Morning testing report: Mega Bottas lap puts him top as Ferrari hit trouble
Valtteri Bottas finished the final morning of Week 1 of 2020 pre-season testing sitting dominantly at the head of the field, with the Finn setting by far the fastest time seen at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya so far this year.
Bottas – driving the Mercedes W11 that’s fitted with the innovative DAS system that’s caused such a stir at pre-season testing – banged in a 1m 15.732s on the fastest C5 tyres within the final hour of the session, a time a full 0.489s than Sebastian Vettel’s leading time for Ferrari from 2019 pre-season testing.
The lap also eclipsed Lewis Hamilton’s previous best of 1m 16.976s, set on the first day of Week 1, with Mercedes still the only team to have lapped Barcelona this year in under 1m 17s – although Bottas’ lap remained over three-tenths shy of his own pole position lap record from the 2019 Spanish Grand Prix.
Behind Bottas on Friday morning – 1.370s behind to be precise – Esteban Ocon was second for Renault, with Lance Stroll third for Racing Point, Daniil Kvyat fourth for AlphaTauri, and Max Verstappen fifth for Red Bull.
It was a worrying morning for Ferrari, meanwhile, with Sebastian Vettel stopping out on track with an apparent issue on his SF1000, with Ferrari confirming that in a tweet that the power unit would be sent back to Maranello and a new one fitted for the afternoon session.
Vettel’s stoppage brought out the first of two red flags on Friday so far, with the second coming when Nicholas Latifi was forced to pull up in the Williams FW43 at the end of the pit lane, after his power unit appeared to shut down, with the team set to investigate the issue further.
Those two stoppages meant that lap counts were lower than we’ve seen on the two previous mornings of pre-season testing – where only one red flag was flown across both days, when Kimi Raikkonen stopped out on track on Thursday – with Verstappen claiming the most with 86 in the new Red Bull RB16.
Meanwhile, the morning also witnessed some ill-tempered squabbling between Haas’ Romain Grosjean and Kvyat, as the pair duelling for track position early on in the day.
So it’s Mercedes on top at the halfway mark on the final day of Week 1. But can their rivals fight back this afternoon?
Jolyon Palmer’s verdict: Mercedes show potential – but where are Ferrari going?
People are going for it. So Bottas is on the headline time, on the softest – C5 – tyre which rivals will hope means is more of a qualifying simulation because that time is three-tenths off last year’s pole. It underlines some good potential from Mercedes.
Ocon and Stroll both had a similar time on the C4 tyre and similar pace to Kimi’s lap from Day 2 showing that the midfield battle seems to be quite tight as well.
Ferrari’s pre-season looks to be getting tougher with Vettel’s engine failure. The fewest laps of the morning and they’re still yet to do anything meaningful in terms of times although after topping the times and falling away in Melbourne last year, maybe they’re going for a reverse this year…