The Formula One Test Days have experienced a surprising resumption at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya today. Felipe Massa was very close to improving the best time set this winter so far on the Catalan track with a brilliant 1:19.726. Thanks to this great time, Williams has been able to break the dominance that had been shown by Mercedes and Ferrari during the preseason.
Last week it seemed that there were two teams clearly above the rest, but today, there were two other teams that emerged with strength. On the one hand there was Williams with Massa, who became the indisputable protagonist of the day. The expert Brazilian driver ‘flew’ over the track at noon, making a spectacular lap on super soft compounds which nobody else was able to improve during the rest of the day. His time is the second fastest of the whole preseason so far, very close to the 1:19.705 clocked by Valtteri Bottas last Wednesday.
But the Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo also managed to get close to these times. The Red Bull driver stopped the clock at 1:19.900 on ultra soft tyres, thus being faster than the times clocked by Ferrari with Sebastian Vettel (1:19.906) and Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton (1:20.456), who finished on third and fourth position of today’s time sheets.
The current runner-up of the World Championship and main favourite for the title in 2017, admitted that he had a few problems: “The feelings were not too good today. It was too hot and that was bad for the degradation of the tyres, so we had a few damages on the floor of the car. Fortunately it was not too important, and that is positive. I’m not really thrilled because this is just the start of the second week and we will have to wait for the next days to make any assessment”. After the lunch break, he was replaced by team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who finished fifth with a time of 1:20.924.
One of the most pleasant news of this start of the second test week was the presence of Pascal Wehrlein. The German had his preseason debut after not being able to be at the Circuit last week due to an accident suffered one month ago at the Race of Champions, of which he seems to have recovered completely. He only lapped in the morning, making a total of 47 laps and rather modest times. In the afternoon, he gave the wheel of the Sauber over to his Swedish team-mate Marcus Ericsson.
In general terms, the day was quite busy, especially in the morning. Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes had impressive grids mounted in the morning to improve aerodynamics. Meanwhile, at Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel was using a tyre prototype of Pirelli for the first time. By the way, the Italian tyre manufacturer announced today that there will be changes in their structure: Mario Isola, who had been technical head so far, will replace Paul Hembery as head of the sports division.
And while Williams was showing good progress, Renault and McLaren had trouble. The alarm lights went on quite soon at the French squad, after their car stopped at the garage access. They were forced to change the engine and young Jolyon Palmer was only able to make 15 laps in the morning. His team-mate Nico Hülkenberg replaced him in the afternoon, and made a total of 58 laps, although his car ended-up with a breakdown right before the chicane when the track marshals were already prepared to show the chequered flag.
McLaren did not have a pleasing day either at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Young Stoffel Vandoorne was in charge of driving the splendid MCL32, but the ‘phantoms’ of the past showed up again, when the team was forced to change the power unit for the zillionth time. Despite the time lost in the garage, the Belgian driver was able to add valuable 80 laps to his private record.
The hardest-working drivers during the 8-hour activity on the racetrack were Massa and Vettel with 168 laps each, while Mercedes settled with a total of 135 laps adding those made by Hamilton (49) and Bottas (86).
Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz in action tomorrow
New thrills on the asphalt are expected tomorrow with the announced presence of the Spanish drivers Fernando Alonso (McLaren) and Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso). Spectators will have free access with their ticket for the FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO DE ESPAÑA 2017, as well as all Circuit Members and Officials. The rest of the fans will be able to purchase their tickets on the Circuit website and in Box Offices 1 and 3 of the Catalan racetrack for 18 euros.
The activity on the track, from 9 to 13 and from 14 to 18 hours, can be followed from the Main Grandstand and Grandstand I, F, H and G.