Ocon quickest in Abu Dhabi test


Esteban Ocon tops the timesheets as 25 drivers pull the curtain down on the 2023 F1 season.

All ten teams were represented at the test which was for young drivers and also to try the tyres for next season which in all honesty are the same as this year's.

There were three red flag stoppages over the course of the day, the first from a water leak and the second when a technical failure caused George Russell to crash his Mercedes. Later, Ayumu Iwasa caused the third when he stopped his AlphaTauri on track.

The day's programme was split into two parts, with one car reserved for young drivers to gain F1 experience, while the regular race drivers ran the other car in a tyre test.

As next year's compounds will be identical to this year's, the second part of the test was mainly an opportunity to optimise the car-tyre package. All the information gained, thanks also to extra sensors fitted compared to a usual race weekend, will be shared with Pirelli.

A total of 11 young drivers took to the track, with Williams being the only team to run two of them. Italo-Argentinean driver Franco Colapinto, fourth in Formula 3 this year, drove in the morning before handing the car over to Britain's Zak O'Sullivan.

Many of the young drivers in action today also took part in last Friday's FP1 - such as Robert Shwartzman for Ferrari, Frederik Vesti for Mercedes, newly-crowned Formula 2 champion Theo Pourchaire with Alfa Romeo, Felipe Drugovich for Aston Martin, Jack Doohan with Alpine, and Pato O'Ward for McLaren - as well as O'Sullivan.

Among the regular drivers on track were Russell (Mercedes), Sergio Perez, Oscar Piastri, Fernando Alonso, Lance Stroll, Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, Yuki Tsunoda, Daniel Ricciardo, Guanyu Zhou, Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant.

Haas didn't run either of its 2023 race drivers but instead opted for reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi (who can't be classified as a rookie as he has already driven two grands prix, on both occasions for Haas).

The overall fastest time of 1'24''393 was set by Ocon while Pato O'Ward was fastest of the young drivers thanks to a time of 1'24''662.

Temperatures remained high, with asphalt between 25 and 44 degrees centigrade, and ambient temperatures that ranged from 24 to 34 degrees.

The regular drivers each had 10 tyre sets available (one set of C1 and C2, three sets of C3 and C4, plus one set of C5) while the young drivers had eight sets each (two sets of C3, four sets of C4, and two sets of C5).

A total of 2184 laps were covered: 125 on C1 (6%), 138 on C2 (6%), 718 on C3 (33%), 942 on C4 (43%), and 261 on C5 (12%). That's compared to the 2681 laps that were covered during last weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, equivalent to 14158 kilometres (8,797 miles).

Pirelli's on-track season isn't quite finished in Abu Dhabi: next weekend there will be a test at Magny-Cours with Mercedes to focus on development of wet-weather tyres.

"We had a very busy day with an important and extensive programme to go through," said pace-setter Ocon. "We ended up doing over two race distances and got through our plan successfully, testing different compounds, fuel loads and set-ups. It's always nice to see your name next to P1 but on test days these things are irrelevant!

"We say goodbye to the A523 today, a car that brought us some highs and lows this season but which has also served as a base to emphasise the areas we need to improve in order to be better in 2024. Now it is time for some rest before starting our preparations for next season."

"It's been a great day," added Jack Doohan, "it's always nice to have a full day's testing as there's that little bit more freedom to explore the car.

"Driving in Free Practice 1 was an amazing experience last week but on test days, there's much more to do and the programme is a whole lot bigger and more detailed. Today we ran through a busy checklist, assessed various tyre compounds, fuel loads and set-up items and we completed 108 laps. I would say physically that's a tough challenge but I feel good and it's important for the team to have all the data.

"The car felt good and I'm pleased that we executed our programme well. I felt comfortable, happy with the day's work and now it's time for a break from driving before we shift focus to working on next year."

"It was a very positive day," said Perez, who was fourth quickest and completed 117 laps, "there was still lots to learn.

"It was important to put in the time," he continued, "I drove more than twice the race distance today and I am pleased with the work we have done. Especially coming straight out of a race here, everything is still super fresh and the track was very representative, especially in the afternoon, so it was a productive test. We collected some good information for next season and it's a great way to finish such a dominant year."

