Analysis: Ocon sets pace in post-season Abu Dhabi test

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Italy, Autodromo Nazionale di Monzait

Alpine driver Esteban Ocon topped the timesheets in F1’s post-season test on the final day of track running for 2023 in Abu Dhabi as George Russell's car failure caused a heavy crash at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, F1 teams stayed at the Yas Marina Circuit for a last one-day test that featured a combined Pirelli tyre and young driver test.

Alpine with the fastest lap

Alpine's Esteban Ocon ended the day with the fastest time on a 1m24.393s, nearly three-tenths faster than his nearest rival. The French driver was joined by Reserve Driver Jack Doohan on track at Yas Marina Circuit for a full day’s test. The F2 driver, who won the Feature Race on Sunday at Abu Dhabi, racked up a total of 108 lap en route to the sixth fastest lap.

Commenting on his day, Ocon said: “The on-track season has officially finished with post-race testing here in Abu Dhabi. We had a very busy day with an important and extensive programme to go through. 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.”

Speaking of his long day behind the wheel of the Alpine, Doohan added: “It’s been a great day and 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.”

Williams with four drivers

The Grove-based outfit was the only team to run four drivers at the Yas Marina Circuit. Full-time drivers Logan Sargeant and Alexander Albon clocked a 1m25.263s and 1m27.824s respectively and racked up a total of 107 laps.

Williams Young Drivers Zak O'Sullivan and Franco Colapinto shared driving duties in the other Williams FW45, finishing in P17 and P22 respectively with both drivers having used Pirelli's C5 compound on their quickest lap.

Commenting on his day, O’Sullivan added: It’s been an enjoyable day. 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.

Speaking about his very first day in a Formula 1 car, Colapinto said: It’s been incredible to get my first taste of a Formula 1 car and to do it with Williams Racing. 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.

Ferrari with a quite day at Yas Marina

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 Leclerc’ turn, running the C5, C1 and C4, his best time being a 1’25”371.

Shwartzman was behind the wheel of an SF-23 for the third time this year, 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.

Shwartzman said: "It was a busy day with a lot of running, 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.

Red Bull without the three-time champion
Deciding against participating in the tyre test, Red Bull completed the Pirelli test with Sergio Perez , while Oracle Red Bull Racing Reserve Driver, Jake Dennis was in action in the Young Driver Test. Between them they put in a combined total of 241 laps as the double title winning RB19 took to the track for the final time.

"It was a very positive day, there was still lots to learn," started Perez. "It was important to put in the time, 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.”

Following his run in Free Practice 1, reigning Formula E champion Dennis was in the RB19 for the second time: “What an amazing car! 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.”

AlphaTauri with three drivers

AlphaTauri shared driving duties among three drivers. Race drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda drove in the Tyre Test while Ayumu Iwasa participated in the Young Driver Test.

The Australian driver used the C3 compound on his quickest lap to set the 23rd fastest lap while his Japanese team-mate clocked the 13rd quickest lap on Pirelli's C5 compound. F2 driver Iwasa used the softest compound to finish two places behind Tsunoda after setting his best time in the closing stages of the session.

Speaking of his first day in an F1 car, Iwasa said: “Thank you to everyone from Red Bull, Scuderia AlphaTauri, and Honda who made today possible. 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.”

Aston Martin complete huge mileage
After a day of testing in Yas Marina, Aston Martin's full-time drivers Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll and Reserve Driver Felipe Drugovich clocked in over 200 combined laps in the AMR23, collecting plenty of meaningful data to analyse.

Alfa Romeo worked with two drivers during the day. Zhou Guanyu and Theo Pourchaire completed the day, clocking in 106 and 96 laps respectively. The Chinese driver used the C4 compound en route to the 24th quickest time while the freshly-crown F2 champion set the 11th fastest lap with Pirelli's softest compound.

Haas was the only team to complete the one-day test without their race drivers. The American outfit ran with Oliver Bearman and Pietro Fittipaldi who completed a total of 240 laps.

McLaren with only two drivers

Following the strong end to their 2023 F1 season, McLaren decided to complete the one-day test with two drivers. Oscar Piastri got behind the wheel of the MCL60 to complete the Tyre Test while Patricio O'Ward participated in the Young Driver Test.

The Australian posted a 1m25.930s to set the 18th quickest time, using Pirelli's softest compound. The Mexican finished the day second quickest with 103 laps completed.

O'Ward commented: “I'm really happy with my day on track today. 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.”

Mercedes endures difficult day

Mercedes endured a difficult day at Yas Marina Circuit as George Russell caused the most notable incident by crashing in Turn 6 four hours into the session after a suspected technical failure punted the Mercedes driver into the barriers. The incident forced Russell to sit out the rest of the day after completing 58 laps.

Mercedes junior and F2 runner-up Frederik Vesti took part in the Young Driver Test, completing the top three with a 1m24.679s after 106 laps.

Vesti commented: "It was a really special day for me. I got to push the W14 to its limits and experiencing the car both on high and low fuel at the end of the day.

"The team has been incredible. I was also able to learn from George, looking through the data and having him next to me in the garage. I improved consistently through the day and it was great working with the engineers to help me do that. I'm excited to get back to Brackley now and continue my learning in the simulator and the correlation to this test; that will be very interesting."