Following a frustrating time for Lewis Hamilton with floor damage yesterday, Mercedes appeared to be letting Bottas off the leash somewhat. With just over an hour to go until lunch, Valterri blasted around the 4.4 kilometres in a 2017 winter testing record time of 1:19:310 on the super-soft tyre.
This was just over 5 seconds quicker than the 2015 Spanish GP pole time. The question is, on a warmer afternoon track and the softest compound, will Lewis Hamilton be given the chance to break into the 1:18’s later today?
For those getting excited about best ever times at this circuit with its current configuration here’s the low down.
THE OFFICIAL RECORD: Raïkkönen 1:21.670 (2008)
BEST TIME QUALY: Barrichello: 1:19.954 (2009)
BEST TIME TEST: Massa 1.18.339 (2008)
— Alessandro (@Berrageiz) March 8, 2017
90 minutes into this morning’s session, a tentative MacHonda piloted by Fernando Alonso had managed 6 whole laps without stopping.
Prior to the session start, Honda were tight lipped about whether they were running the upgraded power unit specification; a spokesmen for the Japanese firm reported: “We are not able to disclose the current PU spec we are using today nor the timing to use the updated spec at this moment,” a spokesman said. “It is sure we are to use it within this week as Eric (Boullier) mentioned, though.”
The session ended without previous drama’s and Fernando clocked up 27 laps with a best of 1:23:041 – almost 4 seconds off the pace.
There was this F1 driver who retired… but then he un-retired and….
Despite having racked up a mammoth 783 kilometres yesterday, Williams ageing star driver was asked to pilot the FW40 again this morning. The chatter in the press room suggested this would do little for Lance Stroll’s confidence – but then again, Williams need miles on the clock.
As if this wasn’t enough, having run 2.5 GP’s in one day, Felipe Massa had some coded advice for his young Canadian team-mate who is set to drive this afternoon. “Always when you lose a day it is not great,” Massa said. “Maybe something we did today we could have done last week, but it was not possible. But we managed to do a lot more today. We managed to get some good feelings from the car, we managed to see the car is reliable, which is important. We still have three days in front of us. We haven’t got many parts, so we need to try to keep everything we can. It is so easy to go off.”
Felipe rattled off several laps in the final hour in an attempt to knock Bottas from the top spot. Though neither he nor the Finn could beat the Mercedes best time of the morning set on the harder super-soft compound. Massa did clock the quickest time this year on the ultra-soft tyre with a 1:19.420 and another 63 laps of valuable running for Williams.
Having watched team mate Massa nail 231 laps in 3 consecutive testing sessions, its time for Lance Stroll to step up and show us what he’s made of this afternoon.
It was a relatively quiet morning for Kimi and Ferrari. Given the Finn had a cattle grid and something resembling two mobile phone masts poking up above the rear wing, fast times were not predominantly the order of the day.
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 8, 2017
The Ferrari mechanics were then concerned about the suspension and hydraulics, so Kimi took a forced two hour coffee break mid-session, only to return with additional kit attached to his test mule for the 55 minutes until lunch.
Unshackled by the garden gate, fence etc – the Iceman was set loose for half an hour before lunch – pumping in quicker times lap after lap and ending with 36 laps and a best time of 1’20.406 – a second off Bottas pace.
Uncharacteristically, Red Bull have been keeping a fairly low profile at the F1 winter tests, and again they set about their programme fairly quietly with Max Verstappen at the wheel. It was just 34 laps for the Dutch driver this moprning, but no word from Red Bull as to why running had been curtailed. Max best time was 1’20.432 (+1.122), good enough for P4.
The chill in the air probably meant the on track action was limited amongst the mid-field teams – as they saved resources for the expected temperature rise in the afternoon when running would be more representative.
That said Nico Hulkneberg managed a 1:21:203 best of the rest time and 58 laps for Renault
Force India told us little about their programme as Sergio Perez chased his former team mate now in a works powered car. This battle will be fascinating once racing proper begins.
— Sahara Force India (@ForceIndiaF1) March 8, 2017
Sainz, Grosjean and Wehlein can all be satisfied they kept their respective teams ahead of the sleeping giant McLaren who are clearly do worse than Eric Boullier’s 5/10 mark as they languish P10.