Abu Dhabi Test – Raikkonen fastest on hypersofts
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was fastest on the first day of a two-day tyre test at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. The Fin set a 37.7 on the new hypersoft tyres which are due to be introduced next season, ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
The Australian, who will hand over to teammate Max Verstappen on Wednesday, was two tenths slower than Raikkonen. The Finn managed ninety-nine laps on his final day of running this season before he hands over to his teammate Sebastian Vettel.
World champion Lewis Hamilton was third fastest seven-tenths off the pace. The gap between the top three will be of no concern to the teams, as this test is not about developing the cars for next season and is focused on helping tyre supplier Pirelli to develop next years tyres.
Romain Grosjean was fourth fastest ahead of the McLaren of Fernando Alonso, who crashed damaging the front wing of the car and brought out the red flag. However, he managed to return to the track completing one hundred and elven laps.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg completed eighty laps on his way to sixth ahead of Force India’s Nikita Mazepin. However, eyes were on Williams of Robert Kubica, in his first official test since Barcelona in 2011, he did one hundred laps and was ninth fastest.
Kubica was a second off team-mate Lance Stroll who took over for the final few hours. However, its believed that they were running different setups.
Williams is using the test to evaluate whether or not to sign Kubica for next season, alongside Stroll. He will be back in the car for the latter half of the afternoon tomorrow.
Toro Roso’s Sean Gelael was tenth, ahead of Marcus Ericsson and the second McLaren of Oliver Turvey.
McLaren was permitted to run two cars to make up for the loss of running when the recent Pirelli test at Interlagos was cancelled because of security concerns.
Kubica pretty happy with test
Robert Kubica is the main headline from the tyre test in Abu Dhabi. As we been reporting for the past few months, this test is being seen as the last major hurdle to see whether the Polish driver is able to drive a full season in Formula One.
Speaking to Gulf News, Kubica was pretty happy with his intense six hours in the Williams. Saying “Yes, new car and new team, the atmosphere is very nice in the garage. This was the second time for me in 2017 car, so different car and a lot of new things.”
The Pole says he tried to learn as much as he could from the test. Kubica’s career came to an abrupt halt in February 2011 when he suffered injuries to his right arm and since has been trying to regain movement in the wrist.
He added the injuries have not affected his “consistency” which was clear from the 100 laps that he put in the first day of testing after not being in F1 for seven years.
“There are a lot of new things in the car and it is taking a lot of energy and everything doesn’t come naturally. I have surprised myself honestly but it was not like I have been lying in my bed for six months and doing nothing.”
He says that it has a tough year of physical preparation and he tried to prepare as much as he could, adding that he was satisfied with his level of fitness. However, Kubica adds it was impossible to rate if he was at the same level as he was seven years before.
Williams is yet to confirm who will drive alongside Lance Stroll next season. They are also be giving track time to Russian Renault reserve Sergey Sirotkin
Leclerc to test for Sauber
Sauber has announced that Charles Leclerc will drive for the team on the final day of this week’s tyre test in Abu Dhabi, alongside Marcus Ericsson.
The Monacan won this year’s Formula Two championship in dominant style, with seven wins and eight poles. The Ferrari driver will take over from Ericson, who drove today.
Leclerc drove for the team in four practices this season and is said to be on course for a race seat with the Swiss team next year. That places doubts on the futures of both Ericsson and Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein.
Over the weekend, Ericsson admitted he has been left sweating over his F1 future in the wake of Ferrari’s new partnership with the Swiss outfit. That is because Sauber has a new partnership with Ferrari, which has the potential to extend to drivers.
Bottas disappointed with first Mercedes season
Valtteri Bottas has labelled his first season with Mercedes as “disappointing”, despite him winning three races and dominating the final race the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Finn joined Mercedes following the sudden retirement at the end of last season, and made a competitive start to his career with the German manufacturer picking up two poles and a win from the first four races. That made him a strong contender in the first half of the season.
However, since the summer break, Bottas has been unable to match the form of teammate Lewis Hamilton, who took five wins on his way to his fourth world title. When asked to sum up his season in one word, Bottas replied “Disappointing.”
In Abu Dhabi, he managed to convert his pole into a win despite the pressure of Hamilton throughout the race as they fought for the win. Speaking after the race, he said “It is really important win for me after having a pretty difficult start to the second half of the year.”
“Working hard on all the issues and getting better and better with everything. This weekend, I couldn’t be happier to end the season like this.” Ahead of qualifying, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said that it was “very important” for Bottas to end the year with a win.
After qualifying, Wolff explained, “Fair and square racing between him and Lewis and I think carrying positive momentum with a race win through the winter after a difficult time this year is probably for him just what the doctor ordered.”
He also added that the best driver are the ones who can recover from bad moments and that maybe it was an important moment in his career.
Honda / Toro Rosso “more equal” partnership
Honda says its new partnership with Toro Rosso will be “more equal” than its arrangement with McLaren. Honda and McLaren agreed to part after three difficult seasons, with McLaren becoming a Renault customer and Honda signing a three-year deal to make Toro Rosso its new factory partner.
In an interview with Honda’s website, F1 boss Yusuke Hasegawa said “We’ve been the ones making the majority of requests [of Toro Rosso] so far. But it’s fair to say this will be a more equal partnership than it was with McLaren in terms of leadership. And that’s not just because of the size of the team.”
“Obviously Honda as a company is huge but we had little recent F1 experience – so from that point of view McLaren was still leading us. That won’t be the same with Toro Rosso.” Hasegawa adds the change was needed and it was an opportunity to evaluate the performance of its engine in a different car.
“From a technical point of view it’s good for us to know more about other things, like new cooling situations or how the top speed of a different car design is affected by drag,” he said.
Although Toro Rosso is a much smaller team, Hasegawa expects the pressure on Honda to deliver will remain. Adding “People tell me we’ll have much less pressure at Toro Rosso but I don’t think that’s true. In my mind, we simply need to prepare the best engine and nothing is going to slow that down.”
Ferrari quitting would hurt them – Todt
Former Ferrari boss and FIA President Jean Todt says that if the Italian manufacturer were to carry out their threat to quit Formula One it would hurt them.
The current chairman Sergio Marchionne warned earlier this month that the team could walk away if the sport took a direction contrary to Ferrari’s interests. Ferrari is the most successful team in the history of the sport and the only team to have competed in the world championship since the first season in 1950.
Todt told reporters at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, “I do not want to see Ferrari leaving, but I am not sure it will be a good thing for Ferrari to leave Formula One. Ferrari is a unique brand, combined between racing and road car.”
The warning was issued after the FIA and commercial rights holders Liberty Media unveiled plans for a cheaper, louder engine, with more standardised parts to replace the current power units from 2021.
Another thing concerning Ferrari is Liberty plans to level the playing field and distribute revenue more equally to teams after current commercial agreements expire in 2020. This is because the team has veto powers and extra payments because of its long service.
The team have threatened to leave the sport before without following through. While some see the threat as an empty one, the sport’s chairman emeritus Bernie Ecclestone told Reuters recently that it should not be dismissed.