The F1 Test Days reached their halfway mark today, with the staging of a thrilling fourth and last day of the first week at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Fans enjoyed a great show, since they were able to watch a total of 15 drivers lapping on the track, including Spaniards Fernando Alonso (McLaren) and Carlos Sainz (Renault). Fastest of the day was World Champion Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), with a time of 1:19.333.
The Circuit returned to normality today, after the snow that had fallen yesterday had completely melted. The teams recovered their working pace and performed a thrilling fourth preseason day, in which an amazing total of 1,101 laps were covered. Moreover, the changing weather conditions, with the wet track in the early morning hours and a dry track as a consequence of the afternoon sunshine, allowed the teams to test almost all Pirelli compounds.
Mercedes, with Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas in the morning and British driver Lewis Hamilton in the afternoon, has been lapping at a consistent fast pace. The four-time World Champion clocked the fastest time of the test days. And he did it on medium compounds, so that it became a true power exhibition of the German make that seems to be, once again, one step ahead of their rivals.
“I’m happy with the new car, although it is difficult to compare its performance with last year, because the asphalt on the Circuit is different. Now the track is much faster and with a lot more grip. We made a good job today, but still have a lot to do next week”, explained Hamilton at the end of the session.
With a surprising second place in the rankings, behind the champion, finished Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) with 1:19.854. The British team has turned into the great revelation of a day that finished with Fernando Alonso lapping during the last two hours. Stoffel and Alonso did together a total of 161 laps, 110 by the Belgian driver and 51 by the Spaniard, who finished fifth fastest, 1.596 behind Hamilton.
As opposed to last year, the Woking-based team showed great reliability, thus confirming that the change from Renault to Honda engine did them very well. Today they were able to match-up to Mercedes and Ferrari, although Vandoorne’s best lap was made on hypersoft tyres, which nobody else used this time.
The Scuderia closed the test with Sebastian Vettel on third place (1:20.241) and 120 laps. It is striking that, individually seen, this figure was only improved by Frenchman Pierre Gasly (147) at the wheel of the Toro Rosso, which is powered by the questioned Honda engine. Contradictions of life.
On the other side there is Max Verstappen (Red Bull), who was the less active driver today. The Dutch went off the track one hour and a half before the end of the session, which hindered him from making more than 35 laps, setting him back to the 9th place on the timesheets. He rose however expectation in the morning after mounting flashy sensors in the rear part of his vehicle.
All in all, there were a lot of attractions during this final sprint of the first test week. It was a juicy appetizer for the second part of the preseason, which will also be staged at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, from 6 to 9 March, again with all of the teams on the track. Fans already holding a ticket for the FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO DE ESPAÑA 2018 (from 11 to 13 May), have free admission to all of the test days, as well as Circuit Members and Officials. For the rest of the public, the daily tickets are available for 18 euros.