Barcelona test: Lotus set fastest time of the week as McLaren come unstuck again
MP4-30 suffers a repeat of Thursday's MGU-K failure; McLaren has recorded less than half as many laps as all the other 2015 cars so far; Vettel and Hamilton enjoy another extended run
By Pete Gill and William Esler at Barcelona
Last Updated: 16/03/15 2:28pm
Pastor Maldonado and Lotus set the fastest time of the Barcelona test so far as McLaren-Honda ran into yet more problems on day three at the Circuit de Catalunya.
While Lotus’ lofty position in the timesheets should be treated with caution, not least because Maldonado’s benchmark lap of 1:24.438 was set on the grippy but brittle supersoft tyres, their new car appears to be a vast improvement on last year’s following a switch to Mercedes power over the winter. At last season's Spanish GP, Lotus’ fastest lap in qualifying was only a shade under 1:27.
"There is a clear improvement," Maldonado told Sky Sports News HQ. "It’s early days but we are learning a lot and we are having positive days. The driveability is quite surprising."
But McLaren continue to take one step forwards and two back with the fragile MP4-30 and finished bottom of the timesheets after another problematic day.
A complete loss of power brought their new Honda-powered car to a halt on track after just 90 minutes, with the newly-arrived 'fix' for the broken MGU-K which restricted Jenson Button to just a handful of laps on Thursday instantly failing its first test. A new component – the third the team will have used this weekend – will be applied for Sunday but time is already running out on McLaren with the new season just three weeks away.
“We are not in for another tough season – that is definitely not the case – but whether we are ready for the first race or not I can’t say right now. This is a very different situation to the last two years – the last two years we just weren’t quick enough, whereas now this is all very new for us," a defiant Button afterwards.
With the exception of Force India, who will only introduce their new car at next week’s third and final winter test at Barcelona, every other team in the field has completed in excess of twice as many laps as McLaren so far. Mercedes, in the mileage machine that is the seemingly-bulletproof W06, have racked up more than 800 laps, four times the MP4-30’s paltry count.
Almost to add insult to injury as Button idled in his former team's garage, Lewis Hamilton, running conservatively on the medium compounds, registered another 101 laps, reaching his century milestone in the final minute of the session. What McLaren would give for some of that mileage.
Hamilton's fellow-centurion Sebastian Vettel was even more prolific. Despite the embarrassment of sliding off on a damp track in the first minute of the session, the Ferrari driver completed 105 on his return behind the wheel of the SF15-T.
"There is still a long way to go and Mercedes are still the team to beat," Vettel said. "The most important thing is that the car continues to run without any big problems. There are some little bits here and there that we need to work on, but it is about understanding the car and making the right adjustments for the final test and Melbourne.”
For the second day in succession, Red Bull recorded a full race simulation as Daniil Kvyat picked up the long-distance running baton from Daniel Ricciardo in a car which will be heavily revised for the season-opening Australian GP.
Max Verstappen also impressed. Not only did the 17-year-old complete the most number of laps - 129 - of any driver, he also set the day's second fastest lap when also running on the supersofts. After nominally out-pacing team-mate Carlos Sainz by almost a second in Jerez, Verstappen's lap of 1:24.739 represented a four-second improvement on the Spaniard's best effort on Friday.
The team's only setback was when the STR10 stopped in the pitlane exit road with 20 minutes of the day to run, although both driver and team had by far enough mileage in the bank by then.
Barcelona Day Three timesheet
1. Maldonado, Lotus, 1:24.348, 104 laps
2. Verstappen, Toro Rosso, 1:24.739, 129 laps
3. Hamilton, Mercedes. 1:26.076, 101 laps
4. Ericsson, Sauber, 1:26.340, 53 laps
5. Vettel, Ferrari, 1:26.407, 105 laps
6. Kvyat, Red Bull, 1:26.589, 112 laps
7. Massa, Williams, 1:26.912, 55 laps
8. Wehrlein, Force India, 1:27.333, 81 laps
9. Bottas, Williams, 1:27.556, 49 laps
10. Button, McLaren, 1:29.151, 24 laps
Fastest times at Barcelona so far
1.Maldonado, Lotus, 1:24.348, Supersofts, Day Three
2. Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:24.574, Softs, Day Two
3. Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:24.584, Softs, Day Two
4. Massa, Williams, 1:24.672, Softs, Day Two
5. Perez, Force India, 1:24.702, Supersofts, Day Two, 2014 car
6. Verstappen, Toro Rosso, 1:24.739, Supersofts, Day Three
7. Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:24.923, Mediums, Day Two
8. Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:25.556, Mediums, Day Two