The Abu Dhabi test, which took place 48 hours after the Formula 1 season finale at the Yas Marina circuit was primarily an opportunity for the teams to try out the 2019 Pirelli tyres.
The 2019 Pirelli tyre compounds will differ from their 2018 counterparts, and aim to be more aggressive in their degradation in an effort to encourage more variety in race strategies.
This was the Williams team’s (and others’) first opportunity to test the new tyres, and to directly compare them with the Pirellis they’ve used in 2018.
For Williams it was more than that.
It was George Russell and Robert Kubica’s first official F1 sessions as Williams Grand Prix drivers.
While Kubica has a year’s worth of experience as Williams’ reserve driver, he’s now preparing himself for a Grand Prix season rather than playing a supporting role to someone else.
For George Russell, ahead of his first season in Formula 1, he’s getting used to the way the Williams Team works, how they differ from the Mercedes team he’s familiar with, along with getting to grips with a new car, new tyres, and a new team-mate.
Along with this, he’s having to find his rhythm. His modus operandi. His groove.
He’s also having to acclimatise himself with the increased pressure that comes with being a fully fledged F1 driver: every lap time and position pored over by fans the world over, critiqued, deconstructed and opined over.
Day one of the Abu Dhabi test and the benchmark was set by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel with a laptime of 1m 36.812 (he managed a 1m 35.125 in Q3 for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix).
Williams’ Robert Kubica finished the day with a best time of 1m 39.269. George Russell’s best lap was a 1m 39.512, two and a half tenths slower.
By way of comparison both Sirotkin and Stroll managed a 1m 38.6 in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Day two’s best time was again set by a Ferrari, but this time it was new boy Charles Leclerc with a 1m 36.450.
Of the Williams drivers, George Russell was quickest, improving on day one’s time with a 1m 37.802, and improving on the times both 2018 Williams drivers were able to register in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Robert Kubica was only able to manage 1m 40.265 suggesting he was on an entirely different programme to Russell.
So while the purpose of a test like this is officially for drivers and teams to familiarise themselves with new tyres, and unofficially for new driver/team pairings to familiarise themselves with each other, the one thing that’s directly comparable is what it says on the stopwatch.
And though it counts for little, Williams were the only team to better their Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Qualifying times in the two-day Abu Dhabi test.
So I’m not getting too excited just yet, but after a season of very few highs, any hint that Williams might be moving in the right direction has to be worth celebrating.