Leclerc sets the pace on Ferrari debut

Charles Leclerc topped the Yas Marina timesheets today on his debut with Ferrari since being announced as teammate to Sebastian Vettel for the 2019 season.

The Monegasque completed 135 laps – around two and a half (Abu Dhabi) Grand Prix distances – on his way to posting the best time of the day, indeed, the best time of the two-day test.

“Of course it was emotional,” admitted the 21-year-old. “Because driving a Ferrari is special and because this was a day I had been waiting for, for so long without being sure if it would ever happen.

“I am pleased about that and with the work we did,” he added. “We got through all our programme which centred on comparison testing between this and next year’s tyres.

“For me, it was important because I also got to know the team better, although some were no strangers to me given my time with the Ferrari Driver Academy.

“Over the next few weeks, I will work to be in the best possible shape and to learn from everyone in the team and my team-mate. I can’t wait for next season to start…”

Second quickest was another ‘debutante’, Pierre Gasly, who will partner Max Verstappen at Red Bull next season.

The Frenchman completed 129 laps, like Leclerc, posting his best time on the 2019 version of the hypersoft.

Having shared the car with Sergio Perez yesterday, today Lance Stroll had the VJM11 all to himself.

The quickest of the 2018 hypersoft runners, Stroll completed 122 laps on his way to posting a best time of 1:38.044, albeit 1.594s off Leclerc’s best.

At Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas signed off on his season with one final day of 143 laps in the championship winning W09. His best time of 1:38.488, set on the hypersoft, put him fourth on the timesheets.

Like yesterday, the focus was on long runs with the 2019 tyres, learning about the characteristics of the different compounds. The team also spent time comparing the 2018 and 2019 tyres.

“It’s been another good day,” said the Finn. “We managed to complete even more laps than yesterday. Today we worked on compound scans, trying all the 2019 compounds from the hardest to the softest rubber. We focused on medium and long runs, gathering plenty of data and learning about the tyres.

“This week we’ve got lots of data for the team to analyse over the winter and we can’t wait to dig into it. Today was my last time on track with the W09, so I enjoyed it. It’s been a good car for us and it was nice to say goodbye. It’s been a long season, but everyone was still pushing this week, working like clockwork. Thanks to everyone for all their hard work this year.”

“It’s nice to get to the end of the test having had a fault-free and productive two days with Valtteri,” said Andrew Shovlin. “It’s also the last proper laps we will do with the W09.

“We have a lot of good memories working with this car over the last season, it certainly hasn’t been easy but the racing has been great fun and it’s a year we won’t forget for a long time.

“We spent the day focussing on longer runs and characterising the compounds so that we can start work on our tyre selection for the early races. We also did some more comparisons of the 2018 to 2019 casings and have furthered our learning from yesterday. We’ve got a lot of work to do back at base to go through all the data that we’ve collected and make sure we’re well prepared for the early races next year.

“Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who has stayed for the test and worked so hard to make it a success.”

Carlos Sainz made his McLaren debut, the Spaniard only just missing out on completing the most laps by 5, Daniil Kvyat taking that particular honour.

On the other hand, the former Renault driver finished the day higher up the timesheets, courtesy of a 1:38.547, which put him fifth.

With Daniel Ricciardo not allowed to participate in the test with his new team, Artem Markelov took over from Nico Hulkenberg, the Russian driver completing 129 laps on his way to the sixth best time of the day.

Once again, Williams split duties between George Russell and Robert Kubica. Over the course of the two days the Briton completed 97 laps and the Pole 71.

“The focus was on the 2019 specification tyres,” said Kubica, “it was very important to understand what’s the difference and if there is any difference.

“At the moment we are testing in very hot conditions,” he continued, “but winter testing and the first few races will be in different conditions.

“We will go through the programme we ran over the last two days, and I’ll sit down with the guys and George to decide on the tyres for winter testing and the first four races.

“Additionally, it was a good opportunity for me to get back in the car, to go through different tyres, but also to warm up the muscles before we recharge our batteries. Winter will be long, and we will prepare over this time ahead of the upcoming season.

“I am working well with George. He is very nice guy, and we have a good collaboration which is key for us and for the team. All in all, the test was good, and I am looking forward to 2019.

“I am very pleased with how my first test with Williams has gone, overall it was very positive,” added Russell. “It has been fantastic to get to know everybody and gain an understanding of how the team works, and of course driving the car. I was pleasantly surprised with how the car was feeling and I think we made some good steps ahead of 2019.

“The tyre test was very beneficial to the team, they have gathered some really good information, which provides a great idea going into the first test and races.

“Working with Robert during the test was great, he has so much engineering knowledge from his past experiences. I believe we can have a positive effect and push the team in the right direction to get more performance.

“There is no time to rest over the next few weeks, I will be very busy attending events such as the BRDC awards and a Mercedes event. On top of that, a lot of work in Grove with Williams, and preparing for the 2019 season to make sure that I am physically prepared come the test.”

As stated earlier, Daniil Kvyat completed the most laps today, the Russian completing 155 on his way to posting the eighth best time.

“I think today was a very positive and good day as we covered about three Grands Prix in one day,” he said. “To be honest, I felt comfortable and confident straight away in the car which was great.

“What’s important about today was we were able to test a good amount of tyres for next year, gathering a lot of useful information and data for the team. I’m feeling really comfortable here and it’s great to be back, I’m really looking forward to next year!”

“In two days of the test, we managed to complete an impressive 305 laps,” said team boss Franz Tost. “This is the highest mileage we have ever achieved in a two-day test, so I’d like to congratulate the team and Honda for their hard work, as they’ve prepared a very reliable car.

“Sean Gelael drove for us the first day, and his precise technical feedback was a good basis for us to find an optimum set-up for today’s test and for the 2019-spec Pirelli tyres.

“We were all more than happy to see Daniil back in Toro Rosso for the second day of testing, and he was able to immediately show a good performance. With all of the new data we’ve gathered, the engineers have a valid platform on how to prepare and run the tyres next year. We’re already looking forward to the next season, Daniil and Alex are very competitive drivers and we can’t wait to see them on track.”

Sauber concluded its programme with Antonio Giovinazzi behind the wheel of the C37, the Italian completing 128 laps as he focussed on tyre testing.

Similar to yesterday’s programme, the runs today comprised a combination of driving on the 2019 tyre casing, including different compounds, and obtaining a reference to the 2018 tyre compound selection.

A mechanical issue briefly interrupted Giovinazzi’s session, however, it was quickly resolved, allowing him to get back on track promptly. According to the team, the Italian delivered a good and consistent performance, and gave his feedback throughout the day, supporting the team in its preparations for the 2019 season.