…and Fer­rari’s new star tops F1 test


Charles Le­clerc started his ca­reer as a Fer­rari For­mula 1 driver with the fastest time in last week’s Pirelli tyre test in Abu Dhabi, as sev­eral driv­ers be­gan work­ing with the teams they will join for 2019.

Le­clerc im­proved on his 2019 Fer­rari team-mate Se­bas­tian Vet­tel’s Tues­day time to top the Yas Ma­rina test, al­though the fact that the lap was 1.7 sec­onds slower than the pole time for the Abu Dhabi GP is an in­di­ca­tor of the rel­a­tive lack of mean­ing of the times.

The pur­pose of the test was to give the 10 teams ex­pe­ri­ence of Pirelli’s fi­nalised 2019 tyre range. Le­clerc used Pirelli’s ‘Com­pound 5’ tyre – the 2019 hy­per­soft – to end up on a 1m36.450s, al­most four tenths quicker than Vet­tel’s time from Tues­day set on the 2018 hy­per­soft. The new spec of that com­pound is thought to of­fer sim­i­lar per­for­mance but has been im­proved to suf­fer less grain­ing.

Valt­teri Bot­tas drove both days of the test for Mercedes and his time from day one was good enough for third-fastest over­all, ahead of newly con­firmed Rac­ing Point driver Lance Stroll, who made his de­but for the team. Pierre Gasly was next, driv­ing for Red Bull ahead of his 2019 move to the team from Toro Rosso.

More than half of the 19 driv­ers who took the part in the test will ei­ther be mak­ing their de­but, re­turn­ing to F1 or switch­ing teams next sea­son. As well as Le­clerc, Gasly and Stroll turn­ing out for their 2019 teams, Lando Nor­ris (eighth for Mclaren) and Ge­orge Rus­sell (12th for Wil­liams) drove ahead of their F1 de­buts next year. Nor­ris was joined at Mclaren by Car­los Sainz Jr, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the team for the first time after his sea­son with Re­nault came to an end.

Rus­sell shared his Wil­liams with 2019 team-mate Robert Ku­bica, who is pre­par­ing to end a long ab­sence from the F1 grid next year, while an­other re­turnee – Daniil Kvyat – drove at Toro Rosso.

Kimi Raikko­nen ap­peared be­hind the wheel of a Sauber for the first time in 17 years on day one of the test, but his re­union ended with an on-track stop­page be­cause of a tech­ni­cal prob­lem. His team-mate for next sea­son, An­to­nio Giov­inazzi, drove on day two.

Louis Dele­traz (14th) and Pi­etro Fit­ti­paldi (15th) made their F1 test de­buts for Haas, while Artem Markelov and Sean Ge­lael ap­peared for Re­nault and Toro Rosso re­spec­tively.

Kvyat re­turned to the cock­pit of a Toro Rosso

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