F1 drivers changing or debuting with their 2023 teams got their first chance in Abu Dhabi, as youngsters got more track time too.
Apart from the drivers who moved away from the sport, most other got to drive the 2022 car for one last time at Yas Marina circuit for the Pirelli Tyre test alongside the Young Drivers’ test, with as many as 24 drivers in action throughout the day.
Among them, the key ones were Fernando Alonso and Pierre Gasly who had their first go with their 2023 teams at Aston Martin and Alpine, especially driven for other teams in 2022. It was also a chance for the newcomers in F1 at McLaren and Williams.
Additionally, F1 returning Nico Hulkenberg was in action too. All of the 10 teams ran their senior pros even if it was splitting time. Among the youngsters, Oscar Piastri, Logan Sargeant and Nyck de Vries used up the Young Drivers’ slot which allowed the senior drivers for tyre test.
Among others, Liam Lawson was in action along with Theo Pourchaire, Felipe Drigovich, Pietro Fittipaldi, Jack Doohan, Frederik Vesti and Robert Shwartzman. Only the Dane made his F1 debut whereas the rest all have had their chance beforehand.
Here’s what the F1 drivers switching/debuting said:
Alonso: “It was good! It was a very nice experience. I feel honoured to drive for such an iconic brand. It was a very special day, having the first go in the car and trying to feel also the differences [between Alpine and Aston Martin]. Obviously, we raced two days ago here, so it’s very fresh and it’s very useful. I tried to meet all the mechanics, the engineers, and [I will] try to remember a lot of new names, for sure! It felt good. I think the tyres were not too different compared to last year. Obviously, they tried to improve a few weaknesses that we had in 2022. They felt good – even on the extreme heat, now at midday. I think tyre-wise we should be very good in 2023.”
Gasly: “Well, it’s been really good. First feel with this Alpine car. First time out on track with this car, I must say it’s been an extremely smooth morning. Very good adaptation and obviously it feels very different at the start – everything, the [seating] position, the brake pedals, throttle pedals, the way the steering feels etcetera, so there was quite a lot to discover. But I must say it felt very good and we managed to run through the whole programme, so really pleased. It was definitely emotional to be in this Alpine car. Not wearing the full suit yet, I’m still running with the unbranded one but to be out on track with the Alpine and kick off… in my mind I am already starting the 2023 season, already working for next year. It was definitely very special.”
Hulkenberg: “It was a good day of work, good running, collected many impressions and a lot of data – which was the target. We successfully went through our program. There’s a lot of things to pick through, digest and analyze now and over the next couple of weeks with the team. Today was about learning the tires for 2023, learning their characteristics and with these test days you have a bit more time to try stuff. I’m satisfied and happy with the day. There was a bit of human degradation towards the end day, but I coped better than expected to be honest – so that’s good. There’s now three months of hard-core preparation to get ready, I have a plan and I know what I have to do.”
Piastri: “It’s a cool feeling. A very different feeling to the Young Driver Test that I did last year because I knew that was a day to have fun in an F1 car whereas this year, it’s a building block towards next year. But it was awesome to have my first day with McLaren, get to know everyone in the team and try and improve, get back up to speed for next year. A pretty special one. That’s one of the keys of days like today. In terms of lap times, it’s meaningless because you never know what everyone else is doing. That’s not the first port of call for the day, [it’s] getting to know my engineers, my mechanics, everyone in the team. A lot of new names to learn, that’s up there with one of the most important things today – especially getting into good communications with my engineers in the team in particular, learning how we get feedback and what we want to adjust, getting to learn each other. That’s 100% what today is about.”
Sargeant: “Today went well. Throughout the day we gradually progressed, got through our test plan and completed all the laps we needed to do. By the end of the day I felt super comfortable. It was really nice to get a full day rather than a FP1 to properly get to grips with everything. My season hasn’t ended, there’s a lot of work to do over the next three months to prepare myself for next season. I’ll strictly be in the gym, on the simulator and working with everyone at Grove to ensure no stone is left unturned. I can’t wait to be back out on track for winter testing for my first season in Formula 1.”
Here’s what the F1 youngsters said:
Lawson: “Days like today are very important. F1 testing is very limited, so track time is extremely valuable and I’m grateful that I got to drive the and to help the Team with development for next year. But also, for myself, it’s really important as well. It’s so different to anything else we drive. Obviously, you go from junior categories to prepare for it, but honestly, nothing can. And today the sessions went really well. After a full day, I definitely feel more comfortable in the car and hopefully I’ll get more opportunities like this in the future.”
Vesti: “My first test in an F1 car has been the most incredible day, no words can truly describe how awesome it was! I want to thank Mercedes for giving me this opportunity. Driving 260 kph through the high-speed corners and experiencing 5G in the neck… the forces that a Formula One car produces are remarkable. I’ve done 124 laps today learning the car and running on different compounds, so a massive amount of driving. To get this opportunity has been hugely important and will help with my next step in Formula 2 as well as my work in the F1 sim. Hopefully I’ll be driving an F1 car again soon and a big thank you to Mercedes for the chance.”
Shwartzman: “We finished a very positive test day here in Abu Dhabi with 116 laps and a solid amount of work. The testing programme was quite comprehensive with performance runs, race simulations, tests and practice starts. I feel I made a good improvement from Friday’s FP1 and for most of the sessions I was fairly close to Charles and Carlos pace wise which is also very positive for me. There are always things to improve but I think the potential we showed was very good. In general I am also very happy with the work we did this year with the team back in Maranello on the simulator as the car feels very similar. It was great having the chance to drive for the team again and I really enjoyed today.”
Doohan: “It’s been another good experience driving a Formula 1 car today and I’m very grateful to Alpine for this opportunity. It’s been a busy day, plenty of laps, and a lot of new things to take on board, and I’m pretty pleased with how it’s progressed. Last weekend in Free Practice 1 was only one hour long, so to have a full day in the car is extremely useful as you can get a lot done in a less pressured environment. Thanks to Alpine for a brilliant year and I’m excited for the hard work to continue next season. Now my focus turns back to Formula 2 again where I’m back in the car for three days of testing in Abu Dhabi before the off-season.”
The new boys settle into their new homes 👉🏠
— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) November 22, 2022
Hello, Fernando. pic.twitter.com/Mfwi66ID5J
— Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team (@AstonMartinF1) November 22, 2022
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) November 22, 2022
Laps on laps on laps… 🇦🇪
— Williams Racing (@WilliamsRacing) November 22, 2022
Getting a taste of it. 👌 pic.twitter.com/sT1FHiucfe
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) November 22, 2022
Nice work team. 🤜🤛 pic.twitter.com/h4Y05tycyF
— BWT Alpine F1 Team (@AlpineF1Team) November 22, 2022
— Visa Cash App RB F1 Team (@visacashapprb) November 22, 2022
Here’s how F1 Abu Dhabi test panned out