Ferrari development and Sauber’s driver Antonio Giovinazzi was fastest on the first day of the fourth test at the Hungaroring. The Italian set a 15.6 using the hypersoft tyres to go half a second faster than race drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
Giovinazzi who drove for Sauber in two Grand Prix’s last year put his Ferrari two and a half seconds ahead of the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson. But it’s difficult to read too much into the lap times, as many of the teams were running very different programmes to the Italian.
Giovinazzi put himself fastest just before the two hours remaining and before the only red flag of the day. The red flag was caused by Toro Rosso’s Sean Gelael, who was conducting a tyre test for Pirelli after he set his fastest lap
The Indonesian crashed the car at the high speed turn twelve and wrecked the car. The red flag, followed by more wet weather led to many of the teams aborting the final few hours. However, Ericsson improved to within seven-tenths of Giovinazzi.
Geleal’s teammate Brendon Hartley, working on the team’s development programme was third fastest. Hartley set his fastest time on hypersofts, going third fastest, four-hundredths of a second faster than McLaren’s reserve driver Lando Norris.
Norris’s Formula Two title rival George Russell wound up fifth and capped a low-mileage day for Mercedes by completing just 49 laps, the fewest of any driver. The Englishman, however, failed to get the silver arrows into the normal spot of leading the mileage start.
The rain may have been a factor in Russell’s limited mileage, as on average in testing Mercedes often manages at least a race distance, if not a race and a half.
As ever there were new innovations and aero paint on the cars, one of the things which was tested was one of the prototypes of the simpler front wings for 2019.
Force India and Williams became the first teams to run the wider and simplified front wings which will be introduced permanently next season, giving a glimpse into the sport’s future.
Nicholas Latifi going seventh fastest in the Force India, and nine-tenths ahead of the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was sixth fastest, a tenth off the pace of the Mercedes.
Testing will be key for all the teams as it will set the development plan for the second half of the season. On Monday, all of the teams will shut down for the mandatory summer break before the Belgian and Italian Grand Prix’s at the end of August and beginning of September.
But the outcome of the test could prove decisive in the title race and especially for Mercedes. Despite winning Sunday’s race Mercedes have struggled at this type of circuit all season, they will be trying to understand why and what they can do to help them at places like Singapore and Suzuka.
Tomorrow Kimi Raikkonen drives for Ferrari, while Robert Kubica returns for Williams, they will be the drivers in the spotlight on Wednesday.