New Ferrari driver Leclerc tops final 2018 test session in Abu Dhabi
Life as a Ferrari race driver got off to the perfect start for Charles Leclerc as he set the fastest time on the second day of tyre testing in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
The two-day Pirelli tyre test came to a close at Yas Marina, with all of the teams enjoying productive days. For Leclerc, it was his first outing in a Ferrari since being confirmed as Kimi Raikkonen’s replacement in 2019 and he duly set the pace with a 1m 36.450s to sit comfortably clear of the rest of the field.
It wasn’t only Leclerc who featured at the top of the timing screens for his new team, with Pierre Gasly second to Leclerc on his first appearance for Red Bull.
Gasly posted a 1m 37.916s which was just 0.031s faster than new team mate Max Verstappen had managed on Tuesday. However, Gasly did have a tyre advantage as his time came on the 2019 version of the hypersoft tyre, compared to ultrasofts for Verstappen.
Force India had split driving duties on the opening day of the test, but on Wednesday Lance Stroll was able to carry out a full day of running for the team. For the second day in a row the Canadian finished third fastest, with his best lap just over 0.1s slower than Gasly.
As was the case on Tuesday, there were a number of 2019 drivers taking on testing duties with their new teams, with Carlos Sainz in a McLaren for the first time. The Spaniard was 0.099s slower than Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas - the only driver to complete both days - as he managed 150 laps - the highest mileage McLaren have managed in a single day of testing in the V6 turbo-hybrid era.
With Daniel Ricciardo not able to test for new team Renault, Artem Markelov was back behind the wheel of the RS18 and ended up within half a tenth of Sainz. There was a spin for Markelov in the final sector during the morning’s running but he was able to continue without damage and post a 1m 38.590s.
While some drivers were making their debuts with their new teams, Daniil Kvyat was back in familiar surroundings as he returned to action for Toro Rosso. His 155 laps represented the biggest workload of the day for any team, with Kvyat just under 2.5s off the pace in eighth.
Haas were the only team not to run a race driver at any stage of the test, with Louis Deletraz taking over duties from Pietro Fittipaldi on day two. In his first taste of Formula 1 machinery, Deletraz acquitted himself well and enjoyed a trouble-free day to complete 117 laps after Haas missed four hours of running with a power-unit issue on Tuesday.
The only team to split running on the final day were Williams, who had Robert Kubica in the car for the first part of the day before handing over to George Russell late in the afternoon. Kubica’s track time was on the low side, with just 39 laps possible and a best time some seven seconds off the overall pace, but Russell did manage to add a further 55 laps late on as Williams ended the day as the only team to fail to hit three figures.
Part of the high mileage was due to a lack of interruptions on Wednesday, with Antonio Giovinazzi causing the only red flag of the day. Giovinazzi stopped in the pit lane exit - near the exit of the tunnel under the track - and had to be recovered, but the delay was a short one and the only time drivers had to return to the pits.
After the chequered flag fell for the final time in 2018, the pack-up could really begin, with Mercedes immediately turning up the volume on Christmas songs in their garage.
Just 82 days until pre-season testing gets underway in 2019…