Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo set the benchmark in terms of lap time and mileage on the first day of preseason testing at the Circuit de Catalunya – Barcelona. The Australian set a 20.1 on the medium tyres going a tenth faster than the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.
Ricciardo was in good form doing sixty laps during the morning which is just under the race distance when he set his fastest lap to push Lewis Hamilton off the top spot. Bottas who is sharing the driving with world champion Lewis Hamilton managed fifty eight laps.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen completed eighty laps on his way to third fastest, finishing just under two tenths off the pace. That was despite the Finn setting his best time on the faster soft tyres. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg was fourth fastest.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner told BBC News “It certainly was a positive first morning. It is always difficult to read too much into these things.”
“But over 60 laps and sensible lap times was a good start to the pre-season testing. And it was exactly what we have been aiming to do over the winter to get ourselves onto the front foot coming into the testing.”
The top four set their fastest times during the morning, with less than four tenths of a second between them. Hulkenberg then handed the car over to his teammate Carlos Sainz who slotted into sixth. That gave Renault a decent amount of mileage with ninety nine laps.
Renault said prior to testing that they are going conservative on performance at the start of the season and will only start to bring in extra power after the first few races.
The morning session is expected to be there best this week, as a cold front and cloud moved in. that means that track temperatures began to fall, and light rain moved in meaning many cut short the afternoon running.
The beginning of the McLaren Renault partnership began with Fernando Alonso crashing the car. The team says the accident was caused by a broken wheel nut, but the Spaniard recovered to fifth fastest while completing decent mileage.
The loose nut saw the Spaniard lose the rear of the car and go off at New Holland. That also saw him lose three hours of running before Alonso returned to track for another forty-one laps.
Things went from bad to worse, as his fastest time was deleted as the stewards decided he cut the chicane on his fastest lap to ensure he was not delayed by Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley. That promoted Sainz to fifth and Hamilton to sixth.
Pushed on the reasons for the failure, McLaren racing director Eric Boullier told ESPN, “The wheelnut issue was just a wheelnut issue, so I’m not going to comment. You know what it is. You lose a wheelnut and you lose a wheel and that’s it.”
“Obviously it cost us track time, which is the only downside today, but we are now back and running our programme. Maybe we are going to compress it to jump on the most important items that we need to run today.”
Like McLaren and Renault, Toro Rosso and Honda were enjoying a positive start to the year as Brendon Hartley completed ninety-three laps going fifth fastest. Last year, McLaren – Honda failed only managed twenty-nine laps on the opening day.
While for McLaren they completed just under half the laps that Toro Rosso did with Honda. Its good news for the Japanese manufacturer, proving they had sorted their problems which have plagued them since they returned to the sport in 2015.
ance Stroll was two tenths off the pace in ninth place, the Williams driver setting his best time on the soft tyre. Haas’s Romain Grosjean rounded out the top ten, despite a late improvement.
Force India’s Nikita Mazepin completed twenty-two laps, before he spun into the gravel at Repsol. The Russian not returning to track suggests that he damaged the car and that the team requires new parts to be flown in before the car can run again.
Sirotkin finished at the bottom of the timesheets, 23.9s off Ricciardo’s best time, but was mainly completing installation laps through the pits during the worst of the conditions