Hello and welcome everybody to #TJ13‘s coverage of the 7th day of winter testing on the Circuit the Catalunya near Barcelona, Spain. As always, the coverage will be handled in tandem. While yesterday’s coverage was expertly done by Editor in Chief Andrew Huntley-Jacobs and TJ13’s ambassador to the United States, Matt Trumpets, today our Chief Editor is joined by the Chief Ranting Officer Fat Hippo from the Fatherland. As you can see, there is no shortage of Chief’s in the Judges Chamber.
The wheather men of Formula One have not the best track record when it comes to predicting the climatic conditions of anything farther in the future than five minutes, but their prediction of rain seemed convincing enough that Fair Lady Claire has decided to change plans and both drivers will share driving duties today to give both of them the chance to see if the rain tyre is still as hopeless as last year’s offering. Although we will probably see the Intermediates, if anything. It would need to pour down quite hard for someone deeming the wet weather variant the better choice.
This is the lineup we expect today, but it may change on short notice of course:
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Before 9am (jump forward in time)
While the teams prepare for another long day in the office, let’s have a look at what the protagonists had to say about yesterday’s running.
Felipe Massa of Williams fame seems to be bullish after ending the day in third, reporting that he feels very confident in his car and that they seem to have made significant improvements in aerodynamics. He warns, however, that feeling confident is no substitute for lap times, which is true, considering that he trailed Räkkönen’s Ferrari, despite running the soft tyre, while the Scandinavian ran on mediums.
Nico Rosberg has meanwhile found the cause for his neck problems. They result from a changed seating position. After reverting back to last year’s position the problems seem to be gone. The German seems to try just about everything to improve his chances against his team mate.
Fernando Alonso puts a brave face to McLaren’s so far less than stellar efforts, as a good Samurai should. After the team hastily nailed together a new MGU-K overnight, he managed 59 laps. That’s a mere twenty less than what the managed on all the Jerez days combined, but it is also less than half of Ricciardo’s harvest. Honda’s decision to concentrate exclusively on one team starts to look like a bad idea, more and more by the day.
Kimi Räikkönen bemoans missing the 100 lap mark due to a few small problems the team encountered, but nonetheless considers his share of testing days a good experience and has nothing but praise for the progress over last year’s effort and the improved atmosphere within the teams. Perhaps the SF15-T is not quite as SH1-T as people have thought.
Great relief must have been the prevalent feeling for Daniel Ricciardo yesterday as he did not only trespass far into Mercedes territory as far as the number of laps (143) is concerned. He also ended the day at the top of the time sheets. It looks as if the Austrians get going a little earlier than last year. Williams and Ferrari won’t like that an awful lot.
The weather men stick to their prediction of changing conditions, but for the time being it is dry, but overcast. The sun hasn’t managed to penetrate the cloud cover yet, so it is a wee bit chilly.
Since the Mercedes drivers have been more or less patched up, it looks likely that Pascal Wehrlein will stay a little longer in the Force India than last time round. He’ll be joined on track by fellow compatriot Sebastian Vettel, who takes to the wheel of the SF15-T today after Kimi’s work is done.
Although Mercedes report that Lewis Hamilton is still somewhat under the weather, he is expected to run the whole day with Nico Rosberg taking over tomorrow.
And we’re off!
Vettel doesn’t waste much time and is chased out of the gates by Lewis Hamilton and Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen.
And we’re stopped!
In best continuation of last year’s tradition, Vettel’s car is stopped as soon as it asked to move. The stricken Ferrari stands in turn 5. But 1:25min is still longer than some of last year’s test outings over at Red Bull. Considering that the car is beached in and pointing in the wrong direction though, it looks more like the German has been a wee bit to eager to get going on cold tyres.
The only hope for the former world champion is that something on the car has gone wrong. That would cost a lot of running due to repairs, but it would save him a lot of egg on his face.
Meanwhile, rude swearing can heard in the Lotus garage, where a furious Pastor Maldonado complains bitterly about having his pit-to-crash time soundly beaten by a German of all people.
Kvyat goes out after the Ferrari has been dug out. Lewis Hamilton meanwhile reports very slippery conditions, despite the dry track. Looks like Seb over-cooked it.
Lewis starts the day with a 1.33,246. Wehrlein, Maldonado, Kvyat and Wehrlein are also on the track. A McLaren nose is checked by FIA. Unlike a certain driver in red, Hamilton tries to find the limit bottom-to-top. His next lap his a 1.30,544. Lewis is back in after two quick laps.
Niki Lauda, who has demanded to ‘know where we stand’, will be pleased. Mercedes is expected to start intensifying their setup work, so this will not be the last quick dash we’ll see from them, and hopefully we’ll get a better picture throughout the day, how much they’ve been sandbagging so far.
