Formula One’s annual Winter Testing period began today. The first of two four day tests takes place from 27th February to 2nd March. Who impressed on the opening day, and who has homework to do? Read our report as the ten teams took their cars to the track for the first time in 2017.
The drivers taking part in today’s test were: Daniel Ricciardo for Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel for Ferrari, Sergio Perez for Force India, Felipe Massa for Williams, Fernando Alonso for McLaren, Carlos Sainz for Toro Rosso, Nico Hulkenberg for Renault, Kevin Magnussen for Haas and Marcus Ericsson for Sauber. Mercedes opted to follow the same split day strategy as they did with their drivers in 2016, with Valtteri Bottas driving in the morning session and Lewis Hamilton taking over in the afternoon.
There were few visible changes on the cars between their launch photos and the opening day of testing. Mercedes opted to run a shark fin on their car, which was a noticeable absence when the W08 was launched. Haas and Williams meanwhile took Mercedes’ lead and added a T-wing to the rear of their cars.
The pit-lane opened at 9am local time and Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault was the first car out onto the track, while Valtteri Bottas was the first driver to set a lap time with a 1:33.44. Within twenty minutes of the green flag, all ten of the cars had made an appearance – highlighting the importance of track time ahead of the new season. There were some early technical gremlins as the transponder on the Ferrari and Toro Rosso cars failed, meaning their lap times were not fed back to the timing screens. With the problem soon fixed, Sebastian Vettel and Valterri Bottas began exchanging fastest lap times, with the Mercedes already lapping quicker than what we saw on the first day of testing here in 2016.
Fifty minutes into the session,the red flag appeared. Red Bull’s ‘unlucky for some’ slogan which they used for yesterday’s RB13 launch seemed to come back to haunt them, as Daniel Ricciardo’s car stopped out on track. The Red Bull driver came to a halt just before Turn Four. The Australian returned to the pit-lane in a 4×4, without his car in tow. The team said a sensor issue was to blame for the breakdown. In order to fix the issue, the gearbox had to be taken off the car, causing Ricciardo to sit out the rest of the morning’s running.
After a fifteen minute delay, the green flag was waved once again. But it wasn’t belong before another team hit problems. Fernando Alonso was left stuck in the garage following an oil system issue which the McLaren team said could take four or five hours to fix. The team were keen to point out that it was the oil system, and not new oil supplier Castrol, at fault. The Spaniard ran a special helmet today, which seemed to take inspiration from Red Bull’s camouflage testing livery from 2015.
Haas were next to have problems, with mechanics having to collect Kevin Magnussen’s stopped car from the start of the pit-lane. Elsewhere, Bottas was steadily completing lap after lap, and had completed 40 laps before three hours of the session had passed. Vettel was not far behind on 36 laps, while Carlos Sainz gave encouraging feedback on the STR12 to his Toro Rosso team:
“It already feels like another category compared to last year; so much downforce!”
Magnussen’s issues continued when he got back out on track. He lost the rear of the car, spun and hit the wall at Turn Ten, damaging the front wing. He lost control of the car under braking – brakes, of course, were a major issue for Haas in their debut season.
As the chequered flag fell on the opening morning of testing, Mercedes had already racked up well over a race distance worth of running. Felipe Massa had been putting in consistent lap times for Williams, while Carlos Sainz sneaked in a fast lap in the closing minutes of the session. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished the morning fastest with a 1:22.791 on the medium compound tyres. Closest to him was Bottas on a 1:23.169, set on the faster soft compound tyres.
After the one-hour lunchtime break, Daniel Ricciardo headed out to make up for lost time. He was soon halted again however, this time with a battery issue keeping him stuck in the garage. He managed to get back out later in the day and set the fifth fastest lap time.
“It would have been nice to do more laps, this morning in particular. The main issues were that it was for safety measures. We stopped running because of some sensor things, they were giving us warnings. We are, from the engine side, playing it a bit safe and making sure we don’t do damage on day one. That’s the main thing but the last two hours we got some good running. Hopefully that continues for the rest of the test and Max tomorrow does 200 laps.” – Daniel Ricciardo
With two hours of the test remaining, Fernando Alonso finally rejoined the track action and was greeted with cheers and applause from his home crowd. However, he was not out for long. The McLaren was wheeled back into the garage and the Spaniard got out of the car to talk with his engineers. He headed back out soon after, but pitted before setting a competitive lap time. It wasn’t too much longer before he was able to leave the garage again to set his first timed lap time of the day on the hard compound tyre.
“It’s definitely not the perfect start of winter testing. In terms of the performance point of view we have to concentrate and try to recover the time. We are disappointed, we are sad to arrive to the first day and not be able to run.” – Fernando Alonso
FULL RESULT FROM DAY 1 OF WINTER TESTING:
|Driver||Team||Best Lap Time||Laps|
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||01:22.926||50|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India||01:23.709||39|
|8||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||01:24.494||51|
Testing continues tomorrow at the Catalunya Circuit. There will be live updates throughout the day on the Lights Out F1 Blog Twitter account, and a full report in the evening.
After graduating from the University of Hull in 2015 with a First Class honours degree in English Language and Literature, Nicky Haldenby, a lifelong fan of Formula 1, founded the Lights Out F1 Blog in 2016. Now in its fifth season, the blog has become a firm fan-favourite, delving deep into the sport’s history books and lifting the cover on unusual F1 statistics. Nicky also writes at F1Destinations and GPDestinations. In 2017 and 2018, he wrote for Badger GP. Nicky is also the host of the F1 Rewind Podcast and can be heard as the resident stats man on the 2 Soft Compounds Podcast.