On Day Three of Winter Testing for the 2017 Formula One season at the Catalunya circuit, Williams and McLaren were hoping for changes in fortune, while Mercedes were hoping to better the 168 laps they completed on Tuesday. Read our report from day three of the first pre-season test.
The drivers taking part in today’s test were: Daniel Ricciardo for Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel for Ferrari, Alfonso Celis for Force India, Fernando Alonso for McLaren, Romain Grosjean for Haas and Marcus Ericsson for Sauber. Mercedes, Renault and Toro Rosso both split their driver porgrammes with Valtteri Bottas, Jolyon Palmer and Daniil Kvyat driving in the morning, while Lewis Hamilton, Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz took over in the afternoon. Williams changed their driver programme to allow Lance Stroll more time in the car after his day was cut short yesterday by a spin.
Marcus Ericsson was the first driver out of his garage today. In the early stages, it was Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas who were exchanging fast times, with the German taking the top spot by a mere 0.001 seconds. The first red flag of the day was waved thirty minutes into the session, as Jolyon Palmer got his RS17 stuck in the gravel trap at Turn Three. It was a low-speed spin, caused by cold tyres. He was able to get back out on track round an hour later.
“From a driver’s point of view it’s better everywhere. Braking is better, cornering is better, you’ve got more grip. Then in low-speed corners when arguably the downforce effect is less big, you have more grip from the tyres. It works pretty much like an aspirin, it fixes pretty much everything. It’s difficult to compare, it’s a different animal, different beast.” – Sebastian Vettel
Reigning World Champion Nico Rosberg paid a visit to the Formula One paddock today, and caused there to be plenty more photographers outside the Mercedes garage than usual.
Fernando Alonso set McLaren’s fastest time of 2017 so far, while rumours in the Spanish press were speculating that McLaren could ditch Honda before the start of the season – a highly unlikely scenario and a rumour which Team Principal Eric Boullier later denied. Elsewhere, Bottas was flying. He set a 1:20.107, which was the fastest seen so far this week. He pitted for fresh super-soft tyres and headed back out to post an even faster time – a 1:19.838. The Finn then put on the purple ultra-soft tyres to set a 1:19.705. He completed 75 laps in total.
As the chequered flag fell at the end of the morning session, Lance Stroll found his FW40 stuck in the gravel after completing 55 laps. The car was undamaged and taken back to the Williams garage over the lunch hour.
When the green flag was raised after the lunch break, no one was very quick to come back out of their garage. After fifteen minutes of no on-track action, Marcus Ericsson was the first driver to venture out. Sauber had a solid day today, finishing with the sixth quickest time and putting 126 laps on the board.
Sebastian Vettel was on a charge in the afternoon, setting Ferrari’s best time of the test so far – a 1:20.572 on the soft tyre. That was just eight tenths slower than Bottas’ earlier time on the ultra-soft tyre. He then lowered his time further to a 1:19.952 on the same tyre, within two tenths of the Mercedes’ time.
There was another red flag period two hours into the afternoon session, as Carlos Sainz, who took over from Daniil Kvyat in the Toro Rosso just before lunch, got stuck in the gravel at Turn Four. His car was brought back to the garage and he continued to complete 32 laps in the remaining hours.
The session was green flagged, again after Sainz’s adventure through the gravel, for all of three minutes, when Lance Stroll hit the wall at Turn Six. It was the rookie’s third off in as many sessions. He did get plenty of mileage down today, however, having completed 97 laps before the shunt ended his day prematurely.
Meanwhile, Red Bull’s afternoon running was halted by the investigation of an exhaust issue. Daniel Ricciardo had completed 67 laps before the issue left him stuck in the garage.
“I think for now we haven’t really got too involved in the performance runs. We’re trying to get some laps, some consistent laps, for reliability as well, to make sure nothing’s getting hot or there’s no problems. The lap times, for now it’s still not too representative but I think we can expect Mercedes and Ferrari to be at the front. But I think we can be very close as well.” – Daniel Ricciardo
Ten minutes before the end of the session, the final red flag of the day was brought out for Sebastian Vettel’s SF70-H, which had stopped on the pit straight. The session got back underway for a few minutes after the incident, but no one improved their time. Mercedes completed 170 laps in total, while Sebastian Vettel put in an impressive 139 laps.
FULL RESULT FROM DAY 3 OF WINTER TESTING: