Daniil Kvyat: a rise from the ashes

Russia, 2016. The third running of Sochi’s very own Grand Prix. This article doesn’t begin there, nor does it click into gear a race prior, when Shanghai played ringmaster. You’d be expecting those, given the point of discussion. The destination, for those wondering, is actually the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. Mexico, 2015.

If Red Bull’s junior academy is the seeding bed, and Toro Rosso the tomato plant, then Daniil Kvyat’s career path was one of the fruit being picked, placed in a bag and chopped up for the salad bowl a little earlier than the gardener would have liked. Not that it was apparent in this race – the Russian was ripe, for both a second career podium and a mission statement for next year, first sentence: ‘I’m the boss now’.

As it turned out, after a mid-race safety car restart, Kvyat would be nailed on the entry to Turn 1 by Valtteri Bottas’ Williams. The taste of champagne trickled away, replaced by his inner choice words, and so did the opportunity to prove he didn’t need a whirlwind of madness to clear his route to a rostrum. I’ve not just harked back to this race to avoid treading down a popular path, dissecting those moments – I’ve done it to pinpoint where Kvyat really began his fall.

Kvyat’s career (arguably, given his opportunism the next year in China) never reached those heady heights again. It was the last time he was placed atop F1’s ‘next best thing’ shrine, the last time he was hailed as the clean-cut superstar about to take a top team by the scruff of the neck. The last two races of his 2015 season weren’t alarming, but left much to be desired, and then came the intense beatdown he received at the hands of Daniel Ricciardo in 2016’s first four races.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

And we all know how the story goes from here. From edging his teammate, a star burning ever so bright in himself, to a path towards humiliation, Kvyat was javelin-launched out of the Red Bull first team for their next pack of motorsport chewing gum, Max Verstappen. While his 18-year old successor held aloft the winner’s trophy in his very first race, Kvyat was given a rude awakening by his new partner Carlos Sainz.

His stint at Toro Rosso was painful for us all, but especially so for him. His interview after qualifying at the 2016 German Grand Prix symbolised the most desolate side of Formula One, that of a man fighting not only 22 drivers but his own mental health. And after a 2017 season littered with mistakes, culminating in a crash in Singapore while Sainz romped home to 4th and more ‘Vamos!’ than a Peruvian football stand, Kvyat was dropped. A superb cameo in the US, earning a point for 10th, couldn’t save him. And that, looked like that.

But amazingly, given the cascade of humiliation he was made to endure in his unconventional F1 career, Kvyat didn’t let that weekend in Texas be the end of it. A year as development driver under the tutelage of Ferrari allowed him to take reprieve from the right-at-you cannon fire of a 21 race season, every Grand Prix spent under the sea of microphones, cameras and expectations.

And it’s done him the world of good. When Kvyat was announced for a return to Toro Rosso in September – a move borne out of necessity given how sparse the Red Bull academy was at the time – to replace the man who ironically replaced him to begin with, Pierre Gasly, I’m sure we all feared the worst. Like the close friend who picks up the phone to a toxic remnant of the past, we wanted to tell him no. Don’t do it. They’ll only hurt you again. But from where I’m standing, five races in and a slew of European races still in the distance as blank canvases, Toro Rosso have sent him on his way with paintbrushes in his hand, art on his mind and hope in his heart.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

And this time, I really don’t think the hope will kill him. Because he’s too busy killing it, as he proved to such eye-widening effect in Barcelona. A 9th on the road, which should’ve been so much more were it not for a botched pitstop, signalled a performance beyond the sum of its parts. The overtakes were masterful, the racecraft was impeccable and the confidence was brimming. And it’s no flash in the pan, because it was much the same in Australia, where he strong-armed Pierre Gasly into staying behind, and qualifying in Azerbaijan, when he waltzed it into 6th on the grid as if he was Baku’s ruling king.

To conclude, I’ll throw a little fact here that puts all of this into context: three years ago in Spain, Kvyat began the weekend having been told, while watching Game of Thrones, he was surplus to requirements at Red Bull Racing. In the race, all he could muster was 10th place while his teammate wooed the crowds a half-minute up the road in sixth. Three years on, he’s forced the F1 door open, reclaimed his lost seat, and been the main cause for outcry over Spain’s Driver of the Day vote. Fans are beginning to wonder if he can once again reach the top, and rejoin Red Bull. Winter came, and Kvyat prevailed. And that can surely warm even the most icy of hearts.

 

[Featured image: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool]

Chandhok calls for 18-race F1 calendar

Sky Sports pundit and former F1 driver Karun Chandhok has said that F1’s calendar should be limited to 18 races to ensure each event remains special.

