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Abu Dhabi Test: Kubica centre of attention as Raikkonen fastest on Day 1

Written by  Nov 29, 2017

Robert Kubica was the centre of attention once again as the Pole made his second public test appearance in 2017, this time behind the wheel of a Williams on the first day of Pirelli's 2018 tyre test in Abu Dhabi.

The 32-year-old is taking part in another evaluation of his abilities behind the wheel as the Grove team consider him for the seat left vacant following Felipe Massa's decision to retire at the end of the season.

Kubica would complete exactly 100 laps but focused on long runs on the Soft tyre making his fastest time of 1:41.296s somewhat irrelevant, however, he is expected to complete some performance runs on the new HyperSoft when he returns to the track for the final two hours on Wednesday.

For most, it was a day of gaining vital data and experience on the new 2018 tyres, which are softer than those used this season as Pirelli move away from the conservative approach that was criticised this year.

That includes the first running on the new softest compound in the Italian supplier's range for next year, the pink-striped HyperSoft, with everyone except Kubica setting their best time on the tyre.

Kimi Raikkonen would post the fastest time of the day for Ferrari, a 1:37.768s in the morning, but would fall just short of the century mark with 99 laps on the day. Seven drivers would, however, including Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull, who was almost three-tenths behind the Finn in second on the timesheet.

The 109 laps also went some way to making up for a third retirement in the last four races for the Australian in the Grand Prix at Yas Marina on Sunday, after suffering from hydraulics problems.

Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean finished third and fourth on the timesheets but would jointly top the lap count table with 136 each on Tuesday. The world champion would later give the new HyperSoft a strong endorsement describing it as the "best tyre Pirelli has produced" in the seven years they have been the supplier.

Lance Stroll replaced Kubica for the final two hours in the Williams, which was planned, with the Canadian completing performance runs on the HyperSoft tyre as he ended the day fifth overall.

Fernando Alonso suffered a rare crash in the morning, producing the first of two red flags on the day, but the Spaniard was still able to pump in 115 laps in the McLaren Honda and post the sixth best time.

He would lead a trio of drivers all separated by just two-tenths of a second with Nico Hulkenberg seventh for Renault and development driver Nikita Mazepin eighth for Force India, as the tight midfield battle from the end of the year carried into testing.

Kubica' best would see him 10th ahead of F2 driver Sean Gelael, with the Indonesian causing the second red flag late on as he continued his program with Toro Rosso. Marcus Ericsson hinted at his retention by Sauber for next year by driving on Tuesday but would be 11th.

McLaren test driver Oliver Turvey would complete the standings after the Woking outfit was given permission to run two cars after the cancellation of their tyre test in Brazil.

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