Daniel Ricciardo proved that his Renault-powered car just might do something big this season, as the Australian topped the time sheets on the first day of Formula 1 pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Montmelo, Spain on Monday (Feb. 26).
Ricciardo’s best lap was 80.179 seconds (129.849 mph) in his Red Bull, which for the better part of the 105 laps that he did was 0.170 seconds clear of second-place Mercedes driver, Valterri Bottas. Bottas’ countryman, Kimi Raikkonen, took the third best time, 0.327 seconds off the pace of Ricciardo. All three of the drivers mentioned were utilizing the medium compound tire that was provided by Pirelli, along with the fact that the circuit was relatively warm before the lunch break, when a cold front moved in, dropping temperatures to 41 degrees Fahrenheit in the last two hours of the test.
The real excitement came for the day courtesy of Fernando Alonso, who was hoping to get things started, following three seasons of having struggles with Honda-powered engines and his first year with a Renault engine. But the Spaniard was a victim of a loose wheel nut, which could have been the fault of one of the mechanics. On his seventh lap, Alonso suddenly lost his right rear wheel in the final corner, shifting Alonso into the gravel. Despite the setback, Alonso was able to slowly move back into the garage, and the McLaren team spent three hours looking into the problem before Alonso returned to the track to complete another 41 laps without any incident. Alonso would eventually turn in the seventh-best time of the day at 82.534 seconds (126.144 mph).
In the garage, team manager Eric Boullier knew exactly what the issue was, but when interviewed by ESPN F1, he knew that is looked obvious.
“The wheel nut issue was just a wheel nut issue, so I am not going to comment,” he commented. “You know what it is. You lose a wheel nut and you lose a wheel, and that’s it.”
All eyes were also on the Toro Rosso entries that were equipped with Honda engines. Brendon Hartley was the only driver out on the track for the team and finished in eighth, a quite reasonable impression since the New Zealander had not driven the car before with the Japanese engine.
For most of the PM drivers, the bad weather did not improve their times, especially Renault’s Carlos Sainz and current world champion Lewis Hamilton. Both drivers finished the day in fifth and sixth positions, respectively. For Haas F1, Romain Grosjean was the only driver out testing for the American team; the Frenchman took the 10th best time of 1:22:578 for 55 laps.
The second day of the three-day test will continue tomorrow, weather permitting.
PRE-SEASON FORMULA ONE TEST
Day One- At the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Montmelo, Spain
Final test results
1 Daniel Rcciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing -1:20:179—102 laps
2 Valterri Bottas (FIN) AMG Mercedes- 1:20:349- 58 laps
3 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari- 1:20:506—80 laps
4 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault- 1:20:547- 73 laps
5 Carlos Sainz (SPA) Renault- 1:22:168
6 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) AMG Mercedes- 1:22:327- PM
7 Fernando Alonso (SPA) McLaren-1:22:534- 48 laps
8 Brendon Hartley (NZL) Toro Rosso- 1:22:371- 93 laps
9 Lance Stroll (CDN) Williams Martini Racing- 1:22:452- 46 laps- AM
10 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Haas F1 Team-1:22:578-55 laps
11 Marcus Ericsson (SWE) Alfa Romeo Sauber- 1:23:408-63 laps
12 Nikita Mazepin (RUS) Force India- 1:25:628-22 laps
13 Sergey Sirotkin ((RUS) Williams Martini Racing- 1:44:148
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