Sergio Perez was quickest at the third free practice session in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
The Grand Prix is the last of the 2022 calendar but is unlikely to be as dramatic as the 2021 edition.
Then, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton were locked in a battle for the Formula One championship, and in a controversial ending, the Dutchman swept past his rival in the last lap to secure his first world title.
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This season has been far less contested, with Verstappen winning the 2022 championship with weeks to spare, but in recent weeks the Mercedes team have been resurgent as they improve their car in anticipation of next season, and George Russell won the team’s first Grand Prix of the campaign in Sao Paulo last weekend.
On this occasion, Verstappen again bested Hamilton as he came in second quickest, behind Perez’s best time of 1:24.982. With the relationship strained between the two Red Bull drivers after last weekend’s team orders spat, the two could be on the verge of a battle in qualifying and then for Sunday’s race proper.
Third quickest was seven-time world champion Hamilton, and last weekend’s winner Russell was fourth.
Briton Lando Norris was fifth fastest for the McLaren, but there could be some controversy in store between Hamilton and Norris.
Midway through the session Pierre Gasly suffered an alarming tyre burst and debris fell onto the track, bringing a brief red flag. Norris reported that Hamilton overtook him illegally at the time on the track, and race stewards announced they would investigate the incident, where Hamilton potentially overtook a Haas vehicle against the rules, too..
Away from the action off the track, the weekend sees a number of drivers set to leave the sport. In Sebastian Vettel’s case, that exit is certain, and ‘Danke, Seb’ was written across the paddock in tribute to the outgoing German.
Daniel Ricciardo, Nicolas Latifi and Mick Schumacher all look likely to miss out next season too, at least as first-choice drivers, and the qualifying later this Saturday could be the last of their respective careers.
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