Victor Martins left it until the last minute but was the man to beat in the final Free Practice of the 2023 Formula 2 season. The ART Grand Prix driver ended the first session of the weekend on top after setting a 1:37.389 to head the pack.

Zane Maloney put Rodin Carlin second with a late effort of his own while Théo Pourchaire kicked off a potentially title-winning weekend as third quickest. Title rivals Ayumu Iwasa and Frederik Vesti finished seventh and ninth respectively.

Newcomers Paul Aron and Franco Colapinto were on track early to get some mileage under their belts ahead of their F2 racing debuts. The latter suffered a spin coming through the right-hander of Turn 11 in the early running but was able to avoid the barriers and continue on his way.

Roy Nissany led after the opening 10 minutes of Practice, setting a 1:39.844 to head the field for PHM Racing.

READ MORE: Victor Martins vs Oliver Bearman: fighting for the second year running and top F2 rookie honours After a relatively quiet start to the session, the circuit filled up quickly approaching half an hour remaining as the majority of the field headed onto track. Nissany lowered the time to beat to a 1:38.492 on his next flying lap to lead by 0.6s from Maloney.

The Red Flags were out soon after as Arthur Leclerc came to a halt in his DAMS between Turns 1 and 2.

Back underway with 17 minutes remaining, the pitlane emptied out once again. Jack Doohan briefly went to P1 before his time was beaten in quick succession. Pourchaire was pipped by teammate Martins by 0.022s, with the rookie setting a 1:38.219 to take the top spot from the Championship leader.

Doohan was next to better the top time, but Iwasa became the first driver into the 1:37s almost immediately afterwards, going fastest of all with a 1:37.892.

READ MORE: ART Grand Prix ‘anticipating’ Title double but PREMA Racing ready to spoil the party

Pourchaire went back to the top with a 1:37.734 to retake P1. Richard Verschoor also bettered Iwasa’s earlier effort, slotting into P2 for Van Amersfoort Racing, 0.143s down on Pourchaire’s time.

Martins had one final improvement left in the tyres to retake first from Pourchaire by three tenths of a second. Doohan too had life in his medium tyres to go quicker but finished his best lap 0.2s off the benchmark time.

Maloney and Pourchaire both improved their personal best times to go second and third respectively at the chequered flag, with Doohan finishing fourth and Verschoor in P5.

Ralph Boschung was sixth-fastest ahead of Iwasa, VAR’s Juan Manuel Correa, Vesti and Alpine junior Kush Maini, who ensured two top 10 finishes for Campos Racing.

Qualifying is set to get underway at 15:00 local time at Yas Marina Circuit.