Haas saved its best result for the final day of Formula 1 running this year, with Formula 2 driver Robert Shwartzman setting the pace on day two of testing in Abu Dhabi.
After nine of the 10 teams ran young drivers on Tuesday, Haas were alone in running a 2021 car on the current tires on Wednesday, with Russia’s Shwartzman getting his first outing for the team. That ensured a performance advantage over the mule cars that are testing 18-inch Pirellis for next year, and the Formula 2 runner-up took full advantage to post a 1m25.348s with a late qualifying simulation.
Shwartzman was half a second clear of Lando Norris in the McLaren, and Norris himself had a half-second advantage over the rest of the tire test runners. It was Sebastian Vettel who was third on a 1m26.379s, but the four-time world champion caused a red flag when he stopped on track in the morning session. It proved to be a short delay as Vettel was soon out on track again.
Pietro Fittipaldi, who was only driving after a late call-up to replace Nikita Mazepin after the Russian tested positive for COVID-19 at the weekend, ended up with the slowest time of the day — unsurprisingly on a like-for-like comparison for Haas against the rest of the grid on 18-inch tires — ensuring Haas sandwiched the rest of the runners. While all drivers were getting used to the new Pirellis, Fittipaldi noted the drop in tire blanket temperatures (from 100C/212F front and 80C/176F rear to 70C/158F all round) had a big effect even with his varied experience.
“It’s different because with IndyCar and championships when you don’t have any blankets, you go out knowing you have to warm-up, whereas with Formula 1 you are used to the tire being ready all the time,” Fittipaldi explained. “So when you go and push into a first corner and the tires aren’t there and you have an oversteer, it takes a little bit to get used to that.”
The remainder of the drivers were all taking part for their respective 2022 teams, with George Russell completing a second full day in the Mercedes. Russell was required as Lewis Hamilton was receiving his knighthood at Windsor Castle on Wednesday, and the former Williams driver was fourth fastest, 0.047s ahead of Pierre Gasly in fifth.
Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso were in familiar machinery with Ferrari and Alpine respectively, but Guanyu Zhou continued his preparations ahead of his race debut for Alfa Romeo next year as he got his first taste of the new tires. Zhou had run for Alfa on Tuesday, but on that occasion was the designated young driver in the 2021 car.
Zhou ended up completing 150 laps on the final day — second only to Sainz by just one lap — and his best effort was 0.141s quicker than Sergio Perez in the Red Bull.