"What an amazing car!" added Jake Dennis. "It was a very special day for me. In FP1 you sort of just jump in and try and survive, whereas today you can push the limits a little bit more and really understand the car. And I think we did just that.

"Between Checo and I, we got a lot of data for the Team. Obviously, my role today was a little bit different to Checo's, but from my perspective we've got a lot of data to take back to the simulator side and try to improve things further for the RB20 and in general development. I enjoyed every lap out there, it's been a great day."

"We got through everything that we were hoping to achieve today," said Gianpiero Lambiase. "For Checo, it was a case of tidying up a few areas that he had some remaining question marks over throughout the season, which we completed and got some really good data.

"For Jake, it was about getting him even more familiar with the car. We looked at some various trade-offs between mechanical and aero test items that he can then look to provide some feedback on for his race support with us on the simulator, which is vital for us in our development for 2024."

At Ferrari, driving duties fell to the two race drivers, who each spent time at the wheel of one of the SF-23s, while Robert Shwartzman had sole use of the other car all day as part of the young driver test. Between the three of them they completed 258 laps: 123 for Robert, 69 for Carlos Sainz in the morning and 66 for Charles Leclerc in the afternoon.

Sainz was the first to hit the track, trying three tyre compounds: the Spaniard started off on the C2, before moving on to the C5 and finally the C3. His best time was a solid 1'24"769 on the C5, the softest compound and it was the quickest time up until the lunch break. In the afternoon, it was Charles' turn, running the C5, C1 and C4, his best time being a 1'25"371.

Shwartzman did the most laps, on what was his third time this year behind the wheel of an SF-23, having previously driven it in free practice in Zandvoort and at Yas Marina last Friday. He ran three compounds, the C4, C3 and C5, his personal best time being a 1'25"050. However, he had to abort what would have been his quickest lap when Ayumu Iwasa in the AlphaTauri triggered a red flag. Overall, one SF-23 completed 125 laps and the other, 123, equivalent to two race distances each.

"It was a busy day with a lot of running," said Shwartzman, "during which we tested many things, completing a total of 123 laps. Both the team and I are happy with how it went and I really enjoyed driving a Formula 1 car over a full day again. We did some race runs that allowed us to check our pace with the tyre degradation and we definitely gathered valuable information. At the end of the day, we also did some performance runs. Unfortunately, one got interrupted by a red flag and the other one by traffic.

"The plan now is to go back to Maranello for some simulator work, help the engineers there before taking a holiday break after a long season, so as to return fresh next year, which I'm really looking forward to."

"We completed our programmes as planned," said Dave Robson, Williams' Head of Vehicle Performance. "The two cars completed 222 laps between them with Alex and Logan sharing the day in one car and Franco and Zak driving the Young Driver car.

"Franco was very good this morning, completing more than 300km without any issues and at good pace. He experienced several of the Pirelli compounds and provided some valuable feedback and interesting comments about the FW45.

"Zak was very quickly up to speed following his running in FP1. He quickly got accustomed to the improved track conditions and was able to find a good rhythm at low and high fuel. He was able to maximise the learning he got on Friday to manage the tyres well and this helped him improve his lap time.

"It was nice to finish the season with a clean and productive day and to end the FW45 running on a high. The whole team have worked tirelessly since February to operate and develop this car and, alongside our colleagues from Mercedes, we can be proud of what we have achieved. The travelling team now join the factory-based team in switching our full focus to FW46 and we are already looking forward to shaking it down in a couple of months' time.

"It's been an enjoyable day," said O'Sullivan. "Of course, for me it was good to have the reference from FP1, so I had a few areas to work on from there. Straight away from the first push lap I was able to match my pace from earlier in the week. It was good to get some proper representative running in also in quite relevant conditions in the middle of the day which was nice.

"We got through a good sweep of performance runs and race runs. I had more freedom to experiment with things and push a bit harder than FP1. Thanks again to Williams Racing for the opportunity to drive the FW45 this weekend and provide me with valuable experience.

