ABU DHABI -- The chequered flag has fallen on the 2017 Formula One season after Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari topped the final day of testing in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
The test was the first chance for teams to try out Pirelli's new tyre range for 2018 , which includes new additions -- the super-hard and hyper-soft -- at either end of its range of compounds. Ferrari spent the majority of the two days on top, and on Wednesday Vettel set a 1:37.651 in the morning which stood as the fastest time throughout the session. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen had gone quickest on Tuesday, meaning the SF70H finishes its disappointing 2017 campaign on a high note at least.
Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas found some time improvement in the afternoon to finish second, 0.3s off Vettel's benchmark. However, the fact that Vettel finished the day 1.2s off the mark Bottas set on Saturday evening to claim pole position for the grand prix highlights the fact that outright performance was not the priority this week.
Max Verstappen was third in his final run in the RB13 that delivered him two victories this year. The Dutchman hopes the RB13's predecessor will be fit for a title challenge from the moment pre-season testing begins on February 26 in Barcelona next year.
Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon split duties and accumulated 124 laps to sign off a hugely impressive year for Force India, which has seen the small Silverstone-based team finish fourth as the 'best of the rest' behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. Behind them was the Renault of Carlos Sainz -- the Spaniard will stay with the French manufacturer for the whole campaign next year after joining for the U.S. Grand Prix from Toro Rosso this year.
Robert Kubica returned to the cockpit of the Williams for 28 laps of running in the final 90 minutes of the test. The former Renault and BMW-Sauber driver was forced out of F1 after sustaining severe arm injuries in a rallying accident in 2011 and is targeting a comeback with Williams in 2018.
Although Williams remains tight-lipped about its plans for 2018, the signs are good from Kubica's two day of testing in Abu Dhabi, with chief technical officer Paddy Lowe confirming there are "no issues" around the physical limitations he still suffers as a result of his injury. For the majority of Wedneday's test the Williams was driven by Russian hopeful Sergey Sirotkin, who set the 10th fastest time before Kubica took over and hauled the Williams up to seventh on a set of hyper-soft tyres -- 0.5s clear of Sirotkin on the softs.
Stoffel Vandoorne made up for lost time after losing a piece of the rear wing of his McLaren during the morning session, which curtailed some of his programme. He and McLaren drew a line under the Honda partnership with 105 laps -- the sort of reliability the team was crying out for at the start of the year. McLaren is hoping a switch to Renault power in 2018 will be far more fruitful than its three painful years with the outgoing Japanese manufacturer.
Formula 3 champion Lando Norris drove a second McLaren that was being used as part of a blind tyre test with Pirelli. The testing was supposed to be carried out in Brazil two weeks ago but was cancelled due to security concerns around the Interlagos circuit.
Kevin Magnussen completed his first year as a Haas driver with 124 laps at the wheel and the ninth fastest time ahead of Sirotkin's best effort in the Williams. Charles Leclerc joined Sauber for a full day of testing ahead of his expected confirmation as a race drive with the team next year. The Ferrari junior driver's test coincided with news that Alfa Romeo would become Sauber's title sponsor in 2018 and he finished 11th fastest at the end of the session.
Toro Rosso rounded off the test at the bottom of the timesheets after splitting its session between its two race drivers. Pierre Gasly took part in the morning session before handing over to Brendon Hartley in the afternoon, but both were over five seconds off the pace of Vettel's Ferrari.