Sebastian Vettel took advantage of the soft compound Pirelli tires during is afternoon run on a freezing day to record the fastest time in Day No. 2 of the Pre-Formula 1 test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Tuesday (Feb. 27) in Spain.
The four-time World Champion lapped the 2.892-mile road course in a time of 79.673 seconds (130.674 mph), which was three-tenths of a second faster than Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas. Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne took his McLaren-Renault to third fastest of the day, despite staying in the garage due to an overheating exhaust system. As a result of the issues and using the the new Hypersoft tires, Vandoorne only drove 37 laps for the entire day.
The morning hours did not see too many drivers come out onto the circuit, as teams recognized that they did not want to risk their tire wear in such cold temperatures, with even signs of a dusting of snow. Only after the lunch break did the sun finally appear, clearing things up for the drivers to get back onto the track in reasonable temperatures.
Max Verstappen, with his fans in the stands, took to the track, but only could complete three laps in the morning, due to an oil leak. The Dutchman came back in the afternoon and finished fourth, just one-thousandth of a second slower than Vandoorne.
Both Charles Leclerc and Vettel spun off the track in the afternoon at turns 4 and 2, respectively, producing the only red flags so far in the test. Robert Kubica also got his chance to participate in his first real drive in years, and along with his supporters, drove his Williams to seventh place.
American team Haas F1 used Magnussen for the day, and the Dane had a horrible time, nearly striking the barriers at turn 4, and conducting limited mileage that he could not change until the team made limited modifications to the car.
“I was going 22 seconds slower than the fastest car at that point, and we weren’t setting the car up for those conditions, so you need to allow heat from the brakes into the rims to have a chance of getting heat into the tires in these conditions and we didn’t do that,” Magnussen told ESPN UK. “So, we were expecting to survive without cutting in the brake drums, but eventually we realized there was no chance, we needed to modify it to get some heat, and then it was fine. But that run was worse than being in the wet on slicks, it was worse than that! It was on an out lap and I couldn’t stay on track, so not ideal.”
Vettel was very pleased about his run, but did not appreciate the weather, especially in the morning, which limited his testing abilities.
“It’s cold. It’s very cold,” Vettel said. “So I think the most important thing if you look at the table we did nearly 100 laps. Considering that it was snowing also at the end of the day it’s OK.
It’s very difficult to get the tires to work and I think everybody is having the same issues. It’s only three or four degrees [Celsius] and the asphalt is 10 degrees, so it’s very, very cold. Not the conditions that we normally run. I think the car is working, we didn’t have any problems reliability-wise.
“Have we made a step forward in terms of performance? I don’t know yet but in terms of general operation it’s been very smooth so it’s good to come here, switch on the car and be able to run. The limiting factor was the weather.”
Testing resumes for the third day on Wednesday, but the forecast currently calls for a mix of rain and snow. However, only there is a possibility for clear weather on the final test day this week on Thursday, so the drivers are hoping for that.