Charles Leclerc finished 2022 with a P1, the Ferrari driver quickest on the morning of the post-season Abu Dhabi test, a day for the drivers to test the Pirelli’s tyres and for new, and old, faces to settle in with their 2023 teams.
But never mind the lap times set, Tuesday’s post-season Abu Dhabi test was all about getting eyes on the new guys and they didn’t disappoint.
As the pit lane went green at 9am local time, Fernando Alonso took to the track in an unbranded Aston Martin, Pierre Gasly was out in the Spaniard’s old Alpine and Nico Hulkenberg began his journey back onto the grid with Haas.
On the 2023 rookie front, the much talked about Oscar Piastri was lapping in the McLaren, Nyck de Vries put in his first laps for AlphaTauri and the officially-confirmed Logan Sargeant took to the track in the Williams.
While Leclerc set the early pace, a 1:25.708 for the Ferrari driver to put him six-tenths up on Sergio Perez, there were several drivers behind him struggling to stay on the track, or point in the right direction.
De Vries went spinning at Turn 5 as too did Liam Lawson, while Ferrari test driver Robert Shwartzman did the same at Turn 16 and Alonso had an off at Turn 13 in the Aston Martin. All four continued without further drama.
Alonso took a breather after 20 laps, the Spaniard’s AMR22 in pieces as the team worked on the set-up. But it wasn’t long before he was back out and laying down the laps.
There were problems for Hulkenberg, the German stopping out on track with Haas reporting: “Unfortunately there are a couple of testing gremlins on Nico’s car, so it’s had to be recovered and will now be repaired.”
Leclerc upped his pace to a 1:25.674 in the second hour to sit four-tenths clear of Shwartzman in the other F1-75. Perez third ahead of Gasly and Alonso, who improved to third with a 1:26.312.
Oscar Piastri brought out the first red flag as the new McLaren driver broke down at Turn 7. The session resumed 10 minutes later, George Russell covering the tyre testing for Mercedes up to 25 laps, only Alex Albon and Hulkenberg had fewer with 16 and 23 respectively.
At the front of the timesheet Leclerc again took tenths off his P1 time, that down to a 1:25.383. That stood as the time to beat through to the unofficial lunch break, the Monégasque driver holding onto P1 from the opening hour through to lunch. That put him 0.32s up on Shwartzman with Alonso third on his Aston Martin debut.
Perez, keen to do the morning session so he’s free to watch Mexico play at the football World Cup, was fifth ahead of Gasly. The Frenchman completed more laps than anyone else, 88, in Alonso’s “only happens to my car” car.
Max Verstappen, Lance Stroll, Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz will replace their team-mates in the car after the lunch break.
Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:25.383 50 Laps
Robert Shwartzman Ferrari 1:26.067 62 Laps
Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:26.312 69 Laps
Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:26.333 88 Laps
Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:26.555 62 Laps
Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:26.709 51 Laps
Lando Norris McLaren 1:26.890 45 Laps
Felipe Drugovich Aston Martin 1:27.053 57 Laps
Alex Albon Williams 1:27.369 47 Laps
Liam Lawson Red Bull 1:27.490 46 Laps
Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:27.565 55 Laps
Jack Doohan Alpine 1:27.569 57 Laps
Theo Pourchaire Alfa Romeo 1:27.620 53 Laps
George Russell Mercedes 1:27.639 45 Laps
Pietro Fittipaldi Haas 1:27.690 49 Laps
Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri 1:27.696 68 Laps
Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:27.892 50 Laps
Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:28.412 27 Laps
Logan Sargeant Williams 1:28.413 38 Laps
Frederick Vesti Mercedes 1:28.446 70 Laps