Sebastian Vettel quickest as Robert Kubica enjoys impressive F1 return
Hungary test - Day 2

Sebastian Vettel quickest as Robert Kubica enjoys impressive F1 return

02/08/2017

Sebastian Vettel kept Ferrari at the final day of F1's in-season testing, an event dominated by Robert Kubica's 149-lap return with Renault.

Vettel's morning lap of 1:17.124 remained quickest until the end of the session, meaning Ferrari has been top since he secured pole position for the Hungarian Grand Prix on Saturday afternoon. But the undoubted main event of the test was Kubica in the Renault RS17, his first appearance in an up-to-date Formula One car since February 2011, the same month he suffered a horrific arm injury which curtailed his F1 career.

Kubica's remarkable journey towards a possible return started with two private tests in old Renault F1 cars -- the second of which was publicly stated to be assessing his readiness for a full-time drive. With Renault clear he has lost none of the pace which made him such a respected driver by his peers, the questions about fitness and his psychical limitations were the biggest heading into Wednesday's test -- an appearance which has done little to cool speculation the French manufacturer is ready to put him back in a Formula One car.

Kubica finished fourth in the order, 1.4s down on Vettel, though reading too much into his times is unfair given he had never driven a modern F1 car or used Pirelli's compounds. His time of 1:18.572 (on ultra-softs) was a tenth slower than Renault's Jolyon Palmer set in Q2 on Saturday with super-soft tyres, though differences in car set-up, doubts over track evolution since the weekend and the time of day they were set make an informed or meaningful comparison impossible. Of more interest was his mileage, 142 laps, which accounts for just over two full race distances of the Hungarian Grand Prix. Undoubtedly, it was a very impressive return for a man who many thought would never race an open cockpit car again.

The Polish driver's test was watched by a sizeable contingent of his home fans who have travelled to Hungary. At one stage, Kubica walked from the Renault garage to wave to the fans, prompting a football stadium-style roar of approval which could be heard the other side of the paddock.

In a statement released by Renault immediately after the conclusion of the test, Kubica said: ""It was a fantastic feeling for me to be here today in the R.S.17 and also it was amazing to see so many fans come to see me out on track, so thank you to all of them. It has been an incredible journey to this point, where I have answered many questions to myself. I learnt a lot about the latest generation car, as there are a reasonable amount of differences between it and the Formula 1 cars I have driven in the past.

"The car is certainly wider than before. I was able to work through the team's programme methodically and I think we made good progress. Certainly my understanding of the R.S.17 and the 2017 tyres came on a lot. After today, it's too early to say what the next step might be. For now, I owe a big thanks to everyone at Renault Sport Formula One Team for making this test happen."

Ferrari split duties between Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, who contributed a further 60laps to the team's tally before the chequered flag fell. Ferrari will now travel to Barcelona with Pirelli for two days of 2018 tyre testing which will be conducted by reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi.

The Ferrari drivers' times were split by the hugely impressive Lando Norris, the 17-year-old Englishman in McLaren's young driver programme. The exciting youngster, who is challenging for the European Formula 3 title in his first year in the series, posted a fastest time 0.261s slower than Vettel's session-leading time. Most impressively, his quickest time was 0.5s quicker than McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne's fastest effort on Tuesday, albeit set on the ultra-soft tyre instead of the super-soft. The only negative was an on-track stoppage in the morning, though it did not end his day prematurely and he finished with 91 laps to his name.

Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat, who split duties either side of the lunch break, finished fourth and fith. Sainz's time was two tenths quicker than his teammate, but Kvyat day ended prematurely when he triggered the second red flag of the day. Force India's Lucas Auer completed 49 laps before handing over to Nikita Mazepin in the afternoon, where the Russian youngster added 48 before the chequered flag.

Mercedes youngster George Russell finished between the two Force India drivers, completing 90 laps and trialling the Halo for the first time since the FIA confirmed the cockpit protection device will on the cars in 2018. Russell started the day with Halo on his car and was running the device again in the late evening when he stopped on track following an oil leak, triggering the third and final red flag of the session.

Red Bul junior Pierre Gasly was 10th, ahead of Williams' Luca Ghiotto, who led the mileage charts with 161 laps. Santino Ferrucci was 12th for Haas with 116 laps, rounding off a productive two day test for the American teenager.

Rounding off the order was Nobuharu Matsushita for Sauber, who completed 121 laps for the team. Matsushita's appearance was an ironic one given it was agreed when Sauber and Honda had a partnership in place for 2018 -- a contract which both parties severed during last weekend. Though Sauber promptly announced a deal to run up-to-date Ferrari engines next year, the team also decided to honour the commitment it had made to the Japanese driver to give him his first day in a Formula One car.

Times at close:

1. Sebastian Vettel - Ferrari - 1:17.124 - 40 laps
2. Lando Norris - McLaren - 1:17.385 - 91 laps
3. Kimi Raikkonen - Ferrari - 1:17.842 - 60 laps
4. Robert Kubica - Renault - 1:18.572 - 142 laps
5. Carlos Sainz - Toro Rosso - 1:18.850 - 68 laps
6. Daniil Kvyat - Toro Rosso - 1:19.116 - 54 laps
7. Lucas Auer - Force India - 1:19.242 - 49 laps
8. George Russell - Mercedes - 1:19.391 - 90 laps
9. Nikita Mazepin - Force India - 1:19.692 - 48 laps
10. Pierre Gasly - Red Bull - 1:20.337 - 102 laps
11. Luca Ghiotto - Williams - 1:20.414 - 161 laps
12. Santino Ferrucci - Haas - 1:20.994 - 116 laps
13. Nobu Matsushita - Sauber - 1:21.998 - 121 laps

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