Ferrari’s Raikkonen fastest on first day of Abu Dhabi F1 tyre test
Kimi Raikkonen set the pace on day one of the post-Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Pirelli Formula 1 tyre test, as Robert Kubica completed his first run in a 2017 Williams.
The Ferrari driver clocked a 1m37.768s on the new-for-2018 hyper-soft tyre to finish 0.298 seconds clear of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who hands over to Max Verstappen on Wednesday.
Raikkonen, who recorded 99 laps, is splitting driving duties with Sebastian Vettel at the test, with the German to take over for the final day on Wednesday.
All of the current race drivers will get at least some running on the 2018 tyres as they are keen to get some mileage on Pirelli’s new range, which will be softer next season.
World champion Lewis Hamilton ended the day third quickest, 0.782s off the pace, after clocking up 136 laps.
Romain Grosjean was fourth for Haas ahead of Fernando Alonso, who crashed during the morning session, damaging the front wing of his McLaren and bringing out a red flag.
The Spaniard got back out again and ended the day with 111 laps on the board.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg was sixth, with a tally of 80 laps, ahead of Force India development driver Nikita Mazepin.
Kubica amassed 100 laps in an incident-free session, with a best lap of 1m41.296s to end up ninth quickest.
He finished 1.2s adrift of Lance Stroll, who took over running for the final couple of hours, but the two were believed to be running different programmes.
The Pole will be back in the car for the final couple of hours on Wednesday, with the focus expected to be on performance runs.
Williams is using the test to evaluate whether or not to sign Kubica for next season, alongside Stroll.
Kubica is understood to be favourite for the seat.
Sean Gelael was 10th fastest in the Toro Rosso, ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, with Oliver Turvey 11th for McLaren.
McLaren was permitted to run two cars to make up for the loss of running when the recent Pirelli test at Interlagos was cancelled because of security concerns.
All of the day’s fastest times were set on the hyper-soft tyre except for Kubica’s lap, which was completed on the soft tyre.
Kimi Raikkonen: Mercedes’ Abu Dhabi GP dominance ‘a one-off’
The Mercedes Formula 1 team’s dominant pace advantage in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was a "one-off", according to Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton secured a comfortable one-two for Mercedes at Yas Marina, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finishing 19.330 seconds off the pace in third.
Raikkonen was a further 26s adrift and said his race to fourth was "boring" and like "endurance racing" because the Yas Marina track requires significant fuel-saving.
When asked if he was concerned about the deficit to Mercedes, Raikkonen said: "I don’t think so. It’s just a one-off race.
"Obviously we’ve seen in some other races that one team is stronger than others.
"At the last race of the year obviously we want to do as well as we can but they were strong."
Ferrari looked a match for Mercedes in the 2017 title fight until a turbulent September in which both its cars were eliminated in the Singapore GP start crash and then a run of reliability woes began.
But Ferrari still came from a win-less 2016 to take five GP victories this season.
Raikkonen is optimistic about Ferrari’s chances of challenging next year and going the distance, having just had its best season since 2008.
"Next year, new cars for everybody, new things and I don’t think we should worry too much," he said.
"We always try to improve in all areas and obviously be the fastest and we’re not going to be happy until we are one-two all the time. But it’s not going to be easy.
"For sure [Mercedes] were strong [in Abu Dhabi] but I’m not really worried for next year.
"We had a pretty strong car everywhere [this year]. Obviously some places were stronger than others. Some the other way around.
"We’ll do our job and we have to improve here and there and minimise the issues and apart from that we should be up there."