Abu Dhabi Test – Vettel sets the pace on day one
Sebastian Vettel was fastest on the first day of the post-season test in Abu Dhabi. The Ferrari driver was four tenths faster than the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas with Lance Stroll third fastest driving the Force India.
Vettel’s time was two seconds off Lewis Hamilton’s pole time, it wasn’t a perfect day as he lost the rear into the first corner bringing out the red flag. he was able to return to the pits for repairs and soon emerged back on track. It was the second of three red flags during the day, coming after the Haas of test driver Pietro Fittipaldi stopped on track.
Today’s headlines however where about Kimi Raikkonen the Finn making his return to Sauber, who he made his debut with in 2001. The focus of the test for all the drivers was helping tyre supplier Pirelli to develop the tyres for 2019.
Raikkonen managed 102 laps before the sunset and his car stopped on track. The Finn has been released by Ferrari for the test but is unable to speak publicly until the end of the year, when his contract expires.
Stroll went third fastest for Force India, the team he is expected to join next year. His teammate Sergio Perez set a benchmark of a 37.9 before the Canadian went half a second faster, the Mexican finishing the day fifth.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen split the Force India’s in fourth, the Dutchman half a tenth faster than Perez. Stroll set his best lap during the morning while Perez’s came during the afternoon.
Lando Norris was the fastest of the drivers who will make their debuts next year, the Englishman putting the McLaren sixth. Norris was six tenths faster than the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg. Daniel Ricciardo, will not be allowed to test this week due to his Red Bull contract running to the end of the year.
Williams drivers Kubica and Russell were split by three tenths in Kubica’s favour, both slower than the Haas of Fittipaldi in eighth. Toro Rosso driver Sean Gelael was slowest of all but completed the most laps with 150 in total.
Vettel loses time with damage
Sebastian Vettel says he “lost a bit of time” because of damage on his Ferrari during the first day of the two-day tyre test in Abu Dhabi. The German crashed the Ferrari at the first corner, damaging the floor in two occasions.
Vettel would finish the day fastest by four-tenths faster than the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, but only managed half the mileage of the Finn. Vettel told Motorsport.com “Unfortunately we had some small issues and took a bit more caution and time to change the broken parts Nothing big, but we lost a bit of time.”
For the test, Pirelli has brought all five of its 2019 tyres which it plans to use next season. It however, did not bring the back up super hard tyres.
Speaking about the test, Vettel said “The impression of the weekend is still very fresh so we have something to compare [to]. No huge surprises, the tyres seem to work, seem to be fairly similar.”
“Speaking to Pirelli, the whole band is a little closer together so the hypersoft is closer to the rest and the hard tyre, which we didn’t use, should be more towards the tyres that are softer.”
Vettel’s new teammate Charles Leclerc will take over from the German on the second and final day of the test on Wednesday.
Drivers make debuts for new teams
Kimi Raikkonen made his first outing for Sauber on the first day of the post-season test in Abu Dhabi. After retiring from his final race for Ferrari, the Finn was behind the wheel of a Sauber for the first time since 2001 – his debut season in F1.
Raikkonen, who teams up with Antonio Giovinazzi in 2019, was running in an unbranded white, black and silver helmet as he got his first laps in their Ferrari-powered 2018 car as drivers tested Pirelli’s tyres for next season around the Yas Marina circuit.
A number of drivers took part in outings for their new teams, including F2 champion George Russell completed his first running for Williams ahead of his race debut in March, with the Briton in the car in the morning before handing over to 2019 team-mate Robert Kubica.
Although he hasn’t been officially announced, Lance Stroll is testing for Force India in the afternoon session. After being announced as a Toro Rosso driver, Alex Albon was in the paddock. Lando Norris has been a familiar sight in a McLaren this year during test and practice sessions and unofficially began his career as a race driver for the team on Tuesday.
There was a return to the paddock of a familiar name, as Pietro Fittipaldi made his debut. The Haas driver is the grandson of double world champion Emerson Fittipaldi and represents the third generation of the wider Fittipaldi family to appear in F1.
On Wednesday Charles Leclerc will make his Ferrari ‘debut’, as a full-time race driver for the Italian team.
Vettel looking forward to winter break
Sebastian Vettel says that he needs time to himself over the winter following a “quite difficult and exhausting year.” The Ferrari driver lost the title to Lewis Hamilton following a number of mistakes which cost him the title.
Following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Vettel told Motorsport.com that he was looking forward to clearing his final official engagements of the year. Saying “We’ve got some events coming but things that I look forward to, after this year, to be very honest, is to turn everything off.”
“I need some time for myself. It has been a quite difficult and exhausting year for me. I definitely need a bit of a gap. I’m pretty sure, based on the last winters, that very soon – usually after 111 days! – I’m very, very hungry again for the next race.”
Today, Vettel is took part in the final test session of the year before handing over to new teammate Charles Leclerc on Wednesday. The test in Abu Dhabi, which involves tyre development and all ten teams will help with developing next year’s car.
