Testing Week 2: Flying Kubica finishes top on Day 1, as Vettel and Verstappen spin
Robert Kubica set the fastest lap of the first day in Week 2 of pre-season testing for Alfa Romeo, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen second-fastest, 0.405s back, and Racing Point driver Sergio Perez rounding out the top three in a session cut short by Verstappen’s late spin.
Every racer bar Kevin Magnussen and Antonio Giovinazzi took the wheel on the fourth overall day of testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, as Haas fielded Romain Grosjean throughout the day, and Alfa Romeo had reserve driver Kubica in the car on Wednesday morning.
And it was Kubica’s time of 1m16.942, set as the clock was reaching 1pm in Spain, that gave him the lead. That time was set on the softest C5 compound while runner-up Verstappen, quickest of the afternoon runners, set his flying lap on the harder C3s.
The Dutchman spun and stopped on track five minutes before the end of the session, bringing out the third and final red flag of the session.
Perez was another 0.081s adrift of the Red Bull driver having set his fastest time 25 minutes before the end of the session for Racing Point, underlining the RP20’s impressive early pace, with 84 laps done and dusted before Verstappen brought out the red flags.
Daniil Kvyat, having just jumped up to P4 – half a second off Kubica – stopped his AlphaTauri on track almost exactly when Verstappen did, with both suspected to have run out of fuel. Pierre Gasly missed three hours of the morning session with the car kept in the garage, before handing over to team mate Kyvat, but the Frenchman still managed to round out the top-five.
The last Honda-powered car at the top was Alex Albon's, the Thai-Briton having had a similar predicament to Gasly to complete just 29 laps in the morning to finish P6 in the timesheets.
Lewis Hamilton was another of the morning runners and finished seventh, around six-tenths off the pace, with 89 laps completed. Team mate Valtteri Bottas, in ninth, took the wheel in the afternoon and managed 90 more laps to give Mercedes the highest lap count at the end of the day. Between them sat Racing Point’s Lance Stroll, who was briefly fastest during the morning session.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel managed the Scuderia’s fastest lap of pre-season testing so far, but rounded out the top 10 – 1.17s off Kubica’s benchmark – as the team continued their steady testing programme. His Ferrari counterpart, Charles Leclerc finished 13th and a tenth behind. In a largely uninterrupted day, it was Vettel who brought out the second of three red flags by spinning in the morning.
Neither Renault nor McLaren managed to break into the top 10, with Esteban Ocon finishing at the bottom of the standings and Lando Norris in 17th.
As for Williams, they shrugged off Nicholas Latifi’s on-track stoppage in the morning to give George Russell an outing after lunch. He finished a tenth behind his rookie team mate as Williams managed 107 laps on Tuesday – just as many as Grosjean, who finished just behind in P16 for Haas.
Jolyon Palmer's verdict: Ferrari to open the taps on Day 2?
"Ferrari say they will be doing low fuel running tomorrow, which everyone is excited to see. They haven't even given us a glimpse of what they might be able to do. Only they and McLaren haven't run the car in any anger - yet...
"Perez managed 84 laps, he had a really good afternoon. On the C3 tyre - the same as Verstappen - he lapped within a tenth of the Dutchman, and managed an identical amount of laps too. His long run looked very tidy.
"He'll be very excited to be having a nibble at the big teams in Melbourne at this rate."