Valtteri Bottas was comfortably quickest on the opening day of the Spanish in-season test while Callum Ilott crashed on debut for Alfa Romeo.
The 1m15.406s pole position time from the weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix was threatened on Tuesday when Bottas posted a 1m15.511s late in the afternoon. Mercedes dominated the weekend’s race and appeared to be focused on the Monaco Grand Prix as testing got underway, with Bottas carrying out a number of runs in the closing part of the day on the C5 tire compound that will be used for the first time in Monte Carlo.
The Mercedes remained notably strong in the low-speed final sector, where Bottas again set the fastest time overall and enjoyed a clear advantage over the rest of the field.
Part of that advantage was due to Charles Leclerc using the C2 tire on his way to second-fastest for Ferrari. Leclerc posted a 1m16.933s, and matched Bottas for mileage on 131 laps. The highest total of the day was 132, completed by Sebastian Vettel, who was testing tires for Pirelli, and Nicholas Latifi, who was slowest overall for Williams.
The session was interrupted twice, but one of those stoppages also had connections to Ferrari when Ilott shunted the Alfa. Driving in an official F1 test for the first time, Ilott – who is a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy – hit the wall on the outside of Turn 3, damaging the left hand side of the car severely.
Ilott didn’t return after that incident, leaving him on 41 laps for the day and ahead of only Latifi in the standings, while Alfa Romeo is left with a hefty repair job – and bill – before Kimi Raikkonen takes over on Wednesday.
The second, much shorter stoppage occurred with just over an hour remaining when Pierre Gasly stopped on the pit straight. A suspected transmission issue manifested itself as Gasly exiting the chicane, promting him to stop next to a gate into the pit lane that meant running was not interrupted for long, even if his own day ended early.
Daniil Kvyat ended up third-quickest for Toro Rosso, 0.7s adrift of Leclerc. Nico Hulkenberg was 0.3s off Gasly, but Renault had the lowest mileage – discounting Alfa Romeo – as he managed just 68 laps throughout the day.
Gasly was fifth after his stoppage, ahead of Carlos Sainz, who completed 64 laps during the morning and setting his time on C2 tires before team-mate Lando Norris took over and added a further 44 to McLaren’s total.
Haas enjoyed a solid day with test driver Pietro Fittipaldi, who was less than 0.1s off Sainz in seventh place. Fittipaldi also exceeded 100 laps, with his final run on prototype tires yielding a best time of 1m18.326s.
That was just enough to pip Nick Yelloly, the Racing Point simulator driver carrying out correlation work and finishing 0.035s slower than Fittipaldi as the only other driver to use the C5 tire. Alongside Yelloly – who is racing in Blancpain this season – Sergio Perez was driving a second Racing Point car for Pirelli.
On a largely uneventful day, Mercedes did make a mistake during the morning session. Carrying out aerodynamic testing early on, the team underestimated the width of the car with aero rakes attached, and Bottas plowed through some cones set up in his pit box, with two becoming stuck on the rakes as he rejoined the circuit.