Valtteri Bottas’s fastest time stood after the afternoon session on the second day of the second test at the Circuit de Catalunya – Barcelona. The afternoon was interrupted serval times by red flags meaning some were unable to complete their long runs.
Bottas set a 01:19.310 going almost a tenth faster than former Williams team-mate Felipe Massa and completed just over the race distance in his car. The Finn was determined from the off to get going being one of the first out on track. Mercedes had a low key Tuesday, but Bottas proved the champions were still strong.
He set his best time mid-morning on the supersoft tyres, going .3 of a second faster on the ultrasoft tyre. Massa also set his best time on the same compound, as the two not only lead in terms of lap times but both neared the race distance.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was third on the soft. But it wasn’t a trouble-free morning for the Finn, as he lost two hours of track time as the Italian team carried out a ‘fluid systems check’.
That restricted the former champion to 38 laps, the least of all bar Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, fourth fastest on softs, 0.026s behind Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso.
While Alonso avoided the problems that plagued team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne on Tuesday, the Spaniard only could manage twenty-seven laps. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg completed the top five, less than a tenth ahead of former team-mate Sergio Perez.
That demoted the soft-shod Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz to seventh, ahead of Romain Grosjean (Haas), Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber) and Alonso. Bottas hand over to team-mate Lewis Hamilton this afternoon.
Hamilton picked up from Bottas, but it soon became clear that Mercedes had different ideas for the three times world Champion as he appeared to focus on long runs during the afternoon. Like on Tuesday he set about lapping the circuit with consistent lap times, in the 21’s.
After an hour, Mercedes let him do a qualifying run before he returned to setting constant lap times. But they were good laps from the three times champion lapping in between the 21’s and 23’s.
Mercedes have clearly indicated for the first time their true potential on track because they have so far limited their running, to the slower medium and soft tyres.
The reason for Verstappen’s limited running had become clear, as Red Bull confirmed they needed to change the engine. He returned to the track but his first run of the afternoon was irrupted after Raikkonen went off mid-afternoon.
The elder Finn went off on the medium tyres going into the tyre barrier, damaging the front wing and breaking the left-front suspension/steering. Following the red flag, drivers were keen to return to the track, with Lance Stroll posting his best time so far.
When Verstappen returned to the track, it wasn’t plain sailing for the Dutchman. He stopped on track during the latter part of the afternoon while completing his race simulation. But he was the most productive driver of the day, completing 102 laps.
Things were also more productive for Stroll, after technical issues and car damage interrupted his previous days; he did 59 laps and was just a tenth ahead of Hamilton.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, Force India’s Sergio Perez and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz were all unable to improve on their best times. With the three of them remaining fifth, sixth and seventh respectively.
Ericsson caused a third and final stoppage just moments after Verstappen’s car had been recovered, as he came to a halt at Turn 7. Jolyon Palmer, taking over from Renault team-mate Hulkenberg finished fourteenth, some 5.4s off the pace.