The championship calendar has featured a record 21 Grands Prix for three of the last four seasons, and Liberty Media has expressed a desire to expand that to 25 in the near future. 2020 will see the return of the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, as well as the debut of a new street venue in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Liberty has also investigated running street races in Miami, Las Vegas and Copenhagen, and is reportedly in talks with both South Africa and Morocco about returning F1 to Africa.

Steven Tee, LAT Images / Pirelli Media

But Chandhok has told ThePitCrewOnline he believes this is the wrong direction for F1’s schedule to go: “I think 18’s a good number, I think it’s good for fans to have a break. Somewhere around the 18 mark makes each race have a good amount of importance.

“When I was growing up, 16 races was the number. In January I would get the Autosport sticker sheet on the first page of the magazine and I would stick it on the side of my desk, and every one of those Sundays was blocked out because those were 16 events.

“Now if you get to 21 and have triple headers, if a kid misses one they go, ‘Oh, there’s another one in a week’s time’. Each one is less of an event, and I think we run the risk of that.”

Chandhok also called for Liberty to keep “a good balance” in mind when seeking future F1 destinations: “You need that balance of modern circuits that bring in the money and income because that supports the sport, but you also have the historical races.

“And I think you need that balance [to include] street races. Baku has turned out to be a great event—great racing, good event to go to, looks good on TV. Singapore’s another one. So it’s good to have that balance, and also to go to Silverstone and Spa and Monza and places like that.”

Glenn Dunbar, LAT Images / Pirelli Media

F1 returns to Zandvoort for the 2020 Dutch Grand Prix

After weeks, months, and even years of speculation, today it was finally announced that Formula One will make its return to the Netherlands, with the Dutch Grand Prix due to be held at Zandvoort from 2020 onwards.

The Heineken Dutch Grand Prix, as it will be named, will be the first Grand Prix held in the Netherlands for 35 years. The last was held in 1985, when three legendary F1 drivers stood on the podium:  Lauda, Prost and Senna.

For the special occasion, F1 chairman Chase Carey came to Zandvoort to finally make an end to all the speculation.

“We are particularly pleased to announce that Formula 1 is returning to race in the Netherlands, at the Zandvoort track,” he said. “From the beginning of our tenure in Formula 1, we said we wanted to race in new venues, while also respecting the sport’s historic roots in Europe.

“Next season therefore, we will have a brand new street race that will be held in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, as well the return to Zandvoort, after an absence of 35 years; a track that has contributed to the popularity of the sport all over the world.

Marcel van Hoorn / Red Bull Content Pool

“In recent years, we’ve seen a resurgence of interest in Formula 1 in Holland, mainly due to the enthusiastic support for the talented Max Verstappen, as seen from the sea of orange at so many races.

“No doubt this will be the dominant colour in the Zandvoort grandstands next year.”

He mentioned there is no official date for the Grand Prix for now, as the calendar has yet to be confirmed.

This announcement didn’t come as a big shock to fans, but it still has some major consequences. For instance, the Spanish Grand Prix will most likely have to be dropped from the calendar to make room. The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has no contract for next year and this deal certainly spells trouble for them. The Dutch Grand Prix will probably be held in May, when F1 normally heads to Spain.

The track itself also needs improvements, especially in terms of infrastructure. The government didn’t want to spend any money, going against the wishes of track owner Prins Bernhard van Oranje. The local council of Zandvoort, however, agreed to contribute €4m for the construction of a new road to the circuit and organisation of other events outside the track during the Grand Prix weekend, so investors can profit from the race as well.

All problems aside, the Orange Army has gotten what it wanted so desperately, all caused by one F1 driver making millions of Dutchmen excited about the sport. The announcement comes in the same week that Max Verstappen is set to give a demo with his Red Bull around the circuit during the Jumbo Racing days. Coincidence?

[Featured image: Marcel van Hoorn / Red Bull Content Pool]

Race 1001: Another cracker in Baku?

After a decidedly disappointing 1000th race at the Chinese Grand Prix, the F1 bandwagon brings us to the six kilometre-long Baku Street Circuit for the fourth ever race in Azerbaijan.

Last time out saw Lewis Hamilton take the 75th win of his career, and his second of the season. He goes into this weekend at the top of the WDC ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas, while Ferrari are yet to deliver on the massive potential that they promised after testing in February.

In fact, they have seen their rivals not only inflict significant damage to their title hopes, but make the best team start to a season since Williams in 1992 with three one-two finishes to start the season.

