Mercedes End Dual Championship Winning Campaign on Top in Abu Dhabi Testing

by Paul Hensby

Mercedes AMG Motorsport ended the 2019 season with victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last Sunday and then proceeded to top both days of the post-season Pirelli tyre test on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Each team had ten sets of tyres to use each day, with 2019 compounds being run alongside the proposed 2020 compounds that have previously been criticised by the drivers.

Bottas Tops First Day, Vettel and Pérez Clash

Tuesday’s opening day of the test at the Yas Marina Circuit saw Esteban Ocon make his on-track debut with the Renault F1 Team, while both Williams Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso gave some track time to drivers outside their race line-up, the former running Israeli driver Roy Nissany while the latter ran Indonesian racer Sean Gelael.

Fresh off the back of his charge from last on the grid to fourth on Sunday, Valtteri Bottas set the pace for Mercedes, the Finn completing one hundred and thirty-eight laps that included the best time of the day – a 1:37.124.

Sebastian Vettel was closest to Bottas’ time with a 1:37.991, 0.867 seconds adrift, but the Scuderia Ferrari driver will have been baffled by a clash with Sergio Pérez as the Racing Point F1 Team driver attempted to dive up the inside of the chicane at the end of the straight.

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Daniil Kvyat ended third fastest for Toro Rosso after taking over the running from Gelael for the afternoon, the Russian ending with seventy-two laps in the books a best time of 1:38.183.

Despite his clash with Vettel, Pérez had a productive day to complete one hundred and twenty laps to end fourth, while Romain Grosjean rounded out the top five for the Haas F1 Team, the Frenchman completing one hundred and forty-six laps, the second busiest driver of the day.

Lando Norris, who ended his rookie campaign with a top ten finish on Sunday, completed one hundred and twenty-five laps for the McLaren F1 Team and finished sixth fastest, while Max Verstappen ended seventh for Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and was the busiest driver of all, the Dutchman running one hundred and fifty-three laps.

Sean Gelael was back testing with Toro Rosso in Abu Dhabi – Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Ocon’s first time running for Renault saw him complete only seventy-seven laps, the French team completing the least amount of laps on the day, but the Frenchman’s best time of 1:39.962 was good enough to end up eighth fastest ahead of Williams’ George Russell.

Russell started the day in the FW42 before handing over to Nissany, but whereas the Briton was able to set a best time of 1:40.368, the Israeli could only manage a best of 1:44.760 to finish bottom of the timing screens in twelfth.

In between the two Williams drivers was Alfa Romeo Racing’s Kimi Räikkönen, who’s day was ended by a technical issue but not before he completed ninety-three laps, while Gelael’s morning run with Toro Rosso saw him end eleventh, 4.516 seconds off the pace.

Esteban Ocon made his first appearance with Renault in Abu Dhabi – Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Russell Switches Teams and Tops Final Day, Leclerc Crashes

After running the first morning with Williams, Russell made the switch to Mercedes for day two and ended up setting the pace ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Russell, a long-time protégé at Mercedes, completed one hundred and forty-five laps of the Yas Marina Circuit on Wednesday and set a time of 1:37.204 to end day two fastest, his time more than three-seconds faster than he managed with Williams the day before.

Less than two-tenths of a second behind the Briton was Leclerc, but the Monegasque racer ended the test early for Ferrari after spinning backwards into the wall at turn fourteen, with the incident causing a red flag as a result.

George Russell topped day two after switching to Mercedes from Williams – Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

After taking over from Pérez, Lance Stroll ended day two with the third fastest time for Racing Point, the Canadian completing one hundred and thirty-two laps in the process, while the busiest driver on the day was Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, who ran one hundred and forty-six laps in finishing fourth fastest, more than half a second faster than McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr.

Ocon’s second day for Renault saw him complete one hundred and twenty-eight laps in finishing sixth, while Alexander Albon took over the driving duties at Red Bull from Verstappen and ended seventh ahead of Haas test driver Pietro Fittipaldi.

Antonio Giovinazzi was ninth fastest for Alfa Romeo, while Williams once again split their running between drivers, with Nissany beginning the day in the FW42 before he handed it over to 2020 race driver Nicholas Latifi for the afternoon. 

Latifi ended up the faster of the two, 2.984 seconds off the pace of his new team-mate Russell, while Nissany was 6.688 seconds down, although he did only complete thirty-eight laps compared to the one hundred and seven for the Canadian.

Haas test driver Pietro Fittipaldi completed one hundred and thirty-five laps on Wednesday – Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

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