F1 Testing: Max Verstappen sets Barcelona pace for Red Bull
Red Bull driver clocks nearly 150 laps to pip Renault's Sainz to the quickest day one time; Ferrari search for answers as Mercedes test new rain lights; Five British drivers in action
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 17/05/18 11:12am
Max Verstappen set the pace for Red Bull on an opening day of impressive long-running by F1's teams at the Barcelona test.
Tuesday's running was the first time since the end of winter testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in early March that teams had a chance to test their cars on track away from a race weekend, with just three more such days to follow this year - the second of them on Wednesday.
And, fresh from his first podium finish of an initially troubled 2018 at last weekend's Spanish GP, Verstappen clocked the fastest day one time with a late-day lap of 1:17.528 as the RB14 racked up 148 laps.
Although the Dutchman used the quickest F1 tyre compound, the hypersoft, lap times were still more than a second slower than Lewis Hamilton's pole position from last Saturday as teams worked to understand tyres, evaluate development parts and, in some cases, test rookie drivers.
"Today was about gaining even more understanding of the car and tyres," said Verstappen. "We completed more than the programme we set out, so it was very good."
Verstappen pipped his former team-mate Carlos Sainz to the quickest time, with the Renault also moving up the order in the afternoon session to finish just 0.034s adrift of the Red Bull. The Spaniard also topped 100 laps.
The year's first in-season test comes at a particularly useful time for Ferrari, with the team keen to understand why their car performed below expectations at last weekend's race.
Sebastian Vettel was back in the SF71-H and clocked 136 laps on the way to third place, just a tenth slower than Verstappen despite setting his lap on the soft compound.
"We learned various things on how to work on track like this one," explained Vettel. "We know we have a strong car."
The German also insisted that parts tested on the car were not purely for the next race in Monaco, adding: "That race is too much of a one-off. Let's say we got some ideas and now we have to turn them into reality."
Ferrari's Twitter account confirmed the team used both types of Pirelli tyre configuration seen so far this season - the tyres with the thinner tread debuted at last weekend's race, and which will be used again at the French and British GPs, and the original tyres used at the first four races and at 14 more this season.
The SF71-H also continued to feature the halo-mounted wing-mirror arrangement and controversial winglet which the FIA has outlawed for the next race in Monaco.
Meanwhile, the one visual development of note featured on Hamilton's Mercedes as the Spanish GP victors and championship leaders trialled new rain lights on the W09's rear-wing endplates.
Hamilton was only sixth quickest on this occasion but racked up 151 laps as he continues to get on top of his 2018 challenger. He was one second off the pace but used a compound, the mediums, four grades harder than Verstappen's hypersofts.
"We did 151 laps which is a good sign of reliability," said the championship leader. "I'm looking forward to Monaco; hopefully we can take some of the things we've learned onto there."
The under-pressure Romain Grosjean had pipped Hamilton to the fastest time of the morning by 0.094s thanks to a best effort of 1:18.449, although he slipped to fourth in the afternoon after failing to improve his time.
Grosjean, one of two drivers yet to score a point this season, returned to the track two days on from triggering the lap-one melee which wiped out two other cars and earned him a three-place grid penalty for Monaco.
F1 rules dictate that two of the four in-season test days must be given over to drivers with fewer than three grand prix starts and so this week's line-up at the Circuit de Catalunya features a mix of youth and experience.
McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne was the other race driver in Tuesday's field and completed 85 laps, with the seventh-quickest time.
McLaren and Force India are the only teams permitted to field two cars at the test, with one apiece specifically being used for Pirelli tyre testing.
Mercedes junior and F2 front-runner George Russell carried out this role for Force India on Tuesday and completed 123 laps, while fellow Britons Lando Norris and Oliver Turvey shared the same tyre duties in the second McLaren.
Norris, the F2 championship leader, was in the second MCL33 during the morning and notched up 76 laps, with more experienced McLaren tester Turvey then adding 58 more in the afternoon.
Former F2 driver Oliver Rowland enjoyed a productive test debut with Williams and completed 121 laps in a FW41 car that has proved challenging to tame for drivers so far this season. Although fuel loads and car settings are unknown, and conditions are different, the Briton's best lap of 1:20.009 was encouragingly within 0.4s of Williams' qualifying best at the circuit at the weekend.
However, Rowland's time came on the hypersofts, a compound not available at the race weekend.
In total, five British drivers took to the track on Tuesday. Another two, Red Bull simulator driver Jake Dennis and British-Korean Jack Aitken for Renault, make their debuts on day two.
Teams have already completed eight days of winter testing at the Circuit de Catalunya this year during February and March. The second in-season test takes place at the Hungaroring following the Hungarian GP in late July immediately before F1's summer break.
Barcelona Test, Day One Timesheet
|1. Max Verstappen||Red Bull||148||1:17.528||Hypersofts|
|2. Carlos Sainz||Renault||119||1:17.562||Hypersofts|
|3. Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||136||1:17.659||Softs|
|4. Romain Grosjean||Haas||129||1:18.449||Hypersofts|
|5. Nicholas Latifi||Force India||107||1:18.530||Hypersofts|
|6. Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||151||1:18.543||Mediums|
|7. Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren||85||1:18.981||Supersofts|
|8. Antonio Giovinazzi||Sauber||135||1:19.693||Hypersofts|
|9. Oliver Rowland||Williams||121||1:20.009||Hypersofts|
|10. Lando Norris||McLaren/Pirelli||76||1:20.997||Prototypes|
|11. George Russell||Force India/Pirelli||123||1:21.478||Prototypes|
|12. Sean Gelael||Toro Rosso||50||1:21.935||Softs|
|13. Oliver Turvey||McLaren/Pirelli||58||1:23.070||Prototypes|
Barcelona Test driver line-ups
|Wednesday, May 16|
|Red Bull||Jake Dennis|
|McLaren Pirelli tyre test||Stoffel Vandoorne|
|Force India||Nikita Mazepin|
|Force India Pirelli tyre test||Nicholas Latifi|
|Toro Rosso||Pierre Gasly|
See the final word on all the Spanish GP action and latest F1 talking points on the next edition of the F1 Report! Make a date with Sky Sports F1 on Wednesday at 8.30pm when the guests are former Ferrari and McLaren engineer Pat Fry and technical analyst Craig Scarborough Get Sky Sports F1.