Speaking post-race he says that he is planning to spend the winter restoring the first motorbike he owned. But added “We still have the test coming up, so it is not yet time to rest. I think this will be an important one with the tyres for the next year.”
“And then, I don’t know. Just enjoy home, my family, friends – do stuff that you don’t usually have much time for, some DIY, do some fixing at home. Small jobs.”
Both Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen agreed that proper downtime was important. With Hamilton adding he will be working until mid-December, “but excited for the winter break and just getting time to spend with my sister and the kids and my mum and my dad. The seasons are getting longer and longer, so that period is getting more and more important.”
Verstappen added: “I really want to be at home, and do stuff with my friends as well. I haven’t really met up with them in the last two months, so yeah, it’s good to catch up during December and early January. Then we’ll start preparing again.”
McLaren has no regrets about splitting from Honda
The chairman of the McLaren Group Sheikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa says he has no regrets about splitting from Honda and switching to Renault for this season.
However, Al Khalifa did admit admitted it was “an expensive decision” but added: “It was in the long-term interests of the company.” Despite switching to Renault, which proved to be a race winning engine in the Red Bull, McLaren finished last of the Renault powered cars.
Red Bull believe the Honda engine ended the season with more performance than the Renault and are hopeful of a step up in competitiveness for 2019 which will allow them to challenge world champions Mercedes, and Ferrari more closely.
McLaren went into 2018 believing that their chassis was on par with Red Bull, however, the team’s chassis made them unable to challenge the top three. On average they had the second slowest car on the grid.
They managed to finish sixth in the constructors’ championship largely thanks to Fernando Alonso’s driving. But the team has recognised their car and design team were not as good as they thought they were.
Sheikh Mohammed is the chairman of the McLaren Group, and the representative of its majority and controlling shareholder, the Mumtalakat investment fund of the Bahraini government.
He told BBC News “On the one hand, (it was) frustrating. On the other, we are committed to this. The way we were heading, the change was bound to come. Tremendous respect for Honda but the relationship wasn’t working and so we had a civilised discussion and we decided to part ways.”
The decision cost the team £78.7m, which includes the loss of Honda investment, as well as paying Renault for engines. That is an ongoing cost, only a small part of which has so far been recovered by attracting new sponsors.
CEO and team principal Zak Brown said he was “confident we have identified our personnel and structure that ultimately led to our technical issues”. This season, the three man technical team Tim Goss and directors of engineering and racing Matt Morris and Eric Boullier have all resigned within four months.
McLaren has signed James Key from Toro Rosso as their new technical director but the Englishman cannot start work until an unspecified date next year. Former IndyCar driver Gil de Ferran was appointed in July as sporting director.
Albon to join Toro Rosso alongside Kvyat
Toro Rosso has announced that the Thai-British driver Alexander Albon will drive alongside Daniil Kvyat next season, leaving Brendon Hartley without a seat for 2019.
Albon finished third behind George Russell and Lando Norris in Formula Two this season, following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and all three will make their F1 debuts next year. The announcement marks a return to the Red Bull family for Albon – the 22-year-old had been on the team’s junior programme before being dropped in 2012.
Albon who was born in London will race under a Thai licence making him the first driver to represent Thailand in F1 in over 60 years. This season he was due to make his Formula E debut for Nissan but has now given up his seat.
He said “I was dropped by Red Bull in 2012, so from then I knew my road to Formula 1 was going to be a lot harder. I have to say a big thank you to Red Bull and Dr Marko for believing in me and giving me a second chance.”
“I’ve always been motorsport mad and since I first got in a car it’s been my dream to be in Formula 1. To be given this opportunity is just incredible.”
Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost said: “The way he is able to overtake many of his rivals in the races shows that he is ready and matured to race in Formula 1.
“Scuderia Toro Rosso is very much looking forward to 2019, as with Daniil and Alex we have two young, very strong and competitive drivers.”
The announcement means that all the seats for next season are filled, with Force India expected to confirm Lance Stroll as early as this week.
Schumacher to make F2 debut in 2019
The son of Michael Schumacher, Mick will make his Formula Two debut next season. The German has established himself as a rising star this year by winning the European F3 title in his doubt season.
Schumacher will be taking part in this weeks post Abu Dhabi F2 test with Prema, he said “I’m really looking forward to contesting my next season with Prema in FIA Formula 2 – a logical step on my sporting path in my view, because I want to further improve my technical experience and driving skills.”
“I can’t thank the Prema family enough for what we achieved together as a team, especially this year, how we continued to develop together.” Schumacher has raced for the team since he entered F4 in 2016, the team finished fourth in the constructors this season.
Prema F2 team boss Rene Rosin said the squad were eager to start working with Schumacher, who he described as an “extremely talented and dedicated racer”.
He added, “This series is not an easy one due to its learning curve for rookies especially with the introduction of the new car, but we think that Mick has the maturity and skills needed to make it.”
The top three finishers in this year’s championship, George Russell, Lando Norris and Alexander Albon, will all make their F1 debuts in 2019, the first time that has happened in the history of the former GP2 series.