Sebastian Vettel topped the timing screens on the opening day of a two day post-season Pirelli Motorsport tyre test at the Yas Marina Circuit.
The Scuderia Ferrari driver’s time of a 1 minute 36.812, set on the 2018-spec hyper-soft tyres, proved to be four-tenths faster than morning leader Valtteri Bottas‘s best effort on the softest 2019 compound, known as ‘compound 5’. Vettel suffered a scare before lunch, spinning and hitting the wall at Turn 1 to cause a brief red flag period. Fortunately, the German managed to make it back to the pits for repairs.
On his debut for the Racing Point Force India F1 Team, Lance Stroll set the third fastest time – also using the 2018 hyper-softs. Official word of Stroll’s move to Force India for ’19 is yet to have been released. The Canadian’s time, a 1:37.415 set late on in the day, saw him him move above Aston Martin Red Bull Racing‘s Max Verstappen.
Verstappen, fresh from a podium in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, could not find any improvements on the time he set on the 2018 ultra-softs and ended the day over a second off of Vettel’s benchmark.
Sergio Pérez started the day with Force India and recorded the fifth best time. The Mexican, along with Bottas and the McLaren F1 Team new boy Lando Norris, used compound 5 to set his fastest lap.
Norris settled in sixth, ahead of fellow Renault Sport power user Nico Hülkenberg. The Renault Sport Formula 1 Team driver – recovered from a spectacular crash in Sunday’s race – opted for the current hyper-softs.
Pietro Fittipaldi saw his debut day in Formula 1 staggered by reliability problems with the Haas F1 Team car. Nonetheless the Brazilian ended the session in eighth, finding late pace after an engine change. Williams Martini Racing duo Robert Kubica and George Russell rounded out the top ten, the returning Pole three-tenths quicker than the Formula 2 champion.
Kimi Räikkönen also endured issues on his first outing for the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team in just over 17 years. The Finn managed 102 laps throughout the day, but his stoppage brought out more red flags and extended the day by 15 minutes.
Sean Gelael was the slowest man of the day for Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda.
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