Bottas fastest, as Ocon returns in opening day of 2019 post-season tyre test
A number of familiar F1 faces were joined by one new name during the opening day of the 2020 Pirelli tyre test in Abu Dhabi, but Mercedes were again on top.
Fresh from his stunning drive from 20th to fourth in Sunday's Grand Prix, Valtteri Bottas led the way on the first of two days of testing at the Yas Marina Circuit. After carrying out a number of back-to-back comparisons with the 2019 and 2020 compounds, the Finn posted a 1m 37.124s on the current C4 tyre late in the afternoon – on his 129th lap – to lead Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel by a little over 0.8s.
On a day with remarkably no red flags, Vettel was involved in the only incident of note as he was tapped into a spin by Sergio Perez at Turn 11. Vettel appeared not to see the Racing Point trying to pass on the inside and turned in, with Perez unable to avoid the light contact as his right-front wheel touched the German’s left-rear, resulting in the Ferrari swapping ends.
It didn’t have a huge impact on either driver’s running, with Vettel going on to complete 136 laps, having been quickest for a spell during the morning.
A number of drivers improved in the afternoon as the sun started to set, with Daniil Kvyat – taking over from tester Sean Gelael halfway through the day for Toro Rosso - posting the third-fastest time. Perez was fourth after his contact with Vettel, and one of six drivers to register more than 100 laps.
Another of those to reach three figures was Romain Grosjean, fifth-fastest overall for Haas ahead of McLaren's Lando Norris and Max Verstappen, the Red Bull driver boasting the highest lap total of the day with 153.
Aside from Bottas, Verstappen was the only driver in the top seven not to set his best time on the softest 2020 C5 compound, with his fastest lap coming on next year’s C3 – the middle tyre in Pirelli's range.
There was a familiar name in eighth place, but in new surroundings, as Esteban Ocon started work with Renault. It was a disjointed opening day for the Frenchman, as he managed only 77 laps to register the lowest total of any driver completing a full day’s running. He will, however, be back in the car on Wednesday to get further mileage.
George Russell finished his season’s work with Williams with 87 laps in the morning, and his 1m 40.368s was 0.6s quicker than Kimi Raikkonen, who saw his day end after 93 laps due to a technical issue for Alfa Romeo. Russell will also drive again on Wednesday, but for Mercedes.
The new name was that of Roy Nissany, as the Israeli made his Formula 1 test debut for Williams on Tuesday afternoon. The 25-year-old posted a best lap of 1m 44.760s as he got comfortable with the car in the final two hours of running, a little over three seconds slower than Gelael ahead of him.