Day 1 of the second pre-season test got underway at Barcelona once again, however the Williams of Felipe Massa shocked many by topping the time sheets.
After what can only be described as a bit of a torrid first test, where three crashes resulted in the team losing around two days of testing, Williams showed there was some pace in the FW40. Massa, having returned to the sport after retiring last season, was in the Williams after having only the one day in the car last test. His lap, a 1:19.726, set on supersoft tyres just before the lunch break was the second-fastest of winter testing so far. Daniel Ricciardo also recorded a new best for Red Bull, around two tenths slower than the William’s best time, however Riccardo was on the faster ultrasoft tyres at the time. Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel was third for Ferrari, just behind the Red Bull. After only using medium tyres in the morning, Vettel switched to soft tyres at the start of the afternoon and lapped within two tenths of Massa despite using a compound two steps harder. As ever winter testing times can be confusing, we have no way of knowing the fuel loads on cars or their power settings when they set their respective times, though one thing is clear.
Only four teams have set a lap time under 1:20 at the Circuit de Catalunya this winter – Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and now after today Williams. Tyre corrected, the team who seems to come out top in all of this is Red Bull, who’s most impressive time was a 1:20.077 on softs. A fraction better than Mercedes’ fastest time on softs in the whole of testing so far.
“My guess is that we haven’t seen the Red Bull Racing car of 2017 yet,” warned Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.
The lap count was also the highest of the winter so far, with many drivers going out there for long periods of time. Both Massa and Vettel completed 168 laps, almost three times the race distance of the Spanish GP. While Force India’s Esteban Ocon recorded 142.
However not every team had a positive day as Mercedes seemed to struggle with their car today. After sitting out the final day of the first test due to an electrical issue, Lewis Hamilton experienced more frustration completing just 49 laps before handing over the W08 to his team mate Valtteri Bottas. Trackside observers described Hamilton’s running as ‘scruffy’ with the three-time world champion admitting he had struggled to dial in the W08 to the conditions. And although he didn’t run off track, Hamilton damaged the floor of his car during his stint.
“As a team, we are not massively happy with the time we had and the car didn’t feel great this morning,” Hamilton said. “When we left here last week it looked like Ferrari was our closest rivals, today Red Bull look quick. It’s going to be interesting over the next few days and when we arrive in Australia. The field will be close, that’s for sure.”
Elsewhere, Renault also had a day to forget. After an engine failure reduced Jolyon Palmer to just 15 laps in the morning, Nico Hulkenberg took over driving duties in the afternoon but ended the day hitching a lift to the pits in a recovery truck when his car broke down in the last minute.
And of course, it wouldn’t be a pre-season test day without McLaren struggling still. Their terrible winter took another turn for the worse midway through the morning session when a new problem was detected on their car’s faltering Honda engine. The team have refused to confirm the exact number of engines they have run during the opening five days of testing. However, even conservative estimates suggest McLaren have already used more power units than the four which can be used during the racing season without penalty. Insisting that McLaren are giving no thought to divorcing their engine partners, team boss Eric Boullier told reporters he was “not concerned” about McLaren’s performances.
They should be concerned though, with just three days of testing left before the first race in Australia the former superpowers are bottom of the fastest lap charts after five days of running. They are still the only team to not break through the 1:22 lap mark at Barcelona this year. While only the Toro Rosso has done less laps than the McLaren this pre-season so far.
The one upside from Day One’s running was that, after his late-afternoon return following the engine change, Vandoorne’s 80 laps were the highest they have managed in a single test day so far.
Day One, Test Two Timesheet
1) Felipe Massa, Williams, 168 laps, supersoft tyres, 1:19.726
2) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 89 laps, ultrasoft tyres, 1:19.900
3) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 168 laps, soft tyres, 1:19.906
4) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 49 laps, soft tyres, 1:20.456
5) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, 86 laps, 1:20.924
6) Esteban Ocon, Force India, 142 laps, 1:21.347
7) Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, 57 laps, 1:21.589;
8) Kevin Magnussen, Haas, 81 laps, 1:21.676
9) Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 83 laps, 1:21.743
10) Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, 80 laps, 1:22.537
11) Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber, 47 laps, 1:23.336
12) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 53 laps, 1:23.630
13) Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 15 laps, 1:24.790
Feature Image Credit: Williams Martini Racing Press Release