MONTMELO, Spain — McLaren started the second week of Formula One’s pre-season testing with the fastest time, after Lando Norris set a 1:17.709 in the final hour of the afternoon session.
The time was 0.4s shy of the best lap from last week’s test and put McLaren at the top of the timesheets for the first time this year. It coincided with McLaren’s former driver Fernando Alonso visiting the paddock for the first time since he walked away from F1 last year.
Norris set the time on the C4 tyre — the second softest compound in Pirelli’s range — compared to the C5 used for the fastest Nico Hulkenberg’s fastest time last week. The lap moved Norris 0.006s ahead of Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly, although the RB15 set its time on the harder C3 tyres.
Shortly after setting the time, Norris stopped on track between Turns 2 and 3, resulting in the third red flag of the day. One of the earlier red flags was also caused by Norris when his car lost hydraulic pressure at Turn 3 and the other was caused by Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes stopping on track with a loss of oil pressure, which resulted in a lengthily engine change and limited the Finn to just a handful in the afternoon.
It was another underwhelming day for Mercedes despite a new aerodynamic package arriving at the track on Tuesday morning. The updates feature changes to the nose, front wing, barge boards and sidepods that the team hopes will close the gap to Ferrari from the first week. Lewis Hamilton completed 80 laps in the morning without issue but the problem in the afternoon occurred on Bottas’ second lap out of the pits and cost him somewhere in the region of 70 laps of running. He went on to complete seven laps in total, including a 1:20.167, which moved him ahead of Hamilton and up to 11th overall.
Ferrari also suffered its first major stoppage of testing after checks to the cooling system in the morning limited Charles Leclerc to 29 laps. Sebastian Vettel added another 81 laps in the afternoon without any major issues, setting the fourth fastest time overall while running the C3 compound tyre.
Vettel set his fastest lap at roughly the same time of day as Gasly in the Red Bull, but despite setting the time on the same compound over similar length runs, the objectives of the two teams appeared to be different. Gasly’s 1:17.715 is the fastest lap we’ve seen on the C3s during pre-season and came on a short five-lap run that alternated between push laps and cooldown laps, similar to a qualifying run. Vettel was also on the C3s for a five-lap run but set his 1:17.925 on his first flying lap before going on to complete a further three laps, all within a tenth of each other in the low 1:20s. The lack of cooldown laps in between suggests there is more to come from the Ferrari, but for now Vettel’s time remains its fastest of the two tests.
Alfa Romeo, Toro Rosso and Haas all set times in the 1:18s on the C4 compound, while Renault appeared to focus on heavy fuel runs again with times in the 1:20s — nearly three seconds off their fastest lap from week one. George Russell clocked a 1:19.662 — the fastest the Williams has gone since it hit the track last Wednesday — and completed 119 laps in total.
“It feels like a proper day one for us really,” Russell said. “Great to get some laps on the car, just understand a bit of low fuel, high fuel, what the car’s doing, and gives us an indication of what to do the rest of the week.
“It certainly hasn’t made up for last week as everybody else at this stage is fine tuning the balance whereas we’re needing to understand the car, but I feel we’re at a good spot, the car isn’t in the perfect window right now but I feel like it’s definitely got the potential and we’ve still got three days ahead of us to do that.”
Testing continues for the rest of the week before teams finalise their packages for the opening race of the season in Australia next month.
Times at close
1. Norris, McLaren, 1:17.709, 80 laps (C4)
2. Gasly, Red Bull, 1:17.715, 136 laps (C3)
3. Stroll, Racing Point, 1:17.824, 82 laps (C5)
4. Vettel, Ferrari, 1:17.925, 81 laps (C3)
5. Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, 1:18.589, 99 laps (C4)
6. Albon, Toro Rosso, 1:18.649, 103 laps (C4)
7. Leclerc, Ferrari, 1:18.651, 29 laps (C3)
8. Magnussen, Haas, 1:18.769, 131 laps (C4)
9. Russell, Williams, 1:19.662, 119 laps (C5)
10. Ricciardo, Renault, 1:20.107, 77 laps (C3)
11. Bottas, Mercedes, 1:20.167, 7 laps (C2)
12. Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:20.332, 83 laps (C2)
13. Hulkenberg,Renault, 1:20.348, 80 laps (C3)
(Tyre compounds in brackets C1-C5, hardest to softest)