Mercedes Formula 1 junior and Formula 2 championship leader George Russell topped the timesheet in practice for the final round of the season in Abu Dhabi.

ART Grand Prix’s Russell, who leads Alexander Albon by a commanding 37 points entering the season finale, vaulted to the top of the timesheet 15 minutes into the 45-minute session. Russell’s 1m51.720s benchmark was never eclipsed.

Albon ended the session in ninth. He finished 0.935 seconds adrift of Russell’s best time, having marginally reduced the deficit with a second qualifying simulation run.

The DAMS driver suffered two off-track excursions in the session, as he bounced across the kerbs at Turn 14 and the chicane of Turn 6.

If Russell secures pole position and the resulting four bonus points, Albon would need to win both races and secure the fastest lap point with Russell failing to score in both in order to steal the title.

Charouz Racing System’s Antonio Fuoco was Russell’s closest challenger on the timesheet. The Ferrari Academy driver was only 0.164s adrift of the 2019 Williams F1-bound pacesetter.

Luca Ghiotto finished the session in third while Nirei Fukuzumi was fourth, albeit both drivers were over 0.5s behind Russell’s time.

Fukuzumi’s new Arden International team-mate for the weekend Daniel Ticktum finished bottom of the timesheet. The two-time Macau Grand Prix winner and Red Bull junior makes his F2 debut this weekend.

Prema Racing’s Nyck de Vries was fifth ahead of Campos’ Roberto Merhi and Charouz’s Louis Deletraz.

Now mathematically out of drivers’ title contention, McLaren reserve driver Lando Norris ended up eighth for Carlin while team-mate Sergio Sette Camara was 12th.

Carlin is vying to clinch the teams’ championship this weekend and leads ART by a comfortable 51 points.