After a snow and rain filled washout on day 3 everyone had high hopes for today’s running with promising weather forecasts meaning the teams could start to push their cars to the limits. At 8:00am this morning after the fog had lifted a warm but damp track remained allowing all teams out for installation laps within the first hour of the test. It was wet tyres all round in the morning session but as we approached midday dry tyres were bolted on and times began to tumble.
The word ominous is usually used once Mercedes start to show what they can do and this year is no different. Hamilton made another short appearance and blew the field away with a 1m19.333s on the medium compound. That was over half a second quicker than Vettel’s fastest time over the 4 days which came on the soft compound. Of course we don’t know fuel loads and set ups but the fastest time of the test so far coming on the medium tyre is very ominous indeed.
Ferrari still might have something up their sleeve and they should have a lot more time to showcase it next week. Vettel completed 120 laps today, finishing 3rd on the timesheets. I’m sure the focus was on getting as much mileage as possible and the team will have learnt a lot going into the second test.
Sandwiched in-between Hamilton and Vettel was the McLaren of Vandoorne. They are still the only team to use the hypersoft tyre so it’s hard to judge just how good the lap is until other teams start to use the same compound. Vandoorne completed 110 laps before handing over to Alonso who added another 51, rounding off a very productive day for McLaren.
Sadly Red bull have had an up and down week, following a promising start on Monday the team have been hampered by more than just the weather. Verstappen only ran 18 laps in the morning session as they apparently did some comparative tests on different front wings, and then span out into the gravel in the afternoon limiting them to 35 laps on what should have been the most productive day.
On the other hand, Magnussen completed 96 laps for Haas and finished 4th fastest in what was the first positive day for the team. After an inconspicuous few days Haas have now thrust themselves into the limelight for the first time this season.
Marcus Ericsson and Charles Leclerc shared the C37 today and got some much needed laps but a few trips on the recovery truck for Sauber could be a cause for concern. The back of the car seems to have a mind of its own and they will be hopeful that 4 full days next week will help them straighten it out.
Renault and Williams both completed over 100 laps each to collect some much needed data before the second test next week. Force India on the other hand are still struggling to impress during pre-season and I can only hope they resolve their off track issues so they can focus on the task at hand and live up to their impressive first year in pink.
Finally Pierre Gasly in the Toro Rosso racked up 147 laps on day 4 alone. That’s impressive for any driver and is equal to over two full Spanish Grand Prix distances. The Honda engine has shattered any early worries and has become a potential challenger to the Renault engine.
Overall a disrupted 4 days has left us more confused now than when we started on Monday but I can’t wait for it all to begin again on Tuesday in what will hopefully be 4 days of sunshine and speed.