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Leclerc gets first F1 run of 2021, after Armstrong and Alesi make Ferrari test debuts

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Charles Leclerc got his first 2021 run-out in F1 machinery today, with the Monegasque saddling up a 2018-spec Ferrari SF71H at the Italian team’s Fiorano test track – a day after youngsters Giuliano Alesi, Marcus Armstrong and Robert Shwartzman tried out the car.

Leclerc – back in action following a period of self-isolation after contracting Covid-19 – managed over 100 laps of Ferrari’s private, 2.997 km testing facility, as he got up to speed ahead of the start of official 2021 pre-season testing in Bahrain.

LONG READ: Ferrari on the disappointments of 2020 – and why they have renewed hope for 2021

Leclerc’s run in the 2018 car was part of a five-day test organised by Ferrari at Fiorano, with Ferrari new boy Carlos Sainz set to make his Prancing Horse debut when he takes over the car on Wednesday, with the Spaniard having joined Ferrari from McLaren for 2021.

The test will be especially important for Sainz, with pre-season testing for this season set to be limited to just three days – meaning Sainz will have just a day and a half to familiarise himself with Ferrari’s 2021 car.

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Leclerc heads out of the famous Fiorano pits

Rounding out the five-day test will be runs for Mick Schumacher and Callum Ilott – Schumacher set to drive all of Thursday and Friday morning to aid his preparations for joining Haas for 2021, before handing the car over to Ilott, who finished runner-up to the German in last year’s F2 championship.

READ MORE: Ferrari listened to all Sainz's team radio messages before hiring him, reveals Binotto

The day before Leclerc’s run, meanwhile, Giuliano Alesi and Marcus Armstrong enjoyed their first taste of F1 machinery, with Alesi poignantly watched on by his father, Ferrari legend Jean, as he headed out on track wearing the #28 – the same name Alesi Senior was assigned when he joined Ferrari in 1991.

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Alesi climbs into the #28 car

The test marked the last official commitment for Alesi as part of the Ferrari Driver Academy, with the French driver departing the organisation ahead of a move to racing in Asia.

READ MORE: Future leader Leclerc shares 'winning mentality' with Michael Schumacher, says Ferrari boss

New Zealand racer Armstrong, too, was making his Ferrari F1 test debut, becoming the first Kiwi since Chris Amon to drive a Prancing Horse machine – while having made his own debut in F1 machinery at the track last year, last year’s Formula 2 fourth-place finisher Robert Shwartzman got another outing in the SF71H as well.

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