Robert Kubica set the fastest time as the second pre-season test in Barcelona got underway on a day when the big three teams all faced some form of problem.
After a spin out of the chicane on cold tires early on Wednesday, Kubica went on to complete over 50 laps and post a 1m16.942s in his role as Alfa Romeo reserve driver. Using the softest C5 compound, Kubica was the only driver under the 1m17s barrier, and while the bigger teams were not focused on any sort of soft tire, low fuel running, they still did not enjoy smooth days.
First to hit trouble was Red Bull, who noticed a problem with its suspension after Alexander Albon’s installation lap and missed out on most of the morning. Albon ended up with just 29 laps to his name, but teammate Max Verstappen had a much more productive afternoon and was second on a 1m17.347s before spinning at Turn 10 to bring an early end to his running.
While an earlier spin at the final chicane hinted at ongoing Red Bull handling problems at low speed – the team had experienced a number of similar spins last week – the latter incident appeared to be caused by a car problem.
Remarkably, AlphaTauri suffered problems at identical times to Red Bull, the first of which was not being related to the Honda power unit. Pierre Gasly was confined to the garage for much of the morning with an issue with a water pipe, and then Daniil Kvyat stopped on track at the exact same time as Verstappen, parking on the inside of Turn 9.
Given the timing of the simultaneous late stoppages, which caused a red flag with five minutes remaining, there is the possibility that the two teams were both carrying out fuel run-out tests.
Despite those issues, all four Honda-powered drivers ended up in the top six, with Kvyat fourth and Gasly fifth ahead of Albon, while Sergio Perez took third with a late lap in the competitive-looking Racing Point.
Lewis Hamilton was seventh and Valtteri Bottas ninth on a day when all teams except for Haas split their running, but Mercedes’ concern came from a partner team. Williams stopped on the track when Nicholas Latifi suffered an oil system problem in the morning, requiring a power unit change. It was one of three power unit-related issues for Williams in pre-season so far, and deputy team principal Claire Williams admitted that the team was becoming “frustrated” by the lost time as Mercedes searches for a solution on the dyno.
Ferrari didn’t have a smooth day either, as Sebastian Vettel spun at Turn 8 after a trip through the gravel. The German was able to continue, but a red flag was required to clean up the gravel he’d dragged onto the track. In isolation it wasn’t an incident of great concern, but there were still no clues to the Scuderia’s potential pace, as neither driver escaped the 1m18s bracket. There was at least solid mileage, with over 160 laps completed.
On day when few teams carried out a significantly quick low-fuel run, all 10 cars were covered by 1.7 seconds.