The 2022 season may not have been kind to Ferrari, but their year did end on a high as they recorded a 1-2-3 finish in the post-season test.
Carlos Sainz set the pace on Pirelli’s 2023 tyres at the end-of-season test in Abu Dhabi, leading the way from Charles Leclerc and Ferrari’s young driver Robert Shwartzman who delivered an impressive display, recovering from an early spin.
We also saw Fernando Alonso in Aston Martin machinery for the first time, while Oscar Piastri put in his first laps in the McLaren.
The Yas Marina Circuit remained busy with Formula 1 action as the teams and drivers dived into a dual-purpose test, running Pirelli’s 2023 tyre compounds and also conducting the traditional end-of-season Young Drivers’ Test.
Alonso wasted no time in venturing out, not only the track going green, but also the car that he was driving as he got behind the wheel of the Aston Martin AMR22 which was rocking the unbranded look.
Pierre Gasly meanwhile manned the Alpine which Alonso has left behind, while Piastri and Nyck de Vries made their first appearance in McLaren and AlphaTauri colours respectively. Logan Sargeant was also out there, following his official confirmation as a 2023 Williams driver.
Some of the young guns were finding the limits of these cars, Liam Lawson spinning the Red Bull at Turn 5, while Shwartzman also had an off at Turn 16 in the Ferrari. De Vries, who has just that one memorable race under his belt in Italy this year, was also finding Turn 5 tricky.
Still, experience was not exactly proving a virtue in this regard as Alonso also had a moment at Turn 13, but all of the spinners would carry on unscathed.
No real problems there then, though the same could not be said for Nico Hulkenberg in his first appearance with Haas, who had “testing gremlins” to be repaired as his VF-22 was recovered from the track, a setback which proved to be only that, rather than spelling curtains on his day.
All the while Leclerc was setting the times to beat in the Ferrari, going from a 1:25.708 to a 1:25.674, Shwartzman four-tenths behind to make it a Ferrari one-two in the second hour of running.
Then came the red flags as Piastri’s McLaren came to a halt at Turn 7, a delay fortunately lasting only 10 minutes as Leclerc went on to clock a 1:25.383 to put him on top of the timings at the unofficial lunch break, 0.32s up on Shwartzman with Alonso third.
In fourth was Perez, the Mexican having extracted 88 laps from those 2023 Pirelli tyres as he looked to get himself off duty in time to watch Mexico’s opening game at the FIFA World Cup.
There were plenty of driver changes heading into the second and final stage of the test, Max Verstappen relieving Perez of the Red Bull Pirelli tyre test duties, while Lewis Hamilton was set to take over from George Russell in the Mercedes W13.
Sainz looked to carry on Ferrari’s pace-setting form and Lance Stroll was in for Alonso at Aston Martin, after the Spaniard had upped his tally to 97 laps.
“I’m much more optimistic now,” a beaming Alonso told PlanetF1 as he looks ahead to Aston Martin’s chances in 2023. “When I signed for Aston Martin [in July], I was 90% happy. When they started improving and they finished the season on a high, I was 100%.
“This morning, I was 100%, now I’m 100+!”
With Daniel Ricciardo now out of the McLaren picture, Lando Norris was flying solo and so pressed on with tyre testing duties, though a spin at Turn 13 threatened to derail his plans. Fortunately, nothing was hit and he continued.
Hulkenberg meanwhile was doing a very good job of making up for lost time, reaching 67 laps as the clock ticked past 1500 local time.
Hamilton joked that he may pull a sickie to avoid a rare Abu Dhabi test outing in the W13, a car which Mercedes are keen to forget, but he nonetheless did take over from Russell as he passed the 15-lap mark with the end of the hour approaching.
Once that arrived, it was now a Ferrari one-two-three, Sainz going fastest with a 1:25.245 to sit ahead of Leclerc and Shwartzman. Stroll had the closest look at that fearsome Ferrari trio, going a tenth faster than Alonso’s best effort of a 1:26.312.
Just as Ferrari were perhaps growing fond of the one-two-three, the usual thorn in their side Verstappen returned. Delivering a 1:25.845, Verstappen helped himself to P3, thus pushing Shwartzman down a spot.
That became two when Alex Albon joined the party in the Williams, setting a 1:25.959 to go P4 as he broke the 100-lap mark heading into the final hour. Valtteri Bottas was setting the standard in that regard on 127 laps.
Sargeant was also impressing as he narrowed his deficit to Albon to a tenth of a second, while Shwartzman restored the 1-2-3 for Ferrari, 1:25.2 to 1:25.4 covering the trio in red, a very strong showing from Shwartzman. With the clock almost up, could anyone spoil the Ferrari party? The answer was no. ‘Best of the rest’ ultimately went to Gasly.
Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:25.245 65 laps
Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:25.383 56
Robert Shwartzman Ferrari 1:25.400 116
Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:25.689 130
Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:25.845 76
Alex Albon Williams 1:25.959 118
Logan Sargeant Williams 1:26.063 82
Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri 1:26.111 151
Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:26.263 70
Liam Lawson Red Bull 1:26.281 111
Jack Doohan Alpine 1:26.297 111
Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:26.312 97
Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:26.333 88
Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:26.340 123
Felipe Drugovich Aston Martin 1:26.595 106
Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:26.709 129
Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:26.750 67
Lando Norris McLaren 1:26.890 115
Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:27.000 110
Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:27.123 135
Pietro Fittipaldi Haas 1:27.172 99
Frederik Vesti Mercedes 1:27.216 124
George Russell Mercedes 1:27.240 73
Theo Pourchaire Alfa Romeo 1:27.591 106