Since the new seals have arrived in the night. We might see a bit more of Jenson today. The installation lap seemed to have gone well, although the engine sounded somewhat rough. If that’s a bug or a feature? We’ll see.
Wehrlein adds a second time to the leaderboard, but a pitiful six seconds slower than Hamilton’s effort. Felipe baby is asked to do two five-lap turns. If we’re informed right, that’ll be followed by a rather tedious pitstop practice. Twenty stops with a full lap in between. That’ll be a very long morning for the Brazilian.
Toro Rosso’s child-labourer Max Verstappen goes second with a 1.32,195. All teams except Sauber have now been out at least once – with varying degrees of success.
Ouch! For many teams this could be a rather sobering reality check. Lewis goes out and shaves another 3 seconds off his best lap. Wehrlein is now officially a week behind the world champion. And the Merc is still on mediums!
Sauber’s appearance will take some time. The only gearbox they have broke yesterday, so they’ll have to try patching it up. That can take a while.
Having learned from last year’s run of troubled races, Red Bull does not only practice pitstops, but steering wheel changes as well. I would be very worried, if I was Daniil Kvyat. He might be in line to get Seb’s car. Lewis is ramping up the speed again after a cool-down lap. He is so far the only one to have cracked the 1:30 barrier.
Yep, it’s Seb’s car. After the pitstop practice Kvyat’s Red Bull is dead and is wheeled back into the garage for the autopsy.
Felipe baby moves into second spot, one and a half second down on Hamilton’s time. Meanwhile Nico Hülkenberg has arrived and watches Wehrlein in the seat that he should be in. Tomorrow will be his only outing for this second test.
Hülkenberg is eager to get going and reckons this year they’ll do things the other way round – a little slower at the start of the season, but picking up speed later on. Someone tell the poor boy that development costs money, and the Manor heist job may well have failed.
Reports come in that utterly confused fans have been spotted. It appears that Mr. Vettel, who has returned to the track is actually wearing the same helmet design an unprecedented third time. According to Mr. Arrivabene, Seb’s explanation for his off was: “Sorry boys, my fault”. The team boss adds that Seb has hit a wet spot. Now that’s the Ferrari spirit. The drivers don’t even have to make up the excuses themselves 🙂
The second hour has started.
The new seals of the Honda unit seem to be working and Jenson Button improves to 1.29,151 while Verstappen homes in on Massa’s time with a 1.28,566, but they are all way behind Lewis. As I write that, Massa improves and has now less than a second deficit over the Mercedes.
It seems the early off has made Vettel a wee bit insecure. Although he improves to 1.30,116, he’s a mammoth 4 seconds behind. He’s even slower than Verstappen and Maldonado. But as I write this, he picks up some confidence. A 1:29 is followed by a 1:28. At eight degrees C and overcast sky, we’re reminded that in Europe there’s still technically winter.
We’ve found a sadly rather blurry picture of Vettel’s beached Ferrari.
Meanwhile Wehrlein has beamed himself back into the correct time zone with a 1.28,630 on medium tyres.
Button’s McLaren has packed in at corner 9. Looking like a defect.
We’ll use the interruption for a first look at the leaderboard
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So far nobody can be bothered to go out…
A full eight minutes after the green, several drivers go out. Vettel improves to fourth with a 1:27.884. Lewis goes out on the development tyres but comes back in, Massa is on hards and all others on mediums.
A little later than planned the pitstop training at Williams seems to commence. First reports on Button’s problems are that the engine just cut off.
Vettel comes back in after a long-ish run. Considering he has only ten laps less than the so far busiest man, Verstappen (31) – that’s laps not age – he doesn’t seem to have lost all that much by his rookie error in the morning.
It’s ground hog day at Williams as Felipe comes in for yet another practice stop. So does Kvyat and they also practice changing the nose. Badly needed, by the looks of it. RB made a right monkey’s breakfast of that stop.
Young Max keeps piling on the laps – thirty five so far for the Dutchman. I think that’s more than dad used to do in most of his races. Sauber still try to nail that gearbox back together. So far with little success.
As the third hour starts both Kvyat and Massa disappear into the garage after four and seven consecutive pitstop practices respectively, before their poor mechanics come into danger of contracting RSI.
Wehrlein improves to fourth. Why is the DTM pilot so much better in the Force India than in the Merc? The young German comes back in and Lewis has the track all to himself. He is still running on development tyres.
A look at the climatic conditions: Still cloudy, Air 10°C with the track temps at 11°C. No danger of tyres overheating, I reckon.
Hamilton’s times vary wildly between 1:28 and 1:33 although he has half of Spain all to himself – he seems to simulate his team mate.
