De Vries fastest for Mercedes on day one of post-season Abu Dhabi test
It was a mix of Pirelli tyre testing and young driver running in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, but a familiar team on top as Nyck de Vries set the fastest time for Mercedes.
The Mercedes reserve driver completed 77 laps for the constructors’ champions in the 2021 W12 car, topping the times with a 1m 23.194s that left him nearly 1.5s clear of the rest of the field.
Young Driver Test runners held the top seven positions, with Red Bull junior Liam Lawson driving for AlphaTauri and ending up second fastest after 125 laps, just 0.006s clear of Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri in third for Alpine.
Piastri also topped the 100-lap mark, as he ended up as the middle of three drivers separated by just 0.09s on the timing screens. The last of those was IndyCar race-winner Pato O’Ward, who was testing for McLaren as a result of a deal made with Zak Brown to do so when he took his first IndyCar victory. O’Ward managed 92 laps on his Formula 1 debut.
Fifth was Guanyu Zhou as the Chinese driver completed Young Driver Test duties for Alfa Romeo, racking up 119 laps for his new team and ending up half a second adrift of O’Ward. Juri Vips was sixth in the Red Bull, although the F2 driver was responsible for one of three red flags during the day after he hit the barrier exiting Turn 14.
Aston Martin simulator driver Nick Yelloly was seventh overall, a little under 2.2s adrift of de Vries, before the first of the tyre test runners in Daniel Ricciardo.
Alongside young drivers in current cars, teams were running mule cars to test the 18-inch tyres that will be introduced in 2022. Ricciardo – who was nearly a second slower than Yelloly, but 0.3s clear of Lance Stroll in the adapted Aston Martin – caused the first red flag of the day around 90 minutes in when he stopped in the final sector due to a mechanical issue.
The final interruption came courtesy of a power unit issue for American driver Logan Sargeant, making his F1 debut for Williams. The 20-year-old still managed 92 laps before the premature ending to his day with a little over two hours to go, and was 15th overall.
In a complex arrangement at Ferrari, F2 runner-up Robert Shwartzman took over from Antonio Fuoco for the afternoon session as part of the Young Driver Test. The Russian was 10th, 0.3s faster than Charles Leclerc who had done tyre test running – with Ferrari using wheel covers – in the morning.
Mercedes gave permission for Valtteri Bottas to have his first outing for Alfa Romeo, and he was able to test the 18-inch tyres, managing 127 laps despite a spin in the morning, while George Russell started work in the Finn’s place at Mercedes, and added 131 laps of his own on the 2022 Pirellis.
Russell was just behind new world champion Max Verstappen, who was back on track at the Yas Marina Circuit less than 48 hours after the season-deciding race, completing 123 laps on next year’s tyres and providing advice to Vips in the 2021 car during breaks in running.