"It's been incredible to get my first taste of a Formula 1 car and to do it with Williams," added Franco Colapinto. "It's hard to describe all the emotions, sensations and feelings I've went through today. Since I was very little, I've been dreaming of this moment of one day jumping in a Formula 1 car. Being able to drive the FW45 was an amazing experience. It's been a great way to finish my first year as part of the Williams Racing Driver Academy.

"I tried to make the most of every lap and learn as much as possible. I'm very grateful to everyone one at Williams Racing for giving me this opportunity and the support they've shown."

Check out our gallery from Yas Marina, here.

Aside from Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri had Ayumu Iwasa on duty, the youngster completing 96 laps on his way to posting the 15th best time of the day.

"It was a pleasure to welcome Ayumu to the team and give him the opportunity to drive the AT04 on its final day of running," said Jonathan Eddolls, the Faenza outfit's chief race engineer. "He started the day with some aero mapping work to characterise the car and compare to the tunnel data. It's something we don't have the luxury of completing during a usual Friday practice session of race weekends because of the time required to complete it.

"After a couple of runs with a baseline car, it was clear he was familiarising himself quickly, so we were then able to complete a series of setup tests and tyre work. These confirmed some of our beliefs about the recent setup directions we have explored with the race drivers. We were also able to start building up a database of test item knowledge for next year. Ayumu did a very solid job for the team and didn't put a foot wrong. His feedback was clear, concise, and aligned with the test items he completed.

"He closed the day with two soft compound runs and was able to extract a good performance on the first but didn't get to complete the second stint due to a car issue we're still investigating. Even with the issue, overall, it was a productive day. We completed all of the test items we had planned, and we could see Ayumu progress throughout. After a very long season, the team now heads back to Europe for a well-deserved break and to reset in preparation for coming back stronger in 2024."

"Thank you to everyone from Red Bull, Scuderia AlphaTauri, and Honda who made today possible," said Iwasa. "It was really fantastic and amazing!

"The morning programme was designed for me to build up the pace progressively and not push to the limit immediately. In the afternoon, I was able to push more when we started putting on new sets of tyres.

"Unfortunately, we had a car issue before the last push lap of the day that brought it to an early finish. We're not exactly sure what it was yet, so we'll continue investigating. I enjoyed the day, gained a huge amount of experience, and learnt a lot of things about the car, the track, and from the team. I know what I learnt today will help me a lot in my future racing."

"It's been a very productive day," said Hiroshi Imai, Director of Race Engineering at McLaren. "We did a lot of test items which we can't normally cover on a race weekend because of track time and tyre availability. We've come away from the test with a lot of learning to understand the tyres and the interaction between the tyre and car characteristics.

"Oscar completed 123 laps, including a lot of long runs, which is helpful for the team to understand tyre behaviour and for Oscar to build on maximising performance in the long stints. Pato did 103 laps, including a variety of long and performance runs with different setups. This was good for him to understand the performance of the car in-depth and tyre degradation characteristics.

"We now return to the factory with a lot of data in hand to analyse over the winter and into pre-season. I would like to thank everyone for their hard work throughout the 2023 season, both at the factory and also trackside, as well to everyone who has supported us, especially the families of our team members for their incredible support.

"We made good progress through the year, but there is still a lot of work to do in order to continue bringing ourselves forward towards the front of the grid in 2024."

"The end of season test is complete," said Piastri. "It's been a nice final day on track. We've learnt a few new things with the car but also with my own driving, which is always good to work on. Hopefully we can take the momentum from the second half of the season into 2024 and start strong.

"I'm looking forward to the break. I'll be seeing everyone at the factory one more time, and then head off on holiday. Thanks to the whole team at McLaren for your support this year, it's been memorable, and I can't wait to push on in 2024."

"I'm really happy with my day on track today," said O'Ward. "I got to work on a wide range of areas with high and low fuel runs. It was great to complete lots of laps on the different tyres and it never stops to amaze me how capable these machines are. The car is just fantastic and very enjoyable to drive. Overall, a really positive day in Abu Dhabi with the team.

"Thank you McLaren for the opportunity. I'm looking forward to getting back in the seat of an F1 car again soon."

Check out our gallery from Yas Marina, here.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 28/11/2023
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