McLaren stun the world by identifying the problem as ‘loss of power’. Well so much was obvious – but why? That’s like going to the doctor’s office and the diagnosis is: You’re ill. *shrug*
It looks like the Ferrari crew has replenished the supply of lead in Vettel’s right foot, as the German goes up to second, two and a half tenths behind Lewis – on medium tyres. It’s still way off Kimi’s time from yesterday, but so are all times so far today.
Lo and behold – Daniil Kvyat manages his first flying lap today, but the time is nothing to write home about. Meanwhile the Crews of Williams and Red Bull prepare for the next rounds of pitstop practice.
One thing to keep in mind, when comparing the test times with last years times here at Barcelona, is that, unlike during qualifying and race, DRS can and will be used at will in a test session. That brings up to a second per lap, according to the estimation of AMuS’s Dieter Rencken.
While Felipe continues to torment his crew with one pitstop after the other, the Red Bull team lets Kvyat collect a few uninterrupted laps and the Russian passes Button. The 2009 champion is now bog last – at least among those who were traveling faster than a glacier at any time today. The pitiful harvest of McLaren stands at 7 laps that’s less than a seventh of Verstappen’s lap count, who has just gone fastest with a 1:25.417 – but on soft tyres.
Speaking of the devil… Jenson’s back! Considering how things were so far, Eric The Believable’s estimation that McLaren is 50% behind target looks like a rather optimistic estimation. And Jensons comeback amounts only to 2 laps, but at least he returns under own power, not on the back of an AA truck.
Meanwhile we hear that Wehrlein – Force India’s survival pending – will be driving for them in the free practice sessions at Barcelona and Spielberg. He won’t need to learn the Austrian track as he knows it from DTM.
Sauber’s attempts to repair the gearbox have failed and Ferrari has carted in a new one. It’s currently being assembled, but more than a few laps before lunch would be unrealistic.
Max finishes his 50th lap. He could go well over a hundred if he keeps that up. Those numbers will probably make dad a wee bit dizzy, but Jos the boss still holds the distinction of staging the best #F1 bonfire ever.
Red Bull run roughshod over the helmet design change ban, by repainting Kvyat’s helmet with bright floviz to check the airflow around the driver’s head. Meanwhile young Max has switched to super soft tyres and starts showboating with a 1:24.739 – still off yesterday’s times.
As we head into the final hour before feeding time, the order is Verstappen, Hamilton, Vettel, Kvyat, Massa, Wehrlein, Maldonado and Button. Considering that he set the fastest time of the day earlier this week, Maldonado has been positively invisible. But he’s been hauling around an aerodynamic sensor grid, so lap times do not seem to be the flavour of the day for Lotus.
Massa completes what looks like the 100th pitstop today. Providing that any mechanics are left, who can still move, Bottas will take over in the afternoon. Meanwhile we hear that Sauber are putting the finishing touches to the gearbox assembly.
The conditions are almost the same as they were over three hours ago – cloudy and with both air and track temperature barely in two-digit numbers.
Looks like everyone is looking forward to getting some chow. The track is empty at the moment. Everybody seems to wait what the next few minutes bring. It has started to drizzle on some parts of the track and the sky has gone darker.
This could take a while. Nobody wants to risk a crash so close to lunch time. The poor Williams boys would probably stage a riot if they would lose their lunch break on top of the very busy morning they have had.
Now that there’s a moment to breathe there is time for an interesting bit of news we’ve been hearing. Apparently the smaller teams – Force India, Sauber and Lotus – have made a suggestion to the *ahem* Strategy Group that they would like to create a status of semi-constructors, allowing them to pool their resources. And in the least surprising news this side of Christ’s birth, the big teams said nyet! Fat surprise…
Auto Motor und Sport explains the idea in more detail. The three teams wanted to assemble a joint design and construction team that cobbles together a base car for all three of them. Each team then goes on to upgrade that base car for themselves – for instance adapting it to the needs of their respective engine supplier.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why the likes of Merc, Ferrari and Red Bull are not so keen on waving that one through. If three teams with long term experience in making sweets from turds pool their resources, they’d be in a heckload of trouble.
Some drivers now venture out on intermediates to test the waters – literally. Among them is Mr. Ericsson. Sauber have finally seen the light, although there’s not much of that left. The skies are dark and it is raining. Seb Vettel seems to like it – he stays out and piles on them laps. But then that’s the thing he learned from The Schu. Who knows when you get the chance again to run on Inters, use every opportunity.
Hamilton, Kvyat and Wehrlein meanwhile seem to try to secure the best seats at the buffet already. Their cars are still in the garage on mediums.
Ericcson posts a first flying lap and – something we haven’t seen for a while – Massa conducts yet another practice pitstop.
There’s the table cloth!!
With a final look at the leaderboard, we say good bye for now and see you in roughly one hour.
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