Red Bull secured a 1-2 in the 2022 F1 Abu Dhabi GP FP3 heading into qualifying. In what was the last free practice session of the race as well as the season, Sergio Perez led the march with Max Verstappen right behind him. Behind the two Red Bulls, we had the two Mercedes drivers who were followed by a surprisingly impressive time from Lando Norris in his McLaren.
So, what did we learn in the last free practice session as the season draws to a close? Let’s find out.
2022 F1 Abu Dhabi GP FP3: Key Learnings
#1 It is Mercedes vs Red Bull in qualifying
It is very close between Red Bull and Mercedes if we go by the timings in FP3. Over a lap, it’s hard to pick areas where either of the two cars holds specific advantages. It’s not a nip-and-tuck battle between the two teams as Mercedes appears to be probably a tenth down on Red Bull. Having said that, with two spectacular qualifiers in Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, the German team will be aiming for pole position.
Red Bull, on the other hand, will be hoping to keep the powder dry. The car looks balanced at the moment, but Verstappen left some time on the table as his fast lap wasn’t optimal. Having said that, there’s definitely more pace on offer that the driver will be hoping to find in qualifying.
#2 Ferrari is in big trouble at the F1 Abu Dhabi GP
If the rumors of a massive Ferrari shuffle were strong before the 2022 F1 Abu Dhabi GP, then they would go into overdrive if the team’s performance is anything to go by. Ferrari is well and truly now the third fastest car on the grid. Charles Leclerc is losing close to half a second in Sector 2 which is mostly two long straights.
The team may have turned down the power unit considering the issues it has faced all season. Even so, it is only going to work against Ferrari if it stays the same for the rest of the F1 Abu Dhabi GP weekend. The Scuderia is putting on another disappointing show at the F1 Abu Dhabi GP and that is certainly not a positive sign for Mattia Binotto’s future with the team.
#3 McLaren vs Alpine for P4 will be an intense battle
Early impressions indicate that Alpine can pull better lap times out of mediums as compared to softs. What this indicates is that the car might be hard on its tires and come qualifying, the team could struggle over a single lap.
McLaren’s single-lap pace, on the other hand, was quite impressive. While it remains to be seen if the car has the pace to beat Alpine, it certainly has the pace to challenge it. With Daniel Ricciardo also seemingly in the groove, McLaren has got everything aligned to challenge Alpine for P4 at the F1 Abu Dhabi GP.
#4 Sebastian Vettel might surprise a few in qualifying
Aston Martin has been notorious all season for its poor qualifying pace. Sebastian Vettel, in his last race weekend in F1, is pulling in all the stops by the looks of it. The German has been driving without any pressure in the last few races and the results have been magnificent. Even this weekend, he has been driving brilliantly and his speed has been remarkable.
A P9 in FP3 for Vettel is not even a surprise anymore as the German has been teasing this performance all weekend. Sebastian Vettel might just be lining himself up to produce something beautiful in the F1 Abu Dhabi GP and it all starts during qualifying.
#5 The formbook could flip upside down as compared to FP3
The thing that most fans might have a hard time understanding is that the formbook could flip on its head as compared to the performance in FP3. The drop in temperature by close to 15 degrees means that the soft tires could become more durable.
It also means that the teams that were struggling to keep the tires alive (Ferrari and Alpine) will have an ace up their sleeves on that front as the temperatures will be lower. Could we see a much more competitive Ferrari and Alpine in qualifying? We could, but then one has to assume that those adjustments will also be made by other teams as well. It is possible that the formbook could be thrown out of the window. Whether that happens or not, however, is still a question mark.