Leclerc comfortably clear for Ferrari in tire test

Image by Mauger/LAT

Leclerc comfortably clear for Ferrari in tire test

Formula 1

Leclerc comfortably clear for Ferrari in tire test

Charles Leclerc began his Ferrari career in impressive fashion with the fastest time of the Pirelli tire test in Abu Dhabi.

Taking over from 2019 teammate Sebastian Vettel for day two at the Yas Marina Circuit, Leclerc was nearly 1.5 seconds clear of the rest of the field as he set the week’s benchmark with a 1m36.450s. Although testing times can be misleading, Leclerc was on the same hypersoft compound that Vettel used to post his best lap, and encouragingly completed 135 trouble-free laps after Vettel’s spin on the opening day.

Like Leclerc, Pierre Gasly will step up to one of this year’s race-winning teams in 2019 when he partners Max Verstappen at Red Bull, and the Frenchman was also in action for his new outfit on Wednesday. Gasly was second quickest on a 1m37.916s, marginally quicker than Verstappen had been during the first day of testing, although Verstappen used ultrasofts and Gasly’s best came on the 2019 equivalent of the hypersoft tire.

Lance Stroll followed his strong first run in the Force India with the third-fastest time again on the second day, just over 0.1s adrift of Gasly. Stroll’s best lap was actually 0.6s slower than he managed on Tuesday, but was set much earlier in the day having lowered his benchmark under floodlights on the opening day.

Mercedes focused on long runs on Wednesday as Valtteri Bottas carried out the full two-day test for the team, setting the fourth-fastest time on the hypersofts.

Image by Portlock/LAT

Just 0.099s adrift of Bottas was Carlos Sainz on his first appearance as a McLaren driver, and it turned out to be one of the team’s most productive days in recent years. Sainz amassed 150 laps, which represents McLaren’s highest mileage in one day of testing since the V6 turbo power units were introduced in 2014.

While Sainz was allowed to start work with McLaren after leaving Renault, Red Bull was not so generous with Daniel Ricciardo’s time and the French constructor ran Artem Markelov on day two. Markelov suffered a spin in the final sector but continued unscathed and was just 0.043s off Sainz’s best lap, and also 0.2s quicker than Nico Hulkenberg managed on Tuesday.

Williams was the only team to run two drivers on the final day, with 2019 race pairing Robert Kubica and George Russell once again sharing duties. Kubica’s time in the car was extended as his mileage was low, with only 39 laps possible before he handed over to Russell to add a further 55. Kubica was over seven seconds off the ultimate pace as Williams focused all of its running on the 2019 compounds.

With the low mileage in the morning and the driver swap, Williams was the only team not to complete more than 100 laps. That was partly helped by the fact that there was only one red flag throughout the day, with the Sauber of Antonio Giovinazzi stopping in the tunnel in the pit lane exit.

Giovinazzi’s stoppage was a technical issue and the car was quickly recovered; the Italian ended up 0.6s slower than 2019 teammate Kimi Raikkonen had been on the opening day.

Haas was able to recover from the reliability issues it had on Tuesday — Pietro Fittipaldi lost half a day’s running while the team changed the power unit — allowing Louis Deletraz to rack up 117 laps on his first outing in F1 machinery on day two, posting the ninth-fastest time.

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