It’s been quite a week in Spain, with snow, rain, spins and more, but it was world champion Lewis Hamilton who set the pace on Thursday, as the first of 2018’s two pre-season tests drew to a close – in far more hospitable weather – at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Having racked up minimal mileage over the past three days, Hamilton took over the Mercedes cockpit from team mate Valtteri Bottas in the afternoon and duly recorded the fastest lap time seen all week – and he only needed Pirelli’s medium tyre compound to do it.
The day started with a wet track, but it began to dry around lunchtime, allowing Stoffel Vandoorne to head the order with a McLaren time set on the new hypersoft compound. That lap ultimately held up for second place, half a second down on Hamilton.
Vandoorne was one of three drivers to surpass 100 laps. Sebastian Vettel – third fastest on soft tyres for Ferrari – and Pierre Gasly – tenth on supersofts after another encouraging day for the Honda-powered Toro Rosso team – were the other two.
With temperatures significantly up, with highs of around 15 Celsius, the teams worked hard to make up for the running lost earlier in the week, with many choosing to split driving duties between drivers in order to get everyone some track time.
One man who got far less than he’d hoped for was Max Verstappen. The Dutchman spent much of the morning in the Red Bull garage, and then beached his RB14 in the gravel after 35 laps in the afternoon. It left him ninth in the order, his best lap coming on soft rubber.
Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin rounded out the day’s timesheet in a distant 15th place, the Russian rookie having been the only driver not to get in a slick-tyre run.
Running resumes in Spain next Tuesday with the second and final pre-season test, which again takes place over four days in Barcelona.