Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel hit the front on Day Two of the Barcelona test as F1’s two biggest teams put their first stamp on a 2018 timesheet.
Ferrari and Mercedes completed the most laps and became the first teams this winter to lap the Circuit de Catalunya in under 80 seconds, with Vettel finishing 0.3s ahead of Valtteri Bottas on faster tyres.
“The car is working and we didn’t have any problem reliability wise,” Vettel said. “Everything is making sense. It seems we have made a step forward. I don’t know about performance, but with the general operation everything is really smooth.”
But the weather was again a dominant talking point at the Circuit de Catalunya as freezing morning temperatures were followed by a late-afternoon snow flurry as ‘winter’ testing truly lived up to its name.
McLaren finished a promising third on their second day with Renault engines after Stoffel Vandoorne lapped the circuit quicker than the team ever managed in three years with Honda.
However, the lap was flattered by Vandoorne’s use of the new-for-2018 hypersoft tyre, the quickest compound in Pirelli’s expanded range. Vandoorne was 0.6s behind Vettel but used a compound three steps softer.
The team also missed the majority of the afternoon’s running due to ‘a small exhaust clip break’, leaving Vandoorne on 37 laps.
The setback leaves McLaren with the fewest completed laps of any team so far.
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Day One pacesetters Red Bull slipped to fourth and ran into their first reliability problems with the RB14. A fuel leak restricted Max Verstappen to one lap in the session’s opening three hours but a trouble-free afternoon saw the team recover much of their programme. Verstappen finished within 0.001s of the similarly Renault-engined McLaren on harder tyres.
“Warming-up the tyres was difficult, because it was very cold. But the first impression of the RB14 is good,” Verstappen said.
Robert Kubica, Williams’ new reserve driver, appeared in his first pre-season test since 2011 and during his 39-lap afternoon run clocked a faster time than the man who beat him to a race seat at the team, Sergey Sirotkin.
However, fuel and car settings are unknown.
“Difficult conditions and difficult afternoon but we’ve done most of what we could,” Kubica told Sky F1. “It’s good to be in the car and good to have feeling and it gives me a better idea and our engineering team what to address.
“Some very positive things in this car but also things we have to get on tip of, which is normal. It’s quite a difficult approach to last year.”
Sauber rookie Charles Leclerc was the only driver to stop on track, with the F2 champion spinning into the gravel at Turn Four.
But the youngster recovered to complete 81 laps and set the team’s best time of the test so far.
Ferrari and Mercedes set the benchmark
Day Two represented Vettel’s first official outing in Ferrari’s sleek new SF71-H and, after a quiet start, last season’s championship runner-up blew the cobwebs off with some quick laps early into the afternoon as track conditions improved.
Using the soft tyre, Vettel became the first driver to lap below 1:20 and then on his next flying lap clocked a 1:19.673, half a second faster than Ricciardo’s Day One pace.
“We did nearly 100 laps, considering it was snowing also it was ok,” he told Sky Sports in Italy. “But it’s very difficult to get tyres to work. Everyone is struggling. It’s only three or four degrees and asphalt is 10.
“You look at the others, you compare a bit, but we should not get into detail too much because it’s pointless. The next two days aren’t going to be much better, next week we should know more.”
Mercedes responded to Ferrari’s fast pace with Bottas also breaking into the 1:19s despite using the slower medium compound on his W09.
Bottas had only been due to run until lunch before handing over to Lewis Hamilton but Mercedes kept the Finn in the car all day so they did not lose time making a driver change while weather conditions were at their best.
Hamilton, who only completed 25 laps in drizzly conditions on Monday, is expected to be back in the car on Wednesday.
Barcelona Test One, Day Two Timesheet Driver Team Laps Tyre Fastest Time Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 98 Softs 1:19.673 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 94 Mediums 1:19.976 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 37 Hypersofts 1:20.325 Max Verstappen Red Bull 67 Mediums 1:20.326 Carlos Sainz Renault 65 Softs 1:21.212 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 82 Softs 1:21.318 Robert Kubica Williams 48 Softs 1:21.495 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 52 Softs 1:21.822 Esteban Ocon Force India 79 Softs 1:21.841 Charles Leclerc Sauber 81 Softs 1:22.721 Kevin Magnussen Haas 36 Softs 1:22.727
The Sky Sports F1 Digital team will be providing live commentary from dawn until dusk for all days of winter testing while Sky Sports News will also deliver live updates from trackside.