Formula 1

Ferrari and Aston rookies star in Mercedes-topped Abu Dhabi FP1

by Ben Anderson
3 min read

Ferrari-backed drivers Robert Shwartzman and Ollie Bearman, plus Aston Martin reserve Felipe Drugovich, looked to be the most impressive performers in a first practice session for the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in which 10 'rookies' participated.

Shwartzman took over Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari and lapped just 0.027 seconds slower than regular driver Carlos Sainz, on what looked to be a fairly similar late run plan on soft tyres - though of course exact fuel loads and run plans are unknown to all except the teams themselves.

Drugovich was second fastest overall, driving Fernando Alonso’s Aston. The 2022 Formula 2 champion was within three tenths of the fastest outright time in this session, set by George Russell’s Mercedes, and was also 0.271s faster than Aston regular Lance Stroll - though Drugovich got more flying laps than Stroll on the soft tyre at the end of the session.

After an impressive FP1 debut in Mexico for Haas, Bearman burnished his F1 credentials further with another impressive performance.

This time he took over Nico Hulkenberg’s car and lapped just 0.107s off Kevin Magnussen’s pace across what looked to be a near-identical run of laps on the soft tyre. Bearman was also just 0.136s off Magnussen in Haas’s early running on mediums, which is the closest any rookie got to the regular driver during the first part of FP1.

IndyCar race winner Pato O’Ward, newly confirmed as an F1 reserve for McLaren in 2024, lapped within half a second of Oscar Piastri, while Alfa Romeo/Sauber reserve Theo Pourchaire was 0.640s off team regular Valtteri Bottas.

Frederik Vesti should be reasonably happy to have lapped 0.743s off Russell’s pace while driving Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes, while Formula 3 champion Zak O’Sullivan did very well to lap 0.718s off Williams regular Logan Sargeant on what was a genuine F1 debut for O’Sullivan.

O’Sullivan got an extra push lap on softs compared to Sargeant, but Sargeant’s best lap also looked to be slightly beyond track limits through the final corner.

Sargeant is under investigation by the stewards for driving erratically in the final corner. Jack Doohan had to swerve to avoid the Williams and called it “almost the biggest accident of my life”.

Doohan later had a very competitive run on the soft tyre, lapping just 0.145s slower than Alpine regular Pierre Gasly.

Red Bull rookies Jake Dennis and Isack Hadjar were two tenths apart, in simulator driver and Formula E champion Dennis’s favour.


Rookies versus regular drivers in FP1

Stroll +0.271 Drugovich
Sainz -0.027 Shwartzman
Magnussen -0.107 Bearman
Gasly -0.145 Doohan
Piastri -0.449 O’Ward
Bottas -0.640 Pourchaire
Sargeant -0.718 O’Sullivan
Russell -0.743 Vesti


AlphaTauri was the only team not required to run a rookie in this session. Having brought an extensive floor upgrade to the car in a bid to beat Williams to seventh in the constructors’ championship, the team enjoyed a strong start to its weekend with Daniel Ricciardo lapping third quickest, within four tenths of Russell’s pace.

Practice 1 Results

PosNameCarBest TimeGap Leader
1George RussellMercedes1m26.072s
2Felipe DrugovichAston Martin-Mercedes1m26.360s+0.288s
3Daniel RicciardoAlphaTauri-Honda RBPT1m26.433s+0.361s
4Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1m26.453s+0.381s
5Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1m26.631s+0.559s
6Oscar PiastriMcLaren-Mercedes1m26.665s+0.593s
7Carlos SainzFerrari1m26.676s+0.604s
8Robert ShwartzmanFerrari1m26.703s+0.631s
9Pierre GaslyAlpine-Renault1m26.720s+0.648s
10Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPT1m26.725s+0.653s
11Logan SargeantWilliams-Mercedes1m26.742s+0.670s
12Frederik VestiMercedes1m26.815s+0.743s
13Jack DoohanAlpine-Renault1m26.865s+0.793s
14Théo PourchaireAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1m27.093s+1.021s
15Patricio O'WardMcLaren-Mercedes1m27.114s+1.042s
16Jake DennisRed Bull-Honda RBPT1m27.208s+1.136s
17Isack HadjarRed Bull-Honda RBPT1m27.244s+1.172s
18Zak O'SullivanWilliams-Mercedes1m27.460s+1.388s
19Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1m27.462s+1.390s
20Oliver BearmanHaas-Ferrari1m27.569s+1.497s
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