Max Verstappen made a statement of intent closing out the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix quickest ahead of teammate Alexander Albon, having trailed the Mercedes duo of Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton.
Verstappen led most of FP3 and improved at the end of the session with a final benchmark of 1m36.251s. The sister Red Bull car, who made a late improvement to finish was half a second off the pace in the second off his teammate despite reporting “insane” understeer.
Renault filed in third – thanks to Daniel Ricciardo – and fourth courtesy of Esteban Ocon, parated by just 0.022 seconds, while Lando Norris finished fifth for McLaren ahead of Hamilton, who was 0.761secs off the pace.
Mercedes pair was down to sixth and ninth place respectively a significant 0.834s off Verstappen, for Mercedes.
“We should expect Mercedes to still be the fastest in qualifying, but you never know,” said Sky F1’s Anthony Davidson.
“I do believe the Mercedes looked a bit heavy, snappy on exits, and not the car we are used to seeing in low-fuel qualifying. I don’t think too much emphasis will be put on this session.”
Williams returnee George Russell finishing 15th thanks to a late improvement on softs that put him almost a second clear of teammate Nicholas Latifi, who ended up 19th.
Alfa Romeo drivers Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen finished 16th and 17th respectively. Haas rounded out the standings with Pietro Fittipaldi last and seven-tenths behind his 18th-place teammate Kevin Magnussen.