The sixth day of the F1 preseason at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has been especially thrilling. Valtteri Bottas broke a new unofficial record on the Catalan racetrack at the wheel of his powerful Mercedes. It was, with no doubt, the best way to give the finishing touch to a day on which there were not less than 14 drivers on the track.
The day promised to provide for heavy thrill and a lot of attractions for all those fans who came out to the Circuit. The early birds were able to watch Fernando Alonso coming out first onto the asphalt, right after the lights went green. However, the good perspectives for McLaren began to vanish and the Spaniard eventually spent more time in the garage than on the track, since he was only able to make 46 laps.
The Spaniard admitted at the end of the day that he had again a few problems: “We cannot be happy with these tests and the situation is quite frustrating. I personally feel better prepared and stronger than ever before, but I cannot show it on the track since, although we are as fast as the rest in the corners, we loose a lot on the straights due to the lack of top speed. Our problem is the Honda power unit and I expect an incredibly strong reaction from the senior officials of the team to reach Australia in the best possible conditions”.
And while the phantoms of the past resurrected at McLaren, Mercedes continues to be as splendid as they were at the end of last season. On Wednesday, the German team showed their great potential once again. Bottas stopped the clocks at 1:19.310 breaking the record of these Formula One Test Days, which he himself set last week.
But the team that has taken the World Champion title for the last three years, showed impressive reliability as well. Their single-seater is not only fast, it doesn’t break down either. Good proof of it is that they were able to make a total of 149 laps today, adding together Bottas’ 70 laps in the morning and Hamilton’s 79 laps in the afternoon. They even took the liberty of testing the funny shark fin and the already famous double T-wing, in addition to making a 20-lap stint on Pirelli’s ultra soft compound.
Williams is also in great shape. After yesterday’s surprise, Felipe Massa was able to keep the excellent performance level today. Late in the morning, and on ultra soft tyres, the Brazilian Williams driver clocked a fastest lap of 1:19.420 which boosted him to the provisional second position of the timing sheets, both of the day and of the preseason overall.
Behind Bottas and Massa there are Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) with 1:20.406 and Max Verstappen (Red Bull) with 1:20.432, both times set during the morning. It was not a really good day for the Scuderia, which was less active than usual due to several reasons. They were off the track for quite a long time before lunch, arguing that they were doing “checks on the fluid system”, while in the afternoon, Raikkonen went off the track in Turn 3 and as a consequence of the damages, he was only able to make 53 laps, i.e. far beyond the 169 laps made yesterday by team-mate Sebastian Vettel. Red Bull also ended their day with a bad taste in their mouth, as their RB13 stopped with a breakdown at Turn 13 a few minutes before the end of the session.
Today, four squads decided to change their drivers after the lunch break. Thus, we were able to see Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Lance Stroll (Williams), Jolyon Palmer (Renault) and Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) in action, as well. This circumstance led to a total of 14 drivers on the track along the day, which marked another record of the preseason at the Circuit.
Carlos Sainz, protagonist today and tomorrow
One of the great attractions for local fans was watching the Spanish driver Carlos Sainz starting his second test week. The Toro Rosso driver made it with better feelings and fewer problems than on previous days. As a consequence of this improvement, he was able to drive below 1:22 for the first time this winter, with a fastest lap of 1:21.872 on soft tyres. The time is nothing to shout about, but it leads to optimism.
Sainz will be the protagonist tomorrow as well, during the charity tour organised by Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya together with the Toro Rosso driver. The tickets for the tour have been sold out for quite some time, and the total amount gathered will be donated to Wings for Life, a non-profit organisation that raises funds for research work on bone marrow injuries.
On the other hand, Friday will be the last day of the blood donation campaign promoted by the Blood and Tissue Bank and Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. There will be a blood donation spot set up at the Commercial Area of the Circuit (behind the Main Grandstand), with the intention of giving spectators, staff and anybody in the facilities the chance to make a donation. Drivers and team personnel are also going to be invited.
Remember that spectators have free admission to the Formula One Test Days with their tickets for the FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO DE ESPAÑA 2017, to be staged from 12 to 14 May, as well as Circuit Members and Officials. The rest of the fans can purchase their tickets on the Circuit website and in Box Offices 1 and 3 for 18 euros.