As emphasized in Tuesday’s Motorsport Tech Barcelona column, it is extremely difficult to read too much into pre-season testing times.
Hats off to Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat, though, who set some tongues wagging by posting the quickest time of the day. Yet the reality check of the situation is that the Russian’s time was on the softest of Pirelli compounds – known now as the C5 tyre. His 1m17.704s was good enough to dislodge Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo from the top spot, the Finn also on the C5 compound.
We know you shouldn't read too much into testing times, but it's always nice to see your name in P1!
— Toro Rosso (@ToroRosso) February 20, 2019
Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault was next, the Australian’s time set on the slightly softer C4 compound (as was 6th quickest teammate Nico Hulkenberg) as the rest of the other runners, with the exception of Pietro Fittipaldi’s Haas, went for the C3.
Therefore, Sebastian Vettel’s lap time is the one that stood out. The German managed a substantial 134 laps in finishing the day fourth quickest. But Ferrari have always been mighty in Barcelona prior to shipping out to Melbourne. Then, and only then, will we get the first true reflection of outright qualifying and race pace.
So what of their closest rivals Mercedes? Again, the Silver Arrows weren’t giving too much away as the team chose to split their track time between both drivers. Valtteri Bottas was only 11th quickest in the morning on the C3 compound after completing a full race distance but the exact programme of data gathering remains unclear, for obvious reasons.
— Valtteri Bottas (@ValtteriBottas) February 20, 2019
Reigning champion and title favorite Lewis Hamilton completed 94 laps on a prototype Pirelli tyre, which may help to explain his time deficit. Again, the times must be taken with a pinch of salt and the expression ‘lulling into a false sense of security’ could apply here for Mercedes.
Somewhat inevitably, the watching fans and media witnessed their fair share of yellow flags. Romain Grosjean twice ground to a halt in his Haas whilst McLaren’s Carlos Sainz found the gravel trap in the morning session, although he managed to keep his car going and make it back to the pits.
Having missed the opening two days of testing, it was with great relief to most fans of the sport that Williams took to the circuit with George Russell behind the wheel.
We made it! To all the team who slogged their guts out to get us here, thank you. It’s a privilege to be the first to represent your hard work on track 👊
(and it looks awesome out there too 😉) pic.twitter.com/vqNCQzmWXC
— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) February 20, 2019
“It was amazing to finally drive the FW42,” said Russell afterward. “Today we focused purely on install laps, shaking the car down and data gathering. Our focus was not on performance runs so I can’t judge the overall potential of the car, but I’m excited that we will get a full day of running tomorrow.”
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the team’s late appearance in Barcelona, the overwhelming vibe on social media was one of big love and support for one of the most popular teams in F1. And, as Russell quite rightly pointed out, data gathering is the name of the game during testing, and that’s exactly why Acronis is a proud partner of both Williams and Racing Point.
With a full day of running ahead and another four-day test session in Barcelona to go before the cars arrive in Melbourne, there is plenty of time to get things right before racing begins in anger.
— ROKiT WILLIAMS RACING (@WilliamsRacing) February 20, 2019
— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) February 20, 2019
Top image: George Russell of Williams Racing during the Day 3 of Formula One Testing in Barcelona, Spain. © Williams Racing Content Pool.