Lewis Hamilton has ended the first of the two Formula 1 pre-season tests with the fastest overall lap time at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
The Mercedes driver used the Pirelli medium-compound tyre to move to the top of the timesheets late in the afternoon, with his time of 1:19.333 proving the fastest across the four days of testing to-date.
With Day 3 of testing proving a virtual non-event thanks to an unseasonable snowstorm hitting the Montmelò circuit, the ten teams focused in earnest to make up for lost track mileage on the fourth and final day of this test session.
Mercedes was one of several teams, along with McLaren, Renault, Williams and Sauber, to split its running between its two drivers.
The weather conditions at the start of the day were still far from ideal, but it was considerably warmer than on Wednesday and that at least encouraged some teams to attempt some meaningful running on the wet-weather Pirelli tyres.
By 12:30pm conditions had improved enough to warrant a switch to intermediate tyres, followed half an hour later by the first laps on dry-weather rubber.
Running in the morning session for Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas used a medium-compound run to move to the top of the time sheets with a time of 1:24.772.
He was quickly bettered by Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg, who narrowly moved ahead on a set of the theoretically quicker soft compound tyres. Just before the lunch break Bottas lowered his earlier benchmark time by a full two seconds, only for two further flying laps by Hülkenberg proving enough to see the German finish the morning session fastest overall.
The afternoon session saw a number of teams swap drivers, and having taken over from teammate Bottas, Hamilton got down to business. The Briton’s position at the top of the timing screens was threatened by McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, who put his Renault-powered MCL33 quickest overall just after the lunch break.
As was the case on Day 2 of this pre-season test, however, the Belgian’s flying lap occurred on the ultrasoft tyre compound. What was impressive was the 110 laps Vandoorne managed during his program, before he handed over to teammate Fernando Alonso for the final hours of the afternoon – the Spaniard finished fifth-fastest overall.
Hamilton moved into P1 in the late afternoon – only to have his time disallowed for missing the final chicane – and then earned the spot permanently just before 5:00pm local time with a 1:19.333 effort on the medium-compound Pirelli tyres.
Third fastest but with a best lap almost a second off Hamilton’s best time came Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. The German spent most of his dry-weather running on the soft-compound tyre, which he used to post his best lap of the day.
Having not shown any particular pace over the preceding three days, the Haas Ferrari VF-18 was an unexpected feature among the top-five. Kevin Magnussen used a series of supersoft tyre runs to clock the fourth-fastest time.
Mileage was one of the key focus areas of the day, with a number of teams managing particularly strong efforts. Significant praise should go to Honda, powering the Toro Rosso STR13, which helped Pierre Gasly to achieve a quite staggering 147 laps for the day. The Italian team topped the mileage count across this entire test, indicating that Honda may well have sorted out many of the chronic reliability issues that have dogged its power units for the last three years.
Only two teams – Force India and Red Bull Racing – failed to break through the 100-lap mark. The former opted to keep Sergio Pérez in the garage when the track was at its wettest, figuring it had little insight to gain when it was still working on basic aerodynamic mapping and establishing a baseline set-up for its VJM11.
Max Verstappen had a second troubled day in the new RB14. After losing valuable track time on Day 2 of testing with a fuel leak, the Dutchman’s wet weather running was limited and in the afternoon his car suffered an unspecified mechanical issue. Once back out on track, the youngster spun off at Turn 12 to bring out the red flags.
|2018 FORMULA 1 PRE-SEASON TEST – DAY 4 UNOFFICIAL TIMES|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||1:19.333||69|
|2.||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||1:19.854||+ 0.521||110|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF71H||1:20.241||+ 0.908||120|
|4.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||1:20.317||+ 0.984||96|
|5.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||1:20.929||+ 1.596||51|
|6.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||1:20.940||+ 1.607||60|
|7.||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||1:21.142||+ 1.809||54|
|8.||Sergio Pérez||Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11||1:21.973||+ 2.640||65|
|9.||Max Verstappen||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB14||1:22.058||+ 2.725||35|
|10.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13||1:22.134||+ 2.801||147|
|11.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||1:22.507||+ 3.174||49|
|12.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||1:22.789||+ 3.456||60|
|13.||Charles Leclerc||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||1:22.808||+ 3.475||59|
|14.||Marcus Ericsson||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||1:23.825||+ 4.492||79|
|15.||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||1:31.979||+ 12.646||47|
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team