour, which is due to get under way at 1800 local time.

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