Charles Leclerc drove Ferrari’s 2020 Formula 1 car on the streets of Maranello on Thursday morning ahead of an expected private test in its 2018 car at Fiorano.
Leclerc and team-mate Sebastian Vettel have not driven an F1 car since pre-season testing finished at the end of February.
The F1 season was suspended before free practice in Australia had even started because of the escalation of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, with the season set to begin in Austria at the start of July, teams have tried to arrange limited on-track work to get their drivers back behind the wheel and get used to F1’s new safety protocols that must be observed while operating the cars.
Leclerc drove the 2020 Ferrari out of the Maranello factory and towards its Fiorano test track early on Thursday morning, becoming the first driver “of the modern era” to drive an F1 car on the streets of Maranello.
Teams are allowed to conduct two ‘Demonstration Events’ – which may take place away from circuits that are not on the current calendar – limited to no more than 15km in length, as long as the run is confirmed in advance with the FIA.
“I don’t normally like getting up early, but this morning there was a great reason to do so,” said Leclerc.
“Maybe it woke a few people up, but it was great to drive through the streets of Maranello in the SF1000.
“It was exciting to get back in the car today, particularly on such a special route. Being back in the cockpit felt like coming home again.
“It seemed like a fun way of saying we are ready to get back on track. Now I can’t wait to drive the SF1000 in Austria.”
Good morning Maranello !
Sorry if I woke you up this morning, I was just going to work 😍 pic.twitter.com/IHj5o5RLlY
— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) June 18, 2020
Ferrari has not explicitly confirmed it is testing at Fiorano, but was known to be preparing a private test with a 2018 car for both Leclerc and Vettel – though it is unclear if any on-track running at Fiorano is following the morning Maranello run, or will happen at a later date.
And Ferrari test driver Marc Gene has confirmed he is at Fiorano today with the team, suggesting running of some kind is taking place at the team’s test track.
— Marc Gené (@marc_gene) June 18, 2020
The 2018 car would be used as Ferrari can conduct unlimited mileage with a car from two years ago or earlier, and doesn’t have any filming days with which to run its 2020 car for a restricted 100km.
Teams have spent most of the time since Australia observing government lockdown or F1 shutdown measures, and only resumed work earlier this month.
The drivers have generally been unable to get behind the wheel, with some exceptions like Valtteri Bottas testing rally cars in Finland.
However, relaxation of rules around COVID-19 this month has allowed drivers and teams to return to the track in limited testing environments.
Mercedes kicked off the return of F1 action by running a two-day private test at Silverstone for Bottas and Lewis Hamilton with a 2018 car.
Renault has done the same for Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon at the Red Bull Ring, while Racing Point used a filming day to become the first team to log mileage with its 2020 car since the season’s interruption.
AlphaTauri may also use its remaining filming day to run its 2020 car at Imola.
McLaren and Williams have ruled out running on track before Austria because of a lack of promotional days for its 2020 car, and being unable to field an older machine.
However, McLaren’s drivers are getting some on-track mileage in Formula 3 cars.
Lando Norris drove with Carlin at Silverstone two weeks ago, and is back with the team at a very wet British Grand Prix venue today alongside McLaren team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr.
How good is it to see these guys back on track? 😃🙌 pic.twitter.com/YtJ3nkdnh7
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) June 18, 2020