Ocon edges O’Ward as Russell crashes in Abu Dhabi F1 test

Esteban Ocon set the pace from Pato O’Ward, but George Russell’s 2023 season ended with a crash during tire and rookie driver testing in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday

Russell suffered a suspected car failure midway through the day’s running and went straight on at Turn 6 at the end of the long straight, damaging the front right corner and nose of his Mercedes. It was significant enough to prevent any further running for the tire test program, although Fred Vesti was able to complete his day in the other car.

That crash was one of two dramatic moments, as Ayumu Iwasa – making his debut for AlphaTauri –  stopped in the final hour at the pit entry. With smoke emerging from his car, the marshals had to use fire extinguishers and the Japanese driver’s running was also ended prematurely.


Those incidents came after a first hour that had seen the start delayed by 25 minutes due to the lack of a medical helicopter on site, and then another interruption soon after when a water leak was discovered between Turn 13 and Turn 14, leading to another 25-minute stoppage.

When the checkered flag fell after dark, it was Ocon who was fastest on a 1m24.393s to lead newly-named McLaren reserve O’Ward by just over a quarter of a second. O’Ward, who like Ocon and the rest of the top 19 set his time on the softest C5 tire compound, managed over 100 laps as he continues to gain experience in Formula 1 cars.

“It was a little bit of everything,” O’Ward said of his day. “We did a hundred and something laps, just the morning was like 73. They were continuous laps, not much cooldowns. We did more than a full race distance, which was a first for me, just really reading the car on the tire deg, in getting to push it, getting to experience it, what does it do when you lock the rears, lock the fronts, what does it do when you lose the rear, if it’s too much flap in the front do you need more downforce…

“All these different things add up to a bit of lap time, and these cars are so capable that you need that confidence in them to extract the lap time, and today in the afternoon when we did the low fuel runs, it’s just… the way you can attack the car compare to a high fuel or a mid-tank fuel, it’s a big difference – the commitment and confidence you have to have in it to extract the lap time out of it. It feels unbelievable, they are just machines.”

Third fastest was Vesti after a late lap put him ahead of Sergio Perez, with the Red Bull driver’s time of 1m24.715s coming earlier in the day.

“It was a very positive day,” Perez said. “Always on these days driving, it’s always a pain in the ass to end up doing it but there is so much learning and it’s productive as well.

“It was good and important to put in the time, it’s been another productive day and I think especially coming out of a race everything is really fresh, the circuit was very representative, especially in the afternoon, so yeah plenty of productive testing and good information for next year. All in all it’s a good way to finish the year.”

Perez was less than 0.1s clear of Carlos Sainz who drove in the morning for Ferrari before handing over to Charles Leclerc, with Fernando Alonso sixth from Alpine’s Jack Doohan and then Ferrari reserve Robert Shwartzman.

Logan Sargeant and Leclerc rounded out the top 10 as both took over in the afternoon sessions, as four of the teams – Ferrari, Aston Martin, Williams, AlphaTauri – split running between their race drivers.

Although he hit trouble late on, Iwasa ended up 15th with some valuable running as he managed 96 laps, just 0.4s away from Leclerc’s top 10 time. There was also a notable first outing in current F1 machinery for an Argentinian driver in over two decades as Franco Colapinto drove for Williams in the morning, ending the day 2.5s off Ocon’s best time but without the cooler track conditions of the evening to work with.

Story originally appeared on Racer