2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, Sunday – Wolfgang Wilhelm

If there is to be any hope for Ferrari getting back to winning ways for the first time in 2019, it is that they looked impressive in Baku last year. Sebastian Vettel had been on for victory had it not been for a safety car late on that allowed Bottas to pit and rejoin ahead of him.

A penultimate lap puncture for Bottas then handed the win to Hamilton in a race that didn’t quite equal 2017, but certainly gave us a lot of excitement and entertainment, while Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen were given a lot of resentment by their Red Bull team after their crash.

Speaking of the Austrian team, the tight and twisty corners of a street circuit plus a Honda engine which is giving them significantly more power than Renault did could put them into contention for a podium or perhaps even more if things do their way.

However, this weekend will be a telling one for Pierre Gasly. Having been heavily out-qualified and out-raced thus far by team mate Verstappen this season, a circuit like Baku is an opportunity for him to prove that he deserves the seat awarded to him by Red Bull. Knowing Red Bull’s tendency to be impatient with young drivers, he’d better find some pace quickly.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Their sister team Toro Rosso continue to enjoy a solid start to 2019, and Alex Albon is Red Bull’s next optimistic topic of conversation. He finished 10th in China, having started the race from the pit-lane following a crash in FP3 that put him out of qualifying.

The battle between Toro Rosso, Racing Point, Haas, and Renault continues to be a fun one to watch, as Haas still look for answers to their baffling lack of race pace, and Renault try to have their first clean weekend of the season after a reliability issue-strewn start to the year. There is extra incentive for Nico Hulkenberg, as he looks to prove that Baku is not a bogey track for him, having crashed out of both of the last two races.

As a street track looms, opportunity beckons for some to prove their worth to their teams, and for Ferrari to finally try and throw down the gauntlet to Mercedes in 2019.

 

[Featured image – Wolfgang Wilhelm]

Ricciardo confident Renault “heading in the right direction” despite early problems

Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo says he is confident the team are “heading in the right direction”, despite the problems he has suffered in the first few races of the 2019 season.

Ricciardo has suffered two DNFs in two races, retiring from his home Grand Prix in Australia as a result of damage sustained when his front wing was broken at the start of the race, and then grinding to a halt on lap 53 of the Bahrain Grand Prix due to a loss of power.

Despite this, Ricciardo still believes that there are signs of promise and was buoyed by a positive showing in the post-Bahrain Grand Prix test.

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault F1 Team RS19.
Bahrain Grand Prix, Saturday 30th March 2019. Sakhir, Bahrain.

“I’m certainly getting there in terms of extracting the maximum [from the car] and getting more comfortable,” he said. “These things do take time, but it’s good to iron out these details going forward. We’ll get there soon and sure enough and I’m confident we’re heading in the right direction.”

Renault have identified a certain pattern in their performance over the course of the weekend, and Ricciardo says it’s just a matter of the team finding their feet and delivering on the potential of the car.

“We showed signs [of pace] over the race weekend, going from a struggle on Friday, followed by an improvement on Saturday to being in and amongst it on Sunday.

“The car clearly has pace, but for me, it’s about finding all of it. I feel there’s a lot more to come.”

(L to R): Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault F1 Team with Cyril Abiteboul (FRA) Renault Sport F1 Managing Director.
Bahrain Grand Prix, Friday 29th March 2019. Sakhir, Bahrain.

Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul shared a similar sentiment. “The start of the 2019 season has fallen short of our high expectations,” he said. “Our overall competitiveness is good enough for our drivers to be racing in the top ten and closer to the top teams than last year, but we have suffered from reliability issues.

“We move onto China with caution, but also with a resolution to really get the season going.”

 

[Featured image – Renault F1 Team]

Toto Wolff: Mercedes not daunted by Ferrari challenge

Ahead of this weekend’s 1000th Grand Prix, due to be held at the Shanghai International Circuit, Toto Wolff has said that his Mercedes team are not daunted by the challenge posed by Ferrari in the first few races of the season. Instead, he believes the opposite is true.

“The challenge we are facing doesn’t daunt us – it’s uplifting,” Wolff said. “We will keep pushing to extract the maximum performance from our package to deliver the best race we can.

“We will try and exert pressure, maximise our opportunities and keep working hard to develop our overall package. We’ve seen exciting races so far this season and we’re looking forward to the next fight in Shanghai.”

2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, Sunday – Wolfgang Wilhelm

Mercedes have taken two somewhat unexpected wins so far, with Valtteri Bottas claiming victory in Australia and Lewis Hamilton doing likewise in Bahrain.

Many had tipped Ferrari to have the edge over the Silver Arrows based on their form in pre-season testing, but they struggled around the streets of Albert Park, before Charles Leclerc suffered a reliability issue whilst dominating the Bahrain Grand Prix, with Sebastian Vettel spinning from a podium position in a battle with Hamilton.

What that means is that Mercedes hold the lead in both the drivers’ and constructors’  championships, with a 1-2 in both races so far. Despite this, though, Toto Wolff is under no illusions that Mercedes are clearly ahead in terms of performance.

2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, Sunday – Wolfgang Wilhelm

“Two races into the 2019 season, it may seem like we’re in a strong position,” he said. “We have 87 points, just one below the maximum score. But the constructors’ standings do not tell the full story.

“The truth is that we aren’t as quick as our direct competitors throughout qualifying and the race in Bahrain. The Ferrari was considerably faster on the straights and this added up to several tenths around one lap.

“Nevertheless, the saying goes that ‘in order to finish first, first you have to finish’ and the combination of solid performances from the team, reliability of our systems and a strong drive from our drivers secured us the one-two.”

 

[Featured image – Wolfgang Wilhelm]

Chinese Grand Prix Preview: The Millennia

Here we are then – 69 years, 71 circuits, 32 countries, millions of laps, and 33 World Champions later, we have arrived at the 1000th Formula One Championship Grand Prix. Legends have been and gone, tracks have been celebrated and forgotten, while some have stood the test of time. From Juan Manuel to Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Lewis Hamilton, and Michael Schumacher, the 999 championship Grands Prix so far have bought us the thrill of high speed drama, the jubilation of seeing our chosen few win championship gold, and the sorrow of watching some of our heroes and idols fall prey to the inherent and cruel danger of the sport.

The big 1000 brings us to the 5.4 kilometre-long Shanghai International Circuit for the 2019 Chinese Grand Prix. An undulating first sector, high speed corners, along with harsh braking zones make for a real test of driver skill and car performance, and the circuit has given us some fantastic races over the years, like last year for example, with Daniel Ricciardo taking a dramatic win for Red Bull after an incident-packed race.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

We have seen five-time champion Lewis Hamilton’s 2007 championship dreams end in the pit entrance, crashes on the way to the grid half and hour before the race even started, an historic win for Mercedes, and the wheels falling off for Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi in 2010 – literally.

In terms of the here and now, 2019 has already seen its fair share of excitement, drama, and exquisite racing. Coming into China, the cooler temperatures are generally expected to favour Mercedes over Ferrari, particularly in terms of tyres, which the Italian team really struggled with in the first race in Australia, but had no problems with in Bahrain.

The problem they did have, however, was an electric failure in Charles Leclerc’s engine, costing him a fairytale maiden victory under the most cruel of circumstances and handing the win and the 1-2 to Mercedes, all while Sebastian Vettel was trying to keep his Ferrari pointing in the right direction. Leclerc’s Bahrain engine will still be used for China, as the issue was discovered to be as simple as a short circuit, meaning he will not have to take a grid penalty.

Ferrari Media

Vettel knows he will need to bounce back after a below-par performance in the first two races of the season. The fact that China is predominantly a power track will help, but Mercedes’ power coupled with their ability to keep the tyres in an operating window much more consistently than Ferrari should make for a cracking race. Let’s not count out Red Bull either, who won the race last year and could so easily have had a 1-2, if not for a moment of madness from Max Verstappen that saw him wipe both himself and Vettel out at turn 14.

Further down, Renault look to improve on what has been a nightmare start to the season. An engine problem in qualifying and a bizarre first lap crash for Daniel Ricciardo ruined their weekend in Australia, before synchronised engine failures last time out in Bahrain saw the team leave the desert with no points.

Racing Point, Alfa Romeo, Toro Rosso and McLaren continue their impressive and exciting battle in the midfield, while Haas, generally considered to be quicker than all of them, need an answer as to why their race pace was lacking so badly – a sixth-placed qualifying for Kevin Magnussen led to a P13 finish in the race in Bahrain, while Romain Grosjean failed to see the chequered flag after contact on the first lap.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

As for Williams, China does not look like a circuit that will go any way to improving their disastrous fortunes in the early stages of the season, with the tricky corners and long straights providing risks for poor reliability and a severe lack of spare parts. It’s not getting easier for the team that, during their championship-winning glory days, would not have foreseen them having the slowest car on the grid going into F1’s 1000th race.

This weekend will be a celebration for Formula One, but who will be celebrating a momentous win at F1’s championship milestone? Onto number 1000 we go.

 

[Featured image – Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool]

Leclerc’s Bahrain pain and why Mercedes are worried

The racing gods decided that the Bahrain Grand Prix was not the day for Charles Leclerc’s fairytale victory, much to the pain and frustration of Leclerc himself, the Ferrari team and F1 fans alike. Despite this, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes will still be decidedly unsettled when looking at the young Monegasque.

Leclerc looked brilliant all throughout the desert weekend, taking pole on Saturday with an absolutely sublime performance and, even after a terrible start that saw him drop down to third on the first lap, was dominating the race and looked to be on course for an emotional and emphatic victory – his first for Ferrari.

Then, with less than 20 laps to go, it all fell apart – a hybrid issue made his Prancing Horse painfully slow down the straights, and the two Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas soared by. The silver lining, at the very least, was the safety car that kept Leclerc on the podium following synchronised engine failures for the Renaults of Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg.

Hamilton, who has certainly felt his fair share of the pain having victories cruelly snatched from his grasp, was sympathetic with his Ferrari counterpart, affirming that Leclerc deserved the win after such a brilliant performance all weekend. His team radio was telling: “We need to work hard to keep these guys on our tails,” said the world champion, clearly concerned about the pace Ferrari showed.

Ferrari Media

Interestingly, the tale of Bahrain was of stark contrast to Australia, when Mercedes won comfortably and Ferrari looked average. However, this weekend was different, and Ferrari showed the kind of pace that they displayed so impressively in testing in Spain, and the kind of pace that has pushed Mercedes hard for the title the last two years – this year, on the other hand, might be different.

Hamilton has been up against an error-prone and easily irritable Sebastian Vettel, who has shown cracks under the pressure of the title fights, a surprising difference to the assertive dominance that took him to four consecutive titles with Red Bull. It may be early on in the season, but already there seems to be a calmness and a measured temperament about Vettel’s younger team mate Leclerc that Vettel himself could have done with at certain times last year and in 2017.

These remarkably mature and level-headed qualities, coupled with fantastic ability and pace, mean that Leclerc is keen to impose himself as so much more than what was thought to be his role for this year. It was predicted that Vettel would outshine Leclerc, and that Leclerc would play second fiddle to the German – Ferrari themselves admitted this would probably be the case – but not only is Leclerc establishing himself as being on terms with Vettel, but he is looking like a pretender to the championship title won by Hamilton in four of the last ten years.

As a result, Hamilton and Bottas will be worriedly looking over their shoulder at not just one Ferrari this time, but both of them. With Bottas seemingly performing better this year (maybe because of the beard), this promises to be an exciting title race. What’s more, with Leclerc’s astonishing ability and his even more startling potential in the future, it adds up to a nervous ride for Vettel, Bottas and Hamilton. Mercedes may have won in the desert, but Leclerc and Ferrari are turning up in the heat in the 2019 championship as we head to China for F1’s 1000th race.

 

[Featured image – Ferrari Media]

F1 Winter Testing: Round-Up

Formula 1 Pre-Season testing got underway in Barcelona this morning with a healthy mix of old and new faces racking up the laps. Rookies Lando Norris and Alex Albon for McLaren and Toro Rosso were first out on track.

Albon had the marshals on their toes after causing the first red-flag of the session, one minute after lights went green. Albon’s Toro Rosso was sat in the gravel facing the wrong way after having lost it upon exiting Turn four, and after a 20-minute recovery from the marshals, we got back into the session.

Both Ferrari and Mercedes were keen to begin testing the harder tyres this morning, running the C1, starting at a slightly slower pace than the previous day. After Bottas’s morning test yesterday, it was the turn of Hamilton to set an early alarm, and by 8:20am he had set the first time of the day at 1:32s.

Ferrari’s new driver Charles Leclerc got in the seat for the first time, initially taking a steady approach to handling his new car by setting a 1:42. He picked up the pace pretty quickly after that though, going from the bottom to the top of the table by setting a more-than-respectable 1:19 and showing the world he can match the pace of his teammate Sebastian Vettel. Vettel has already gone on record in considering Leclerc a ‘full rival … He got the seat for a reason and I’ve got to take him very seriously’. With a personal best of 1:18.2 this morning, it’s difficult to view Leclerc in any other way.

After Verstappen’s impressive performance yesterday, Red Bull’s number two driver Pierre Gasly took to the wheel for the first time at just after 8:30am, sharing the track with Alfa Romeo’s number two, Antonio Giovinazzi. Gasly put in