Following a torrid first four days of winter testing, much of it due to Lance Stroll rendering the car ‘unavailable for selection’, Williams roared back on the first morning of the second test accumulating a hefty 67 laps.
With the un-retired and experienced Felipe Massa at the wheel, the FW40 blasted its way around the Circuit de Catalunya delivering a stunning fastest lap of 1:19:726 – just two one hundredths slower than Bottas quickest time in winter testing week 1.
‘There’s one to stick in your pipe and smoke young Stroll’, I thought I saw Massa say, and surely the 2017 F1 drivers’ title will now be between the two former Williams team mates 😉
Panic at McLaren-Honda? Never. Having made a worse start to winter testing than in 2016 – due to Honda reliability issues – the Japanese manufacturer parted company with their engine design guru Gilles Simon just before the beginning of the second test.
Simon was a senior member of the engine division in Maranello during the golden era when the Red Team had a world champion German driver together with a French team boss and British technical guru.
McLaren had a decent early morning from a reliability perspective, making it through to lunch without the daily engine change.
STOP PRESS (at time of publication) lack of orange racing car on track pre-lunch is due to engine problems. Afternoon session now in doubt. This is now SIX engines used by Honda in winter testing.
Winter testing has not been a speciality of Red Bull’s in recent years and last week was as unremarkable as ever. However, Christian Horner is making all the headlines this morning claiming the teams can and should ‘ditch’ the shark fin and T-Wing before the Australian GP.
Of course being the philanthropic chap that he is, Christian does not of course believe these appendages add little to the Newey designed aero package but removed from others may improve Red Bull’s advantage. Further, to increase the spectacle of F1 winter testing for the fans interest in testing – Red Bull unilaterally chose not to put screens around the RB13 when it came into the pits.
On track, Danny Ric blazed away all morning like an Aussie possessed. His quickest lap on the soft tyre was a squillionth away from the fastest lap on the same compound by Bottas last week, nailing a 1:20:077. Then, as the Honey badger was poised to set the fastest lap of the morning on super soft tyres, he made a mistake and kissed the kitty litter exiting turn four.
Ricciardo had one more try before lunch and finally moved the Big Bullies into the 1:19’s for the first time this year – and P2 for the day.
Fresh from his new vows to Toto Wolff about sharing data and helping Valterri Bottas as much as possible, Lewis Hamilton was as good as his word. Clearly, Mercedes had no electrical fault today but are still not pushing for an outright fast lap – but Lewis lack of pace must have left Valterri feeling super confident and believing he now may have half a chance against Hamilton this season.
Sebastian Vettel early in the session was the pace setter, but then with no explanation – as is Ferrari’s media blackout will at present – the session petered away into an attrition of dullness. Still a hefty 82 more laps chalked up without a Maranello Red Fire emerging from the engine cover has to be good news in the Tifosi hospitality tent.
Joylan Palmer once again was pushed down the pit lane by his mechanics after stopping his car short of the garage. Unlike last week’s “installation niggles” this time “teething problems” were the reason given for the Renault’s inability to make it home unaided.
It then transpired the problems were worse than first thought so a “sensor issue” (clearly far more serious} meant the Renault required an engine change leaving Palmer heading for a long and early lunch.
Renault appear to be lacking a credible communications officer – applicants apply on a postcard to Enstone.
Force India had a relatively uneventful morning, such that the talk of the Silverstone team was more about a potential link up with Austrian Water Technology Company BWT. This could see their green and black livery turn pink.
Last week was an indifferent time for the baby Bull team, and today they set about their work like a team playing catchup. Danny Kvyat plugged away delivering 45 laps of data for the team.
Last chance saloon Kev Mag continued his F1 education with an uneventful plod around the Barcelona circuit. Despite claiming the new Ferrari engine is like a rocket launcher, the Haas car times weren’t good enough for a top 5 spot.
The pretty looking Sauber draws the attention of the photographers’ lenses more than most, yet for Pascal Wehlein, if this morning was representative of anything like the season ahead – he’ll be wishing he was back a Manor F1 toute suite.
The German driver ground out lap after lap as he chiselled away at the time set by Palmer in the Renault. Pascal’s grit and determination was finally rewarded with around 20 minutes to lunch he climbed off bottom spot and up into into P9.