Sergey Sirotkin topped the timing sheets for current GP2 Series champions ART Grand Prix on the opening day of the first pre-season test at Circuit de Catalunya. The Russian driver was at the fastest of the day with a 1:29.072, which he had set in the morning session of day one – which happened to be the driest part of the day.
The session kicked off just moments after the track was opened, when rookie Philo Paz Armand made his way onto the circuit first before the rest of the pack quickly following. All cars set at least one instillation lap within the opening twenty minutes of the session, whilst William Buller set the early pace for Carlin when he set a time of 1:30.752. This time was soon bettered by Sean Gelael, who went to the top of the timing sheets when he set a 1:30.464.
Halfway through the session, the first red flag period came when Nabil Jeffri found himself hitting the tyre barrier and becoming stuck in the gravel at turn five. Only ten minutes after the track was made green, a second red flag came in the form of an MP Motorsport car, driven by Oliver Rowland. The British driver came to a halt at turn two.
It was Jordan King who became the first man to set a time under the 1m30s mark, however he was quickly nudged into second when New Zealand’s Mitch Evans found a little extra edge over the Racing Engineering driver. Thirty minutes before the chequered flag, Sirotkin shot to the top of the timing sheets with his impressive 1:29.072, whilst former DAMS teammates Pierre Gasly and Alex Lynn quietly slipped into second and third position. Norman Nato, Evans, King, Arthur Pic, rookie Antonio Giovinazzi, Gelael and Nobuharu Matsushita completed the top ten, leaving the top three unchallenged.
Afternoon conditions were damp, dark and gloomy for drivers but Gustav Malja had chosen to waste no time as the rookie became the first to get a taste of wet conditions. It was Luca Ghiotto however that set the quickest time in the opening hour, the GP3 Series graduate being the first to go under the 1m49s barrier. Gasly soon showed the new boys how it was done when he went 0.7s ahead of the Italian with a time of 1:48.683 in the PREMA car.
In the final hour, Gasly was first with a much quicker time of 1:45.559, the Frenchman being a whole 1.725s ahead of Japan’s Matsushita.
The circuit began to dry out and drivers, such as Raffaele Marciello, took full advantage of being able to get back on track with the quicker slick tyres attached to their car. Marciello went quickest, remaining at the top of the timing sheets until the end of the session with a comfortable time of 1:41.863. Nicholas Latifi, Ghiotto, Lynn, Malja, King, Sirotkin, Evans, Gasly and Rowland all completed the top ten at the end of the first day.
The second day of the first pre-season test will get under way at Circuit de Catalunya, 09.00am local time.