George Russell set the pace on the final day of the Pirelli tire test in Abu Dhabi as Charles Leclerc crashed his Ferrari.
Fresh from a day in his usual Williams, Russell took over from Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes and duly went quickest overall with a 1m37.204s on the 2020 C5 tire — the softest compound available — to lead Leclerc by a little under 0.2s. But Leclerc was the biggest talking point of a day featuring a couple of strange incidents as he crashed at Turn 13.
Leclerc caused what proved to be the only red flag of the whole two days of testing with a little over two hours remaining, sliding wide out of the final apex of the Turn 11-13 sequence and damaging his car against the barrier. Running was delayed by 25 minutes while the Ferrari was recovered, and once it was back in the pits the Scuderia found the damage was too great to get back out on track.
Despite the crash, Leclerc still ended up second fastest overall on this year’s C5, with Russell’s lap less than 0.1s adrift of the best time posted by Bottas on Tuesday.
While the first day saw a strange spin for Sebastian Vettel after being tapped by Sergio Perez at Turn 11, the other Racing Point was involved in an incident on Wednesday, but on this occasion Lance Stroll was the innocent party. Stroll was rolling down the pit lane slowly on the way out at the start of the day and Carlos Sainz had been released behind him, with the McLaren eager to pass.
Sainz was carrying an aero rake on the side of his car for the early running and had not factored in the extra width of his McLaren as a result, so when he pulled around Stroll in the pit lane he didn’t leave enough space and broke the aerodynamic device, limiting his early running.
Stroll’s day continued without trouble as he ended up third quickest on a 1m37.999s, 0.2s clear of Pierre Gasly who carried out the whole day of running for Toro Rosso. Sainz was then fifth, albeit 0.6s further back, as all of the top five bar Leclerc used the 2020 C5 for their quickest laps.
Seventh was Esteban Ocon who had a more productive day for Renault than on Tuesday. The opening day of the test — and his first day in the car since being confirmed as a Renault race driver in 2020 — yielded just 77 laps, but Ocon managed 128 on day two and went nearly a second quicker on the 2019 C4 tire.
Alex Albon was eighth for Red Bull — appearing to take a similar approach to Max Verstappen and setting his fastest time on this year’s C4 tire — ahead of Pietro Fittipaldi on his first appearance for Haas since May. Fittipaldi managed 135 laps on his first time in the car in six months and admitted he was tired afterwards, as the team focused on comparisons between the new tires and the 2019 rubber that it struggled with so much this year.
Behind Antonio Giovinazzi came the Williams pair of Nicholas Latifi and Roy Nissany as the only drivers to split running on Wednesday. Nissany only carried out 38 laps in the morning before Latifi took over to being work for 2020 when he will step up to the role of race driver, and the Canadian was 0.2s quicker than Russell managed in the Williams on the opening day, and 3.7s clear of Nissany.