Kimi Raikkonen set the pace on the second day of pre-season testing in Barcelona but Mercedes was center of attention, with the discovery of an innovative steering wheel system being followed by a technical issue.
Mercedes sparked intrigue by running a unique steering wheel system on Thursday morning, with the DAS – Dual Axis Steering – being utilized by Lewis Hamilton. Onboard footage showed Hamilton’s steering wheel moving closer to him at the start of a straight, causing the front wheels to toe-in further, then return to their original position when the steering wheel moved forward again before braking.
Theories relating to the DAS suggest it could reduce drag on long straights while simultaneously preventing the tires from cooling too much in order to maximize grip at the next corner.
The system caught the eye during Hamilton’s busy morning, when he completed 106 laps before handing over to Valtteri Bottas, but the Finn had his running ended prematurely. After completing 77 laps and suffering a spin, Bottas was called back into the pits and had to jump clear of his car in the pit lane due to an electrical problem that ultimately stopped him from running at all in the final hour.
Finns bookended the timing screens: Bottas’ problem left him was slowest overall, while Raikkonen went fastest with 45 minutes remaining on a 1m17.091s on the softest compound of tire. However, it was Alfa Romeo who caused the first and so far only red flag of the test so far with 15 minutes remaining when Raikkonen stopped on the run to Turn 9.
Sergio Perez was second-quickest as Racing Point’s impressive start to testing continued, with the Mexican driving for the full day and completing 145 laps, finishing 0.256s adrift of Raikkonen’s best on the C3 tire.
Renault was unable to match that sort of mileage during a disjointed day but still ended up third-quickest through Daniel Ricciardo’s a 1m17.749s. Ricciardo only completed 41 laps as he sustained some floor damage on a curb that required attention during the lunch break.
Alex Albon was fourth on his first outing in the Red Bull, with junior team AlphaTauri just behind. Albon’s best lap of 1m17.912s came on the C2 tire compared to softer compounds from the drivers ahead, with Pierre Gasly fifth and just 0.209s further back on the same tire. The only obvious error from Gasly came early on, when he spun on cold tires at Turn 9 and had a short trip through the gravel.
While Mercedes was the focus of attention, Ferrari had another largely understated day but Sebastian Vettel did at least put his first miles on the SF1000. Vettel had been scheduled to drive on Wednesday but was unwell, and he took over from Charles Leclerc at lunchtime on day two to finish sixth quickest on the C4 tire, a second off the pace.
The two Ferrari drivers were separated by George Russell, with Williams enjoying another encouraging day. The 2018 Formula 2 champion was 1.175s off the fastest time, but using the same C3 tire as Leclerc.
Hamilton and Lando Norris rounded out the top 10, the McLaren driver carrying out what appeared to be high fuel running during the morning and lowering his best time later in the day.
Romain Grosjean managed an encouraging 158 laps for Haas but his final one ended in a crash when he lost the rear in Turn 4 and spun into the barrier. While Grosjean was able to limp back to the pits, the rear wing damage ended his running.