The 15 drivers spoke about their full day of running in Abu Dhabi to end the 2020 F1 season on a high note testing the beasts.
The post-season F1 test has attracted more attention than one might normally, with a score of young talent taking part in the Abu Dhabi event, it being one which was designated for young drivers – albeit with some exceptions.
One such exception is Fernando Alonso, who completed the test for Renault before his return to the sport in F1 2021. The Spaniard’s participation in the session was the subject of debate, and he wound up atop the timesheets come the end of the running.
Though not all teams participated, other names to draw attention included the likes of 2019 F2 champion Nyck De Vries, Haas F1 driver to-be Mick Schumacher, F2 driver Callum Ilott, Robert Shwartzman, Juri Vips, and Jack Aitken.
All of the aforementioned drivers were ecstatic to have had the opportunity as they said:
Nyck De Vries (Mercedes): “Today was very special, making my F1 debut. What an incredible car, it’s from a different planet really. You can brake so late and carry so much speed through the corners. It was a real pleasure to drive. I’m really pleased with the progression I made throughout the day and the work we completed. I was quite surprised with how quickly I felt comfortable in the car and the team was very supportive, doing everything they could to make me feel as comfortable as possible. A massive thanks to Mercedes for this very unique and special opportunity because it was a great day in the car.
Stoffel Vandoorne (Mercedes): “I had a lot of fun out there today in the W11. I managed to complete plenty of laps with both some short and longer runs. It was a pretty smooth day and I was quickest in the morning session as well. I want to say a massive thank you to the team for giving me this opportunity, because the chance to drive a Championship-winning F1 car doesn’t come around very often and is very unique. It was a real privilege to drive W11 and a really great day. I had to cut the afternoon a little short because I had to leave to the airport for a PR commitment, but nonetheless I’m really happy with the day we’ve had in the car and the opportunity to end the year driving W11.”
Roy Nissany (Williams): “It is always nice to jump back in the car and today was amazing. In contrast to the FP1s, it was a full day with lots of kilometres logged, lots of learning, lots of understanding of the car – a great experience. It was also a challenge in terms of the development, and in terms of understanding a few mechanical changes. Overall, I am happy with my performance, and I think the team is as well. It was a great way to end the year. I will take all the conclusions, go deep into the data and spend the winter analysing it all.”
Jack Aitken (Williams): “It was a really good day, and I had lots of fun, but I wish we had more tyres to play with! We got through a nice programme, I got plenty of laps and we had no major issues which is always nice. There were a few things that we went into more detail with that we didn’t have time to in Bahrain. It was nice to go through some of the procedures and really knuckle down in more detail on some things which is a luxury. It was a nice way to end the year and thanks again to Williams for the opportunity.”
Fernando Alonso (Renault): “It was good and very nice to be back in the car especially with the race team. I’ve been testing the 2018 car in preparation but this one felt a bit more serious and it ignited a little bit the competitive spirit. It was great to feel the modern cars and experience what they can do. I was watching the team’s progress at the weekend closely and it was nice to experience what I learnt from the outside and then inside the cockpit today. We signed off lots of basic things we did in preparation at the factory like seat fitting, pedal position and so on, which is beneficial with only one and a half days of winter testing next year. We ticked boxes today and we go into Christmas and New Year with good spirit and everyone motivated in the team.”
Guanyu Zhou (Renault): “It was a pretty decent day. I got used to the car straight away, we did a lot of laps including race runs and performance runs, which were very interesting. Our pace was reasonably stable, so I was happy with that, especially this morning’s performance run. There were a couple of technical things here and there, but it is testing, we still did a lot of laps, and that is the main purpose. I wasn’t really looking for lap time and during the last two sessions, together with the team, we found a good balance on the car in comparison to the evening sessions at the weekend, so that’s positive learning for the team. Overall, I’m really happy with my first time driving the 2020 car, so thanks to Renault for the opportunity.”
Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri): “I had more track time today than when I tried a F1 car for the first time in November and I must admit I feel a bit tired now at the end of the day. But it was a very enjoyable experience. When I last drove in Imola it was a 2018 car, so I was surprised at the increase in power and downforce from the current car. However, the experience from my drive in Imola was definitely a useful starting point for today. There were quite a few aspects that felt new to me and during the session I worked on dealing with these and continuously improving throughout the day. I learned a lot and have made progress with my driving. The off-season starts tomorrow, and I have a training programme planned to make sure I am always stronger and fitter, but I will also enjoy some days at home in Japan, to fully recharge batteries.”
Marino Sato (AlphaTauri): “First of all, thank you to everyone in Scuderia AlphaTauri for the opportunity I had today to drive an F1 car for the very first time. We completed quite a lot of laps, it’s just a shame that I got stuck in bit of traffic for my run on the soft compound. It was looking good until then, but I can’t say I could fully give it all I had today. But still, the first day in a F1 car was really enjoyable and a great experience, so I hope to come back to drive this car again soon.”
Robert Shwartzman (Ferrari): “I feel very good, awesome, it’s a dream come true! You know when you are a little kid and you are watching Ferrari winning, and you always dreamed about ‘when is that day going to come when I am going to sit in it and drive this car?’ It happened today and it was very nice. I feel like this is just the beginning, this is the point when you understand you just started your job and you need to work hard and improve, so I am happy I finally reached that point where I made that step for my future. It’s very nice. It wasn’t the easiest day and I am quite exhausted now because I had a lot of new things to deal with, a lot of information and a lot of running! The back of my neck is a bit sore, from the heavy braking, but apart from that, I am feeling really well. Steering wise, driving this car is easier than the F2 cars, so no problems there. I did the most laps today and each one of them felt really cool.”
Antonio Fuoco (Ferrari): “This was a very good day and we managed to get through our programme, completing 126 laps, which is more than two race distances. Along with the team, we gathered a lot of data to analyse which will be useful for next season. As a driver that specialises in working in the simulator, it is extremely useful for me to be able to get in the real car from time to time to reacquaint myself with what it feels like being in the cockpit. On top of that, we were able to work specifically on verifying the correlation between our tools in Maranello and the SF1000 on track. Finally, I should say that every time I get offered the chance to jump in a Ferrari, I get rather excited. As an Italian, I’m very proud to be part of this family for the past eight years and I thank the team for having chosen me to drive again this time.”
Mick Schumacher (Haas F1 Team): “I feel pretty good, obviously I’m very happy I managed to do so many laps – it’s not always a given in testing. We focused on a good amount of laps, and a valuable amount of laps, which was very positive. The key point from today was just to understand the tires a little more – for that, the long runs were very good. I think we achieved that, and I now have a pretty good knowledge of what I need to do although the tires might be a bit different next year. I feel very comfortable, I know the team’s happy, so that’s good. I really was so happy to be in the car and it was so much fun to drive. I’m really looking forward to next year.”
Sebastien Buemi (Red Bull): “I very much enjoyed being back in the car and getting a proper day of running so that was cool. It was good to do so many laps and I was happy to be back with the Team trackside. Hopefully we can now have a good debrief from today, see what we learned and take it over to the simulator.”
Juri Vips (Red Bull): It’s just a shame the test ended really – I had a massive smile on my face the whole day! The car definitely lives up to the expectations. I was a little bit worried this morning about how it was going to be physically, especially about the neck, but we got through all of our programme: lots of mileage and I’m just very happy about the experience. Within two or three laps I felt confident in the car – it was very well balanced and it has a ridiculous amount of grip! When am I getting back in the car? I don’t know, I need to talk to Helmut and Christian – but if it was up to me, I’d be driving it every day!”
Robert Kubica (Alfa Romeo):
Callum Ilott (Alfa Romeo):
Here’s the whole F1 test day’s standings
Here’s Yuki Tsunoda confirmed as AlphaTauri F1 driver