Young 21-year-old Monegasque Charles Leclerc has impressed on his first outing for Ferrari this week during day two of the Pirelli tyre tests in Abu Dhabi. With the 2016 GP3 title and 2017 Formula 2 championships already under his belt, it’s hard not to imagine this young talent becoming Formula One champion in the future.
Day one of the testing, which was held on Tuesday, ended with teammate Sebastian Vettel at the top of the timesheets after sixty-nine laps on the 2018 hypersoft compound, setting an impressive time of 1m 36.812s in front of Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, who set a 1m 37.231 on what Pirelli called ‘Compound 5’ – the softest tyre that will be on offer next year.
Over the course of day one, twelve drivers took to the Yas Marina circuit, including newbie for 2019 Lando Norris driving for McLaren and George Russell for Williams. It was also an opportunity for Polish driver Robert Kubica to get back into the car after his horrifying rally accident eight years ago. Kubica took over from George Russell during the afternoon stint.
Vettel struggled at the beginning of the day after a minor crash at turn one which brought out the red flag. However, he was able to set decent enough times throughout the long nine-hour session.
Kimi Raikkonen had a disappointing end to his first outing for Alfa Romeo Sauber after suffering a technical issue in the closing stages of the test. In his F1 test debut, Pietro Fittipaldi also ran into some issues when his Haas stopped on track early on in the session, this too bringing out the red flag.
Decent times were set by all on day one, Vettel topping the times from Bottas, Stroll, Verstappen and Perez, with Lando Norris an impressive sixth. Hulkenberg finished the day in seventh followed by Fittipaldi, Kubica and Russell. Raikkonen finished in eleventh place after his earlier struggles and Toro Rosso’s Sean Gelael finished last with a 1m 40.435s.
Day two of the testing brought many surprises, most impressive of all being Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who finished at the top of the timesheets after a whopping 135 laps on the new ‘Compound 5’. Leclerc’s fastest lap, a 1m36.450s, was quicker than the time Sebastian Vettel had set on the previous day, however Sebastian set his time on the 2018 compound.
Pierre Gasly, in his first outing for Red Bull Racing, finished the session on P2 setting a time of 1m37.916s, also on the new 2019 compound tyres. Lance Stroll who was testing for Force India slotted in third place, followed by Valtteri Bottas and new McLaren driver Carlos Sainz. In sixth place was Renault’s Artem Markelov, followed by George Russell and returning Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat. In ninth was Haas’ debutant test driver, F2’s Louis Deletraz, in tenth was Robert Kubica and in eleventh position was Sauber’s Antonio Giovinazzi.
The session was mainly incident free, however in the afternoon Giovinazzi caused the red flag to come out after his Sauber came to a halt in the tunnel exiting the pitlane.
This test in Abu Dhabi officially marks the end of the 2018 season, the next set of testing days being pre-season in Barcelona. Will Leclerc’s top form continue into the new season? Could we see the youngest Formula One champion ever be crowned? With just over one hundred days to go until lights out in Melbourne, we are eager to see what happens in 2019!