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Raikkonen quickest as Abu Dhabi tyre test get underway.

NEWS STORY
28/11/2017

While Kimi Raikkonen topped the timesheets at Yas Marina today, the first day of Pirelli's 2018 tyre test, it was Robert Kubica who stole the headlines.

All 10 teams were in action, while McLaren was allowed to run two cars in view of the cancellation of its post-Brazil test earlier this month.

Raikkonen, who finished a distant fourth in Sunday's Grand Prix, completed 99 laps as he tested various types of 2018-specification tyres, including the new Hypersoft compound.

In the morning, he did a series of quick laps, before tackling some long runs in the afternoon. Sebastian Vettel will be at the wheel of the SF70H for tomorrow's final day of the test.

This being a tyre test, teams were only allowed to run components that had been raced, therefore, while there was the usual plethora of sensors, no new aerodynamic tweaks were allowed. On the other hand, a couple of teams opted for further trials of the Halo which is due to be introduced next year.

Days after the disappointment of retiring just 20 laps in to the Grand Prix with a hydraulics issue, Daniel Ricciardo posted the second best time of the day on his way to completing 109 laps.

Lewis Hamilton completed 136 laps on his way to posting the third best time of the day, like a number of his fellow drivers this being the last time he ill driv F1 machinery in anger this year.

"I'm not really the biggest fan of testing," admitted the Briton, "but it's been a positive first day of running with these new tyres.

"We managed to complete plenty of laps and collected lots of data and feedback to ensure we head in the right direction over the winter.

"We've got a good early understanding of these 2018 Pirelli tyres. On early impression, the new Hypersoft is the best tyre that Pirelli have produced since returning to F1. I found that the other compounds are still a bit too hard for my liking but we're moving in the right direction.

"It's a nice way to wrap up the season, with one last day in the W08. I'm definitely ready to take a break now, though!"

At McLaren, Fernando Alonso conducted the test to gather data on both 2017 and 2018 specification compounds. The Spaniard – getting his final (bitter) taste of the Honda engine - was scheduled to conduct a full day's running, but made contact with the barrier at Turn 18-19 which curtailed his programme in the late morning.

Despite this, the team worked hard to get his car back out on track within two hours and he still managed to perform his full run plan, completing 115 laps.

Oliver Turvey ran a slightly shorter programme for Pirelli, the same closed test that would have been conducted in Brazil. He completed a comprehensive run plan with no issues, and clocked a total of 105 laps.

"Today's been a very positive day," said Alonso. "It's been very useful for us to have a read on the 2018 tyres. They felt good, I felt the performance was there and the degradation was under control, so generally I had a good feeling.

"I had a small kiss with the wall this morning and we lost some track time, but the mechanics did an amazing job to fix the car so we could go out again before lunch, which meant we could complete the full programme.

"Now the 2017 season is finally over for me, and from today the focus and preparation will be fully on next year. There is one more test day here and I wish Stoffel and Lando a productive day tomorrow - I'll follow the results from home and I'll be back in the factory soon for seat fit preparations and development work for 2018. There's a lot going on and I'm very happy with the direction for next year."

"This opportunity came up quite last-minute," added Turvey, "but it was a nice surprise to be able to come to Abu Dhabi for the test. I've been working with the team all season - it's my eighth year with McLaren - and I've been doing a lot of work in the simulator developing the car over race weekends with the engineers back at the factory.

"It's been good to have another opportunity to drive the MCL32 and work with Pirelli on tyre development, and to really get a good feeling for the car. Today has been very beneficial because I've driven on this track previously with McLaren, so it's been useful to do long runs, get used to the car's handling and find a rhythm. To do 105 laps is really positive. Braking in these cars that have more downforce than previous years is quite demanding, and after not driving a Formula 1 car for a while it's pretty physical on the neck, but I've been well prepared.

"I can definitely feel the progress that's been made with the car since I last drove it in Bahrain. Throughout the season we've been improving the chassis and I could feel that from the first lap this morning. It's been really useful for me to get back in the car today, and now I can plug that information back into the simulator and be able to help the team continue with the development programme for next year's car and move things in the right direction."

While regular race drivers, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon share driving duties tomorrow, today it was the turn of Nikita Mazepin, the Russian completing 90 laps.

"I am quite satisfied with the work we have done today," he said. "Testing the new Pirelli tyres was interesting and it gave us the first idea of how the various compounds will work next year.

"I would have liked to improve my times a bit towards the end of the day, but I was blocked on my last new tyre run.

"At the end of the day, however, it's a test and we can be happy with what we achieved. I built up my speed during the morning because it was my first time driving here, but in the afternoon I was pushing more and more. Compared to the last time I was in the car, in Budapest, the balance felt much more consistent in the medium to high-speed corners, so I could feel how much the car has improved over the last few months."

"Nikita was back in the car for the first time since the Budapest test last August," added chief race engineer, Tom McCullough. "He did a very mature job and didn't put a wheel out of place all day, which helped us complete an ambitious run plan.

"This was the first opportunity to try the 2018 Pirelli compounds and it's very important that we maximise our understanding of them to help steer our direction during the winter.

"The red flags in the afternoon curtailed some of our long runs, but 90 laps represent a good day's work. We will aim for more of the same tomorrow when Esteban and Sergio share driving duties with half a day each."

Check out our Tuesday gallery from Yas Marina, here.

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