Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time of the second day of Formula 1 testing at Barcelona with a late flurry of laps, usurping morning leader Sergio Perez of Racing Point.
Although the morning action didn’t lend itself to as many rapid times than the opening day on Wednesday as a result of low temperatures, Thursday afternoon was warmer and the teams made the most of the conditions by netting longer runs.
Raikkonen had languished well down the order, second to last in the morning session, but a switch to the second softest Pirelli tyre, the C4, yielded a jump up the order with just over an hour of running to go when he took second.
Just 15 minutes later, Raikkonen set a 1m17.091s, 0.256s quicker than Perez and the second fastest time of the test so far behind Lewis Hamilton’s Wednesday table topper.
Despite pipping Perez, it wasn’t the perfect session for Raikkonen as he exceeded his car’s limits at the chicane in the last sector earlier in the afternoon. With 16 minutes to go, he then pulled off the circuit on the run to Turn 9 to bring out the first red flag of testing, unable to change gear.
Romain Grosjean had come close to causing that first red flag when he touched the wall at Turn 5 – also in the last hour of running – after seemingly being too enthusiastic with the throttle on the corner exit.
Before Grosjean’s crash, he suffered from understeer and set the 11th fastest time. However, he still bagged the most number of laps in the session with 158.
Joining Raikkonen in spinning during the session was the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, who then went on to conduct a stint just short of the length of the Spanish Grand Prix, his best lap quick enough for 13th and last overall.
However Bottas, like Grosjean, ended his session early.
After Mercedes racked up 183 laps altogether, the team cleared the pitwall and ended the day early with just over an hour to go with an electrical issue. Bottas managed 77 laps compared to Hamilton’s 106 in the morning.
The squad had provided the storyline of the day with its ‘DAS’ movable steering wheel, which appears to alter the toe of its car to prevent tyre wear.
Esteban Ocon took over the Renault for the afternoon session, although his bid to improve on Daniel Ricciardo’s benchmark was delayed as the team was late to start the afternoon running due to suspected kerb damage sustained earlier on.
Ricciardo’s time held third overall in the order as the session expired, behind Raikkonen and Perez. Ocon had to settle for 12th, bagging 52 laps, compared to Ricciardo’s 41.
Another team late to start the afternoon was Red Bull. Its car impressed The Race’s Gary Anderson through the first sector, and Alex Albon held the fifth fastest time of the day while bagging even more tours in the afternoon, albeit 34 laps shy of team-mate Max Verstappen’s benchmark on Wednesday.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly started the day with a spin but ended the running with the fifth fastest time and the second most number of laps completed behind Grosjean.
There was a surprising battle in the order as Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and George Russell’s Williams swapped times through the afternoon.
Vettel took over in the afternoon from Charles Leclerc after missing the last day and half through illness, and he eventually usurped Russell for sixth in the last hour wearing the C4 soft tyre, one softer than Russell’s medium C3s.
Leclerc and Hamilton’s morning times stood as they took eighth and ninth, ahead of Lando Norris who also settled for an afternoon of long runs with 137 tours completed.
Grosjean, Ocon and Bottas rounded out the order.