For the first time since day one of the first Formula 1 winter test, Daniel Ricciardo and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing headed the timing screens, as times threatened to dip into the 1 minute 17 bracket.
Ricciardo’s time of a 1:18.047, set on the hyper-soft compound around lunchtime, broke Felipe Massa‘s ten year unofficial lap record and saw off the challenge of Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport with Lewis Hamilton just under four-tenths shy of Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas a further tenth away.
After electrical gremlins yesterday, the McLaren F1 Team and Fernando Alonso topped the morning session early on whilst utilising the hyper-soft tyres, setting a 1:19.856 – the Spaniard couldn’t beat that time for the rest of a day that saw an oil leak force McLaren to change the power unit. Alonso did venture back out on track in the afternoon in order to boost his lap count, but a troublesome start to the second test for McLaren will cause a few nerves.
Hamilton continued to set the pace on a range of different compounds, before finding his peak pace on the ultra-soft compound. His time at the top was short-lived, Ricciardo toppling him on his first set of hyper-softs; going faster still on a fresh set. With attentions turning to long runs in the afternoon session, the Australian was not moved.
Bottas took over from Hamilton in the afternoon, completing 82 laps, compared to Hamilton’s 90. The Finn was the quickest of the afternoon runners, but his 1:18.560 was not enough to get ahead of his team-mate.
Scuderia Ferrari decided against running on the softest compounds, with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen finishing the day in fourth and ninth respectively – both setting their best times on the soft compounds. After a steady start to his afternoon, Räikkönen managed just 47 laps, registering bottom on the lap counter.
Brendon Hartley and Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda had another impressive day. The New Zealander clocked 119 laps, setting a 1:19.823, good enough for fifth very late in the day – three-hundredths of a second faster than Alonso. However, the day was not without its flaws, Hartley spun at Turn 12 in the morning and briefly stopped at the end of the pitlane in the afternoon. Fortunately, the stoppage was not due to a lasting issue.
The Renault Sport Formula 1 Team clocked the most laps of any team, Carlos Sainz Jr. and Nico Hülkenberg‘s total equalling 190, split 102-88 in Hülkenberg’s favour. In terms of lap time Sainz came out on top, despite using the medium tyres, whilst Hülkenberg’s best time was set on the super-softs. The Spaniard’s 1:20.042 was seven-tenths better than the German’s effort. Pleased with their work, they packed up half-an-hour early, with special advisor Alain Prost monitoring Mercedes’s progress for the final moments of the session.
Like McLaren, Williams Martini Racing hit problems with Sergey Sirotkin. The Russian stopped in the pitlane, but the fault was determined to be a minor one. He returned to the track, but propped up the rest of the field with a 1:22.350. Meanwhile, Lance Stroll set the tenth fastest time of the day on soft tyres, about 1.8 seconds slower than the fastest soft tyre runner Vettel.
Esteban Ocon flirted with the top of the leaderboard early in the morning for the Sahara Force India F1 Team, however he ended the day in twelfth on soft tyres, completing 130 laps. Charles Leclerc managed the second most laps with 160 – five behind Ricciardo – setting his best time of a 1:20.918. Seventh to thirteenth were separated by just seven-tenths.
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