F1 Testing: Max Verstappen sets Barcelona pace for Red Bull

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 which comes 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.

Lap times, however, were more than a second slower than Lewis Hamilton’s pole position from last Saturday as teams worked to understand tyres, development parts and, in some cases, test young drivers.

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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, a tenth slower than Verstappen.

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 used 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 Lewis 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.

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 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 the next race in 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 drivers 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, 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 completed 76 laps, with more experienced McLaren tester Turvey 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.

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.

Ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, watch Martin Brundle's alternative gridwalk on the city street of Barcelona

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 Driver Team Laps Fastest Lap 1. Max Verstappen Red Bull 148 1:17.528 2. Carlos Sainz Renault 119 1:17.562 3. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 136 1:17.659 4. Romain Grosjean Haas 129 1:18.449 6. Nicholas Latifi Force India 107 1:18.530 6. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 151 1:18.543 7. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 85 1:18.981 8. Antonio Giovinazzi Sauber 135 1:19.693 9. Oliver Rowland Williams 121 1:20.009 10. Lando Norris McLaren/Pirelli 76 1:20.997 11. George Russell Force India/Pirelli 123 1:21.478 12. Sean Gelael Toro Rosso 50 1:21.935 13. Oliver Turvey McLaren/Pirelli 58 1:23.070 Barcelona Test driver line-ups Tuesday, May 15 Wednesday, May 16 Mercedes Lewis Hamilton Valtteri Bottas Ferrari Sebastian Vettel Antonio Giovinazzi Red Bull Max Verstappen Jake Dennis Renault Carlos Sainz Jack Aitken McLaren Stoffel Vandoorne Lando Norris McLaren Pirelli tyre test Lando Norris/Oliver Turvey Stoffel Vandoorne Haas Romain Grosjean TBC Force India Nicholas Latifi Nikita Mazepin Force India Pirelli tyre test George Russell Nicholas Latifi Toro Rosso Sean Gelael Pierre Gasly Sauber Antonio Giovinazzi Charles Leclerc Williams Oliver Rowland Robert Kubica

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.