BARCELONA TEST DAY ONE: Bottas on top for Mercedes as Ilott crashes Alfa
Fresh from dominating the Spanish Grand Prix weekend, Mercedes were at it again, setting the fastest time in testing in Barcelona on Tuesday.
On the first of two days of in-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Valtteri Bottas was back behind the wheel for Mercedes and duly set the pace with a 1m 15.511s. That lap time was just over 0.1s off the Finn’s stunning pole position lap from Saturday, although it came on the softest of the available compounds from Pirelli – the C5 – which was not part of the race selection.
The use of the C5 in the afternoon session hints at Mercedes looking ahead to the Monaco Grand Prix, where the softest three compounds are provided at the street circuit for the first time this season.
There was a bizarre moment for Bottas early in the day, however, when he left his pit box while carrying aero rakes on the car. With the sensors making the car much wider, Mercedes hadn’t accounted for the extra clearance it would need and two orange cones they had set up were collected by the rakes, with one falling off as Bottas drove down the pit lane and the other remaining attached for a full lap.
Second fastest was Charles Leclerc for Ferrari, with the Monegasque not using the same tyre compound as Bottas and ending up over 1.4s adrift, having set his best time on C2s in the closing moments. Mileage was identical for both Mercedes and Ferrari, with Bottas and Leclerc each completing 131 laps on a productive day.
Ferrari had two cars running on Tuesday, with Sebastian Vettel carrying out tyre testing duties for Pirelli that saw him using unmarked tyres. Vettel was one of only two drivers to exceed the total of laps completed by the top two, as he managed one further lap during Tuesday’s running.
It wasn’t a successful day for a Ferrari Driver Academy member, however, as Callum Ilott crashed on debut for Alfa Romeo. Ilott had already suffered a spin and a trip through the gravel during the morning session when he crashed heavily on the outside of Turn 3. The incident caused significant damage to the left-hand side of the car, and ended the F2 driver’s day prematurely.
Red Bull also missed out on some running after Pierre Gasly stopped on the inside of the track next to the pit wall. The Frenchman later confirmed a transmission problem was to blame, as he felt something break exiting the chicane and rolled to a halt where the car could easily be returned to the garage for investigations.
Gasly ended up fifth quickest, and still with comfortably more than 100 laps to his name, with Daniil Kvyat third in the Toro Rosso and Nico Hulkenberg fourth for Renault. Despite the encouraging finishing position, the French team managed just 68 laps, with Ilott’s total of 41 the only lower mileage.
Carlos Sainz was sixth for McLaren as the home favourite completed the morning session before handing over to team mate Lando Norris for the afternoon. There was just 0.3s separating their best laps, but there were still three cars between the two McLarens on the timing screens.
Pietro Fittipaldi carried out another day of testing for Haas and was seventh ahead of Nick Yelloly, who is driving on both days for Racing Point, focusing on the team’s upgrade package from the weekend and correlation with the simulator.
Vettel was the other driver to separate the McLarens, with Sergio Perez – also carrying out Pirelli testing in a second Racing Point – finishing 11th behind Norris. Despite his crash, Ilott still ended up ahead of Nicholas Latifi, with the Formula 2 championship leader five seconds off the pace but matching Vettel’s mileage.