Victor Martins left it until the final moments but emerged as the standout performer in the last Free Practice session of the 2023 Formula 2 season.
The ART Grand Prix driver, concluded the initial session of the weekend at the forefront, clocking a lap time of 1:37.389 to lead the pack.
Zane Maloney, driving for Rodin Carlin, made a late surge to secure the second spot on the timesheets. Meanwhile, Théo Pourchaire commenced what could be a championship-deciding weekend with the third-fastest time.
Notably, title contenders Ayumu Iwasa and Frederik Vesti found themselves in the seventh and ninth positions, respectively.
Intriguingly, two newcomers, Paul Aron and Franco Colapinto, took to the track early to gain experience ahead of their F2 racing debuts. Colapinto had a minor mishap when he spun at Turn 11 in the early stages of the session, but he managed to avoid any significant damage and continued his run.
Roy Nissany, representing PHM Racing, led the field after the initial 10 minutes of Practice, setting a time of 1:39.844.
As the session progressed, the circuit grew busier, with most drivers heading out onto the track. Nissany improved his time to 1:38.492 on his subsequent flying lap, maintaining a lead of 0.6 seconds over Maloney.
However, the session was briefly interrupted by red flags when Arthur Leclerc’s DAMS car came to a stop between Turns 1 and 2.
Once the session resumed with 17 minutes remaining, the pitlane emptied once more, and the battle for the top spot intensified. Jack Doohan briefly claimed the lead before being surpassed in quick succession. Pourchaire narrowly missed out on the top spot, with his teammate Martins setting a time of 1:38.219 to take the lead from the championship leader.
Doohan also made a bid to set the fastest time, but it was Iwasa who broke into the 1:37s, becoming the quickest driver with a time of 1:37.892.
Pourchaire regained the top position with a time of 1:37.734. Richard Verschoor also improved on Iwasa’s earlier effort, securing the second position for Van Amersfoort Racing, just 0.143 seconds behind Pourchaire.
Martins had one more improvement in his tires, retaking the first position from Pourchaire by a margin of three-tenths of a second. Doohan, too, had some life left in his medium tires but ended his best lap 0.2 seconds adrift of the benchmark time.
Maloney and Pourchaire further improved their personal best times, securing second and third places, respectively, as the session concluded. Doohan finished in fourth place, with Verschoor in fifth.
Ralph Boschung secured the sixth-fastest time, followed by Iwasa, VAR’s Juan Manuel Correa, Vesti, and Alpine junior Kush Maini, ensuring two top-10 finishes for Campos Racing.
Qualifying is scheduled to commence at 15:00 local time at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Image: Formula Motorsport Limited