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Leclerc adds to growing reputation in F1 testing

266   //    01 Aug 2017, 23:53 IST
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Charles LeClerc

Ferrari prospect Charles Leclerc added to his growing reputation during testing in Hungary on Tuesday as he topped the timesheets on his debut in a 2017 Formula One car.

The 19-year-old is touted as an F1 driver of the future after dominating Formula 2 in his maiden campaign, Leclerc winning five of 14 races so far to top the drivers' standings by 50 points.

He had a taste of F1 in 2016 when he drove the first practice session of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone for Haas, but Tuesday was his first outing in a 2017 car.

And he impressed with the quickest time of the day of one minute and 17.746 seconds at the Hungaroring, while also getting through 98 laps in the Ferrari.

"Driving a Ferrari is never a 'normal' experience," he said. "I felt as though I was driving a race car for the very first time. 

"It’s a great honour I have been afforded and I thank Ferrari with all my heart for this opportunity. 

"Driving the SF70H was a fantastic feeling and coming from F2, it's a whole other world, from every point of view. 

"To set the fastest time is nice, but, in testing, its importance is only relative. For the moment, Formula One is just a dream. I still have work to do and I know that: one step at a time."

Leclerc finished ahead of McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne, while Valtteri Bottas got through an impressive 155 laps for Mercedes on the 2018 Pirelli tyres.

The Finn was not the only driver in the W08 as 19-year-old George Russell also got behind the wheel for the defending constructors champions.

Like Bottas, Russell completed more than 100 laps and he was able to clock the fourth quickest lap of the day in a sun-drenched Budapest.

"Today was incredible. I have been looking forward to this day for so long," he said. "It's every young driver's dream to drive a Formula One car.

"As soon as I got on track, I straight away understood how much grip and downforce this car has got - it is amazing. 48 hours ago I was driving a GP3 car around the same track, but today was totally different. 

"I was quite happy with my performance. For my first time in the car, completing 119 laps and not being far from Valtteri - I'm pretty pleased with that."

Williams driver Lance Stroll racked up 138 laps on day one, but Max Verstappen encountered engine problems and was only able to complete 58 in the Red Bull.

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