That set the stage for a mad dash to set a slick-tyred benchmark.
It triggered a chaotic couple of minutes, in which the whole grid pitted.
Russell finished 12th ahead of Mercedes alumnus Bottas, who put his Alfa Romeo 13th.
He remains something of a half-rookie, given how he spent 2021 lumbered with non-competitive machinery at the back, but he needs to show something soon in order to kick-start his season.
Verstappen then improved to a 1m 27.
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