ABU DHABI — Less than 48 hours after the chequered flag fell on the final Formula One race of 2018, teams were back in action at the Yas Marina circuit on Tuesday for a Pirelli tyre test.
The two-day test is better viewed as the first day of 2019 testing rather than the last day of 2018, and a number of drivers appeared in their 2019 colours as a result.
Kimi Raikkonen drove for Sauber just two days after his final race for Ferrari and 17 years on from his debut with the Swiss outfit in 2001. The Finn has been released from his Ferrari contract early ahead of his move to Sauber over the winter and completed 39 laps in the morning. He was wearing an unbranded helmet and overalls so as not to be in conflict with existing Ferrari commercial deals.
Elsewhere in the pit lane, the newly-crowned Formula 2 champion George Russell was making his debut with Williams ahead of his rookie year with the British team in 2019. He will drive alongside Robert Kubica next year and the Pole is due to be in the car in the afternoon as the two drivers split Williams testing time this week.
A new era kicked off at McLaren on Tuesday, as Formula 2 runner-up and 2019 race driver Lando Norris took to the wheel of this year’s car. His teammate for next year, Carlos Sainz, will drive on Wednesday after being released from his Renault contract early as well.
Although not a race driver for 2019, Pietro Fittipaldi — the grandson of two-time champion Emerson — started his testing role at Haas on Tuesday and completed 18 laps in the team’s 2018 car before stopping on track with a technical issue.
Elsewhere on track, there were familiar faces in the other seven cars and Mercedes took up its familiar position at the top of the timesheets with Valtteri Bottas behind the wheel. His best effort of 1:37.231 was 2.4s off the pole position in Abu Dhabi on Saturday night, but still 0.354s quicker than Sebastian Vettel, who was second fastest for Ferrari.
Vettel ended up in the barriers after losing the rear of his car in Turn 1 towards the end of the morning session, but was able to get the car going again and return to the pits with damage to his rear wing. The incident caused a brief red flag, which was the second of the session after Fittipaldi’s Haas dropped oil on the circuit earlier in the morning.
Max Verstappen was third fastest for Red Bull ahead of Sergio Perez in the Force India and Nico Hulkenberg in the Renault. Russell was sixth fastest for Williams ahead of Toro Rosso test driver Sean Gelael, with Norris in the McLaren eighth fastest ahead of Raikkonen and Fittipaldi at the bottom of the timesheets.
Pirelli has both 2018 and 2019 tyres available to the teams this week, making comparisons between lap times particularly difficult when combined with varying fuel loads and differing run plans.
Times at 13:00
1. Bottas, Mercedes, 1:37.231, 49 laps
2. Vettel, Ferrari, 1:37.585, 31 laps
3. Verstappen, Red Bull, 1:37.947, 53 aps
4. Perez, Force India, 1:37.976, 62 laps
5. Hulkenberg, Renault, 1:38.789, 50 laps
6. Russell, Williams, 1:39.512, 39 laps
7. Gelael, Toro Rosso, 1:40.435, 45 laps
8. Norris, McLaren, 1:40.516, 49 laps
9. Raikkonen, Sauber, 1:40.832, 39 laps
10. Fittipaldi, Haas, 1:42.291, 18 laps