The first day of the final pre-season test kicked off today at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, for what will prove to be a critical week for the teams as they look to understand their 2018 cars.
In the end it was the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel who took top honours today, outpacing the Mercedes and Red Bull as second winter test got off to a rather competitive start. This was the second time Vettel has topped the timing sheets, having gone fastest on the second day of the first test. This time the German managed to set a time of 1:20.396 on the medium tyres.
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, who was in the car for the morning session, came within two tenths of a second of Vettel’s fastest time, though this was running on the soft compound tyre. Bottas’ team mate Lewis Hamilton drove in the afternoon session, and wound up fourth, four tenths of a second off Vettel’s morning pace, on the soft tyres.
“Overall it’s been a good start to the second test although there is not a whole lot to say at this moment. We have not worked too much on fine-tuning the set-up as we’re mostly still gathering information.” Hamilton said after his runs. “In the next couple of days, once we get into the long-runs and some shorter qualifying-style runs, we will get a better idea of where the car is.”
Meanwhile Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was under three tenths of a second slower than Vettel. Verstappen’s day was compromised though by a late afternoon stoppage out on track when his RB14 came to a grinding halt. The fault was not terminal for the team though and eventually Verstappen returned to the track, finishing the day with 120 completed laps.
If McLaren were hoping the challenge “The Big Three” of Formula 1 that plan seemed to take a dent after a rather disappointing testing day which saw their car break down three times. Their new car grounded to a halt twice in the morning session with electrical problems, once in the pits and once on track, before a hydraulics fault then ended McLaren’s day early. Stoffel Vandoorne was the driver who lost out, and was only able to completed 38 laps in the end before the hydraulic failure. His 38 laps was the lowest amount of laps completed today by a single team. With the leading teams all notched up at least a century of laps.
To add insult to injury for McLaren, Toro Rosso again caught the eye with their new Honda engines. During the morning session that they stopped in, Pierre Gasly was able to score the fifth fastest time of the morning on his way to setting a new personal best for Toro Rosso in testing, a 1:20.973. While the Frenchman’s 54 laps took the team past 375 laps for the winter tests so far.
Despite this impressive upturn for Honda reliability and Toro Rosso performance, the team were notably absent for much of the afternoon session. They completed just two laps in the afternoon session as the team ran into their first reliability problems of the winter, a break systems issue.
Elsewhere it was another positive day for midfield runners Haas as Kevin Magnussen posted the sixth-fastest time of the day. Even managing to run within a second of Vettel’s fastest time. The Danish driver was narrowly ahead of the Renault pair of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz, who again shared driving duties in the RS18. While Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin’s Williams was within two tenths of a second splitting the quartet.
Marcus Ericsson had a positive day for Sauber, completing an impressive 120 laps, the third most number of laps completed by a team. His fastest time was good enough for 11th.
Force India had a quiet morning it seemed as their driver Sergio Perez took the car on a trip through the gravel unintentionally. The Mexican driver made up for it by setting the tenth fastest time of the day as he completed lots of afternoon laps to end the day with 92 on the board.
Following the completion of the first day, teams now just have three precious days of testing left before the season opener in Melbourne, Australia on the 25th of March.
Day 1: Second Pre Season Test results.
1 Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 171 laps: 1:20.396
2 Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, 86 laps: 1:20.596
3 Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 130 laps: 1:20.649
4 Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 91 laps: 1:20.808
5 Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso, 54 laps: 1:20.973
6 Kevin Magnussen, Haas, 96 laps: 1:21.298
7 Nico Hülkenberg, Renault, 48 laps: 1:21.432
8 Carlos Sainz , Renault, 91 laps: 1:21.455
9 Sergey Sirotkin, Williams, 42 laps: 1:21.588
10 Sergio Perez, Force India, 93 laps: 1:21.643
11 Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 120 laps: 1:21.706
12 Stoffel Vandoorne , McLaren, 38 laps: 1:21.946
13 Lance Stroll, Williams, 86 laps: 1:22.937