Green light to the F1 preseason at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya that will be host to a total of eight test days in the coming two weeks. The first test day was staged today, with the leading role being shared by Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) and Fernando Alonso (McLaren). While the Australian set the fastest time of the day, the Spaniard had a fright spinning off the track, a fact that conditioned the debut of his new single-seater.
The first of the F1 Test Days saw a total of thirteen drivers on the track: Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari), Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull), Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin (Williams), Romain Grosjean (Haas), Marcus Ericsson (Sauber), Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso), Fernando Alonso (McLaren), Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz (Renault) and Nikita Mazepin (Force India).
The news came early in the morning, as Fernando Alonso went onto the gravel in Turn 16. Shortly before facing the main straight, the splendid M33 of the Spanish driver lost the right rear wheel in a spectacular manoeuvre that forced the track marshals to show the red flag and left the new McLaren with its Renault engine in the garage during almost three hours.
“It’s been a very strange day. We haven’t lapped much. In the morning due to the loss of a nut, as a consequence of which I lost a wheel at the end of the chicane, and in the afternoon due to the difficult conditions with the cold and the rain… But anyway, the feelings are good, and although there is still a lot of work to do this winter, I think that this year we will be competitive again”, explained Fernando Alonso at the end of a day, during which he managed to make 51 laps and to clock the fifth fastest time (1:21.339), although it was a lap in which he jumped the RACC chicane of the Circuit.
Due to the weather conditions, the best times were clocked in the morning. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) completed his fastest lap clocking 1:20.179, on a medium compound, a few minutes before the lunch break. Right behind him on the timing sheets were the Finnish Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas (1:20.349) and his fellow countryman at Ferrari, Kimi Räikkönen (1:20.506), the latter on a soft compound.
Nobody was able to improve these times in the afternoon, mainly due to the fine rain and the drop of temperatures, two factors that reduced the track activity significantly. The main novelty in the afternoon was the debut of Carlos Sainz with Renault. The Spaniard completed a total of 26 laps, clocking a fastest time of 1:22.168, i.e. two seconds behind the fastest time of the day.
“It’s been a positive day in general terms, both for me and the team. It’s been a shame not having been able to lap as much as my team-mate this morning due to the weather conditions. But it is clear that we still have a large margin of improvement and that we have to be patient”, declared Sainz before praising the new asphalt of the Circuit: “This track will be much faster. It’s a smooth asphalt, no bumps and with a lot of grip if you manage to warm-up your tyres well”.
World Champion Lewis Hamilton lapped only in the afternoon, and had to settle for the seventh fastest time (1:22.327) and only 25 laps. Nevertheless, Mercedes was able to finish the first day with a total of 83 laps without any type of problem, thus confirming once again that reliability will be one their great weapons in the fight for the 2019 title.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, the test may be conditioned again by the weather and rain. The vehicles, all of them fitted with the spectacular protection ‘halo’ as the biggest novelty, will be on the track from 9 to 13h and from 14 to 18h. The teams announced their drivers for the second day, including, amongst others Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), Max Verstappen (Red Bull), Robert Kubica (Williams) and Carlos Sainz (Renault).
The tickets can be purchased on the Circuit’s website (www.circuitcat.com) for 18 euros. 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.