Verstappen tops day one of in-season test in Barcelona

Image by Joe Portlock/LAT

Verstappen tops day one of in-season test in Barcelona

Formula 1

Verstappen tops day one of in-season test in Barcelona

Max Verstappen was fastest on a smooth opening day of in-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya as Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton were also in action.

On the first of two days of testing following Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix, the Red Bull set the pace with a 1m17.528s on the hypersoft compound tire that will be used for the first time in a race at the next grand prix in Monaco  and totaled 148 laps.

Carlos Sainz was second and also on the hypersoft for his best lap, ending up just 0.034s adrift of Verstappen and less than 0.1s clear of Sebastian Vettel for Ferrari. Vettel’s focus was on the soft and medium compound tires that had been used during last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, with the German saying Ferrari would be “more than blind” if it didn’t look into the reasons for its relative lack of pace in the race.

Vettel notably suffered blistering on his left-front tire during long runs as he carried out back-to-back comparisons with the old specification Pirelli tires and the thinner tread introduced this weekend to avoid such a scenario.

Romain Grosjean had a more productive day than on Sunday as he completed 129 laps and set the fourth-fastest time having not even made it beyond Turn 3 two days ago. The Frenchman set a 1m18.449s  just 0.6s off his qualifying time at the weekend and ended up 0.081s clear of Nicolas Latifi in the Force India.

Latifi was making his first outing for the team in current F1 machinery after having to cancel a planned appearance in pre-season due to illness, and impressed with his lap time, albeit using the hypersofts. His lap was enough to pip Lewis Hamilton near the end of the session, as the championship leader was sixth overall and completed the most mileage with 151 laps.

Updated rain lights for the Mercedes in testing. (Image by Joe Portlock/LAT Images)

The Mercedes caught the eye from the start of running as it was running updated rain lights on the edge of the rear wing, with the higher positioning designed to help improve visibility for the following driver. The test  for he FIA’s benefit  is with 2019 in mind.

There was an interruption late in the session as Antonio Giovinazzi stopped in the final sector with 15 minutes remaining in a classic sign of a fuel run-out test, with teams having struggled for mileage to complete such a test during pre-season due to the weather.

Giovinazzi was making his first appearance in the 2018 Sauber after racing for the team twice last year, and he ended up eighth quickest, one position ahead of Williams debutant Oliver Rowland who was impressively consistent in finishing ninth with 121 laps to his name.

There were two McLarens and two Force Indias running on Tuesday, with one of each carrying out tire testing for Pirelli. Lando Norris and Oliver Turvey split the tire testing duties in the McLaren while it was George Russell who was Force India’s nominated driver.

F2 championship leader Norris ended up 10th overall after completing 76 laps before he will take over the main McLaren on Wednesday, while Russell was one position lower in 11th and amassed 123 laps.

The hard tire compound was seen on both cars, with their tire program an explanation for the lowly positions in the standings for both cars, with Turvey propping up the timing screens.

Just above Turvey was Sean Gelael in the Toro Rosso, with the team completing by far the lowest mileage as it added just five laps in the afternoon session to the 45 it did by 1:00 p.m. local time. Chassis-related issues were to blame, with Toro Rosso tweeting that a precautionary power unit change was required as a result, but Gelael at least emerged in the final few minutes for some short late running.
-Chris Medland

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