A sunny but cold day welcomed the Formula 1 fraternity in Barcelona on Thursday. And everyone was all set for the second testing round of the season.
Force India was ready this time, although they didn’t bring their new 2015 car. Ferrari had to prove if its blossoming in Jerez was true. McLaren-Honda needed much more laps than it managed in the first test to get the information that they couldn’t get two weeks ago. While, Red bull had to work closely with their engine partners Renault to ensure a reliable package.
Surprisingly, Pastor Maldonado topped the timesheets at the end of the first day of test at Circuit de Catalunya, with a 1m25.011s. After a poor start, causing two red flags in the morning because his E23 stopped in corner number 5, nobody expected him to be at the top. The Venezolan completed 69 laps. “It is always good to see your name at the top of the timing monitors and my fastest lap was just in the course of our normal programme for the day,” said Pastor. “It feels good to drive the E23 in Barcelona. The car responded well to the changes we made and we were able to complete a good number of laps.”
In second position, and just 0.156s behind Maldonado, was Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen, who led the timesheets for majority of the day. The Finn racked in a total of 74 laps and had no technical issues during the day.
“It’s not that different from Jerez, we don’t know about the fuel other cars had, and some of them were on soft tyres,'' Raikkonen told reporters after the session. "We keep doing our stuff, have made our plan and try to follow it. The car is a completely different story from last year’s, we’ve still got a long way ahead of us but the team is working well and has produces a very nice car.”
With fairly stable regulations from last year, teams' have taken a major performance step this season. Both Maldonado(on the Pirelli soft tyre) and Raikkonen(on the white striped medium tyre) were able to set laptimes that were quicker than last year's pole time of Lewis Hamilton.
Third in the table we find Daniel Ricciardo in the camouflaged Red Bull. The Australian spent much of the morning in the garage with software issues curtailing his running. However, as soon as the engineers fixed the RB11, he was back out on track and managed a total of 59 laps to end the day as third fastest. He managed to finish just 0.536s behind Pastor Maldonado with medium tyres. At the end of the day, he was fairly satisified as he could try different compounds and the scale of reliability issues were far less than what his team witnessed at Jerez.
Checo Pérez got the fourth better time of the day. He jumped in the Force India in the aftenoon after Wehrlein had to switch cars. On his first F1 outing of the year, he did a very good job with the 2014 SFI. He managed 34 laps in half a day and a fastest time of 1m26.636s.
Felipe Nasr built up on Sauber's momentum from Jerez where the team was only second in the 'mileage table'. The Brazilian completed 79 laps but he couldn’t drive during most of the afternoon following a collision with the Williams of Susie Wolff at turn 5. The 32 year old was on formation lap while Nasr was pounding around at usual speed.
Nevertheless, Nasr's time of 1m27.307s was good enough for fifth place. Wolff, however, had to be content with 10th place.
Max Verstappen finished sixth for Toro Rosso. The team managed the longest run with 94 laps, close to 40 laps more than their sister team. It was a troublefree day for the 17 year old and he was naturally pleased with how things panned out: "We didn't get as much done in the morning as we would have liked, but in the afternoon, we picked up the pace and I completed almost a race distance. I'm very pleased about managing that, as it's the first time I've done that many laps and it was a very useful experience. The same goes for the pit stops and the other race procedures that we practiced."
Behind him slotted the McLaren-Honda driven by Button, who could only manage 21 laps for his team. A faulty seal in the MGU-K brought his session to a premature end with Honda's motorsport boss insisting the issue may recurr until a replacement part is flown on Saturday.
Oddly, Lewis Hamilton was positioned at the bottom of the standings after he had to get out of the car after just 11 laps due to a fever. He was replaced by the reserve driver, the German Pascal Wehrlein. Mercedes informed us in its official twitter account: “An unplanned stoppage keeping us off track at the moment. Lewis Hamilton is unwell and not able to continue driving today, so we're just adjusting the car for Pascal Wehrlein to take to the track this afternoon.”
Pascal was driving for Force India in the morning but he had to take Hamilton’s place since Nico Rosberg was suffering from an inflammation of the nerves in the neck. We still don’t know if the German will be able to run during the following days.
Wehrlein did 48 laps in the Mercedes and finished with a 1m28.489s versus the 1m30.429s that Hamilton got. Pascal accomplished a better time with the VJM07, finishing in the eighth position, than with the W06, finishing ninth. He was very excited after his busy day: “It was great to spend the morning with Force India and to have the opportunity to drive their car for the first time. It’s a good team and everyone was really welcoming. After a few laps I felt very comfortable and confident in the car. Then, of course, I had to move across one garage and drive the Mercedes for the afternoon which was a bit of a surprise. But I will have another day with Force India this week. Driving two Formula One cars in one day was amazing and I am really looking forward to getting back out there again.”
Susie Wolff, at the William’s steering-wheel, completed the time classification of the first day. She did 86 laps even she was in the garage for a long time after her accident with the Sauber.
That was all of Day 1 in Montmeló, a rather smooth session but with little problems, especially for McLaren-Honda that needs an easy day to recover the confidence.
By Cristina De Large