…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