Racing Point’s Sergio Perez continued the squad’s strong start to Formula 1 testing by topping the morning session of the second day at Barcelona, while intrigue surrounded a Mercedes device.
Perez delivered a 1m17.347s on the medium, C3 tyre, and bagged 49 laps in the car that is being nicknamed the ‘Pink Mercedes’, owing to the likenesses in the car to the works Silver Arrows design.
With Racing Point’s likeness to Mercedes was already shaping up to be one of the stories of the first test, the increase in TV coverage at the test also revealed an intriguing device being used by the defending constructors’ champion.
Lewis Hamilton undertook the morning running, and onboard cameras – not previously used in testing – demonstrated a device where the six-time F1 champion pulled back on the steering wheel to seemingly adjust the toe angle of the wheels, helping to avoid scrubbing off straightline speed.
While the device was tested in anger, the Mercedes car was not – as Hamilton was only seventh fastest, one day after Valtteri Bottas had topped the overall times. However, Hamilton did rack up 106 laps, while the best tally from the previous morning was Max Verstappen’s 91.
Daniel Ricciardo was 0.402s adrift of Perez’s benchmark in a rollercoaster session for Renault. After the team’s afternoon programme started 90 minutes late on the opening day of testing, it was a further 30 minutes delayed on Thursday.
Despite setting the fastest time in the session at one point, with an hour and 23 minutes remaining in the session the team closed its garage doors. New rules dictate teams are only allowed to block the view of their car when the floor is off. Ricciardo managed 41 laps.
Getting his first proper taste of the new Red Bull after Verstappen had all of Wednesday’s running, Alex Albon started the day off in the garage, pointing to some discomfort in the area of his right shoulder caused by the cockpit.
Once that was sorted, Albon set the third fastest time. He was the highest driver in the order on the second-hardest C2 tyre, as Perez and Ricciardo delivered their laps on the medium C3.
Another driver getting off to a tricky start was Pierre Gasly, who spun early in the session at the fast Turn 9 right-hander – the same place he crashed for Red Bull last year – but went on to set the fourth fastest time for the rebranded Toro Rosso team, now AlphaTauri.
With track temperature starting at 10 degrees centigrade in stark contrast to the warm opening day of action, and providing limited grip as demonstrated by Gasly, many of the teams used the first part of the session for aerodynamic testing.
This was best demonstrated by George Russell, who managed to rack up over 20 ‘laps’ without actually completing any of them as he repeatedly returned to the pits.
However, once he did let the Williams loose in anger, he managed to get within a second of Perez’s lead time, 0.919s off in fifth overall. The 20 incomplete laps slightly distorted Russell’s total of 71.
Ferrari’s low-key start to testing continued as the team tries a new approach to its pre-season.
Charles Leclerc took the wheel in the morning in place of an ill Sebastian Vettel, who is expected to return to action in the afternoon. Leclerc ended the morning running with the sixth fastest time and 49 laps complete.
Behind Hamilton in seventh, Haas’s Romain Grosjean managed 87 laps, and headed Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen, both just over 1.1s adrift of Perez.
Rounding out the top 10 was Lando Norris.
After 64 laps and a fourth fastest time for Carlos Sainz Jr on the opening morning, Norris was 10th quickest, and a late long run boosted him to 48 laps for McLaren.