Less than a week after the 2018 Formula 2 season came to an end, the teams were already putting their 2019 preparations in place with a three-day test taking place in Abu Dhabi. For some it was an opportunity to get to know their new teams, while for others it was a chance to impress in a bid to cement a seat for next season. So how did they get on?
The opening day of action got underway on Thursday, with five drivers testing in their confirmed 2019 seats: Honda junior Nobuharu Matsushita with Carlin, Mick Schumacher and Toro Rosso test driver Sean Gelael with Prema Racing, and McLaren junior Nyck De Vries and Force India youngster Nikita Mazepin with ART Grand Prix.
Anthoine Hubert, the 2018 GP3 champion, returned to familiar surroundings to get his first taste of F2 machinery, testing for MP Motorsport alongside Juan Manuel Correa, while GP3 rivals Callum Ilott, Leonardo Pulcini, Ryan Tveter and Tatiana Calderon also got the chance to shine, as did F3 European drivers Guanyu Zhou, Marino Sato and Ralf Aron.
There were also a few notable F2 race winners given testing duties - Luca Ghiotto at Russian Time, and Sergio Sette Camara and Nicholas Latifi at DAMS among them – but it was another 2018 F2 competitor, Louis Deletraz, who topped the timesheet on the opening day of action.
The Swiss driver, who competed for Charouz this season but was behind the wheel for reigning champions Carlin, was the only driver to break the 1m 50s mark, registering a respectable 1m 49.984s to top the timesheet ahead of Russian Time’s Ghiotto and Ilott in the Charouz.
Ghiotto led the way in the morning session, setting a 1m 50.562s, and it wasn’t until the latter stages of evening running that rivals began to better that attempt, with De Vries and Latifi all setting the pace, before a technical issue with the lighting system meant the session was red flagged.
When the action resumed, Deletraz went top of the timesheets and then - after proceedings were halted again courtesy of a Thomas Laurent mishap – the Swiss driver found extra pace in his Carlin to extend his gap at the top. A promising performance from the Haas-affiliated driver.
The second day of action saw Russian Time, Prema, DAMS, Art Grand Prix and Carlin – the reigning F2 champions who led the way on Day 1 - all stick with their line-ups, while the other five teams opted to switch things around at Yas Marina.
MP Motorsport kept faith with Hubert – who is yet to have a 2019 seat confirmed – and the Renault youngster was joined by fellow Frenchman Dorian Boccolacci, who stepped up to F2 with the Dutch team midway through the 2018 season.
Other changes saw Ralf Aron and Marino Sato transfer from Campos to BWT Arden, with Pulcini and newcomer Sebastian Fernandez testing for the former, while Trident opted to work with GP3 graduates Giuliano Alesi and Ilott, and Jack Aitken and Correa represented the colours of Charouz.
Indeed, it was Correa who set the fastest time on Day 2, lapping the Yas Marina Circuit in 1m 49.958s – just 0.026s quicker than Deletraz’s pacesetting time on Day 1, finishing ahead of Schumacher – who impressed for Prema – and Ghiotto.
In the morning session, which saw one red flag when Alesi stopped at the Turn 8 run-off area, it was Hubert who led the way, despite a promising display from Aitken, who endured a tough 2018 season but looked comfortable for Charouz, while a late attempt from Alesi moved him up to P3.
The evening session also saw the red flags after Hubert spun at Turn 8, and the action certainly got exciting after the re-start. F3 European champion Schumacher looked to have snatched P1 from Ghiotto by 0.002s, but then Correa found some extra speed on his last push to head the timesheet in impressive fashion.
The final day of post-season testing in Abu Dhabi saw few changes in the drivers’ entry list, with Richard Verschoor, who was given the chance to display his racing prowess for MP Motorsport, the only driver making his first appearance of the three-day schedule.
Elsewhere, Ralph Boschung was back in the BWT Arden car alongside Ryan Tveter, who tested for Trident on Day 1. Aitken, who impressed on Day 2 with Charouz, formed half of the Campos line-up with Marino Sato, while Pulcini returned to action, this time with Trident, and Calderon was back with Charouz.
It was Deletraz who wrapped up his season in style, the Swiss driver setting the quickest time of the three-day test with a mighty 1m 49.638s, the Carlin racer finishing the final day of running ahead of Ghiotto and Latifi.
Much of the focus in the morning session was on the long-run programmes, and when the chequered flag was waved, it was Latifi who sat top of the timesheet with a 1m 51.312s, with Hubert and Correa completing the top three.
When action resumed for the final F2 session of 2018, Ghiotto became the first to break the 1m 50s barrier, and his 1m 49.904s looked like it would be enough to secure top honours for the Italian driver.
But an hour in and Deletraz went three-tenths quicker to go in front – and he held on, topping the timesheet for the second time in Abu Dhabi. A great way to end the season for the youngster, who was recently given his first taste of F1 machinery when he took part in the end-of-season tyre test with Haas.
THE TOP 10 OVERALL TIMES...
Juan Manuel Correa
Charouz Racing System
Sergio Sette Camara
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