Formula One returned with the first day of Winter Testing ahead of the 2018 season. There was early drama for McLaren, an impressive showing from Honda and mixed weather conditions. Read all about it in Lights Out’s Day 1 report!
The first day of Winter Testing for 2018 was preceded by three teams officially unveiling their cars for the new season. Haas were first, followed by Toro Rosso – whose race gear this year matches their car – and then Force India, who have kept their striking pink livery for another year.
Taking part in the first day of testing were: Kimi Raikkonen for Ferrari, Daniel Ricciardo for Red Bull, Nikita Mazepin for Force India, Brendon Hartley for Toro Rosso, Romain Grosjean for Haas, Fernando Alonso for McLaren and Marcus Ericsson for Sauber. Mercedes, Williams and Renault all opted to split their driving duties for the day. Valtteri Bottas, Lance Stroll and Nico Hulkenberg drove in the morning session, while Lewis Hamilton, Sergey Sirotkin and Carlos Sainz took to the track in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, it was announced that Nicholas Latifi, who was due to test for Force India later in the week, would be unable to take part in the first week of testing after being hospitalised by a serious infection. The Canadian F2 racer says he hopes to return to action ‘in the next four weeks’.
Honda Put In Impressive Mileage
In a complete turnaround of Honda’s three seasons with McLaren, the Honda-powered Toro Rosso car completed the third most laps of the day, bettered only by Red Bull and Renault. After a ten minute delay to the start of proceedings, Brendon Hartley was the first driver out on track, just ahead of Valtteri Bottas. It’s the first time in the hybrid era where Mercedes haven’t been the first out on the first day of Winter Testing.
The statement of intent from both Honda and Toro Rosso seems clear.
ALONSO CRASHES OUT
The first Red Flag of the day came as a result of Fernando Alonso crashing into the gravel at the final turn of the track. It was a disappointing situation for McLaren, who found themselves stuck in the garage for most of the morning. The right rear wheel had detached itself from the MCL33 in the strange accident, which the team pinpointed as a ‘wheel-nut issue’. Zak Brown played down the incident, saying it was ‘no big deal’ and the team would ‘lose very little time’. Alonso headed out just over two hours later to bring his tally of laps up to ten before the lunch break.
The wheels quite literally came off for Fernando Alonso earlier 👀
— Formula 1 (@F1) February 26, 2018
Alonso played down his team’s issues, warning that McLaren-Renault has ‘huge potential’ and that their rival teams are in trouble:
“This is a very, very small problem but very graphic, very obvious. A car in the gravel makes a big thing. There are six teams in the garage with the door closed and the car in pieces, but no one sees it, there’s no picture of that. There are a lot of teams with trouble, big trouble, and for us with a wheelnut it will make the thing of the day.”
MAZEPIN HAS A MAZESPIN
There was another Red Flag in the morning as a result of Nikita Mazepin spinning into the gravel at the fourth turn. The car was soon back in the Force India garage, and the Russian GP3 driver returned to action. He completed 22 laps over the whole day – with a fastest time good enough for twelfth. He hands the car back over to the regular Force India drivers tomorrow.
RED BULL FASTEST, RICCIARDO FURTHEST
There were a number of changes at the top before the end of the morning session. Nico Hulkenberg had held the top spot for most of the morning, with Renault saying that the first day of testing for them is all about concentrating on reliability. The numbers certainly seemed to suggest that, as Hulkenberg completed 73 laps in the morning session – the most of any driver. With the fastest time from Day 1 of 2017 Winter Testing already beaten, a flurry of fast times came before the lunch hour. Kimi Raikkonen had taken the fastest time away from the German, before Valtteri Bottas took it off his fellow Finn. Then, Daniel Ricciardo set the new fastest time of the morning – a 1:20.179 – for Red Bull just minutes before the chequered flag fell. The time remained unchallenged in the afternoon session.
A QUIET AFTERNOON
Though the green light came on at the end of the pit-lane at 2pm local time, it would be 36 minutes before anyone ventured out. Light rain had begun to fall around the circuit and temperatures had decreased as Sergey Sirotkin put in his first laps in Williams’ FW41. Alonso soon followed him, as the Spaniard looked to make up for lost time. There were a few improvements in times in the early parts of the afternoon session, mainly among the bottom half of the grid. Sainz was only able to put in 26 laps compared to his team-mate’s 73 in the morning session,while reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton completed only 25 laps in his W09. Hamilton took a trip through the gravel, which caused slight damage to the floor of his car.
As Haas called time on their running for the day thirty minutes before the scheduled end of the session, a few drivers – namely Fernando Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo – took the cars out for a spin on intermediate tyres on an increasingly damp track. More teams began to abandon the session, but Ricciardo remained out, switching to the full wet tyres and bringing his total lap tally to 105.
Alonso provided an entertaining moment in the afternoon, as he overtook fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso Honda by using the old section of track at the last chicane:
— Madro (@Madro_jl) February 26, 2018
Driver Reaction to Day One of Testing:
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull:
“It’s hard to get anything working with tyres in these temperatures, especially as they’ve also re-laid the surface. When the temperature is there it’s good, but when it’s cold there really isn’t any grip. It’s nice to see yourself at the top of the timesheets but in two-degree temperatures you really can’t learn anything.”
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes:
“So good to be back behind the wheel! We focused on gathering aero data this morning. Was tough work to get the tyres in their optimal temperature window in these chilly conditions.”
Marcus Ericsson, Sauber:
“It was very exciting to be back on track and drive the C37. Over the course of the day, we gathered some interesting data. The C37 is based on a new concept, both mechanically and aerodynamically. It has been interesting to see how these changes translate to the car’s behaviour on track. We completed a few good runs, however, had to cut the afternoon session short due to the tricky weather conditions at the Circuit de Catalunya. We dealt with low temperatures of both the air and the asphalt, which made it difficult to get the tyres to work properly. Although this was the first day of winter testing it has been a positive and productive day. There is potential in our new car and we have to continue working hard to understand how to unlock it. I look forward to building on this on Wednesday.”
Winter Testing Day One Result:
Red Bull finished the first day of testing fastest, and Daniel Ricciardo completed the most laps overall. Not too much can be read into these times or figures just yet, but the rest of the first week of testing is bound to be full of intrigue.
F1 Testing continues at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya tomorrow. Follow @LightsOutF1Blog on Twitter for live updates throughout the day.