Barcelona day 2 – Mercedes not invincible as Hamilton breaks down on track

After four days of trouble-free testing, hot qualifying laps, cheeky tech innovations and cruising long runs, trouble finally struck for the seemingly invincible AMG Mercedes F1 team. Furthermore, shock, horror, it was Lewis Hamilton behind the wheel when the car ground to a halt.

The reigning world champion had completed just 14 laps of afternoon running when what his team described as an ‘oil pressure anomaly’ shut down the car’s Power Unit ‘as a precautionary measure’.

To rub salt into the wound, Hamilton’s arch-rival, Sebastian Vettel, topped the lap times with a 1m16.841s lap, albeit set on the softest and grippiest C5 compound Pirelli tyre.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the overwhelming bookies favourites for yet another team and driver double in 2020, Valtteri Bottas managing 47 laps on the C3 medium compound in the morning and ending up seventh fastest.

The problem will worry Mercedes, however, with only one day remaining of testing until the season kicks off in Melbourne. If such a situation had happened during a race, it most probably would have been game over, with no option to override the system.

And what of the others? Second quickest was Pierre Gasly in the striking-looking Alpha Tauri, proving the car may be as nippy as it is pretty, and the same may certainly be said of BWT Racing Point, Sergio Perez third on the timesheets in the pink Mercedes lookalike ahead of the impressive Nicholas Latifi, but notably the only driver in the top four on the medium C3 spec tyre.

Encouragingly for McLaren, Lando Norris clocked the next quickest lap but on the hard C3 rubber, ahead of Max Verstappen, who had an incident-packed session. Following his spin of Wednesday, the Dutchman again lost control twice on the familiar Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, raising concerns about the stability of the new Red Bull aerodynamic package, although he was quick to blame it on windy conditions and an unseen patch of water.

“I had my own little spin because I touched the damp patch on the track,” Verstappen told Sky Sports F1. “It’s very windy and all the cars are struggling in those conditions. I’m very happy, but there are always things to improve.”

Following Bottas, Esteban Ocon was next on the charts for Renault on the soft C4s, ahead of Kevin Magnussen (C3), Alexander Albon (C2), Daniel Ricciardo (C3) and Antonio Giovinazzi, also on the medium C3 tyre.

Testing concludes on Friday before the teams fly out to Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix from March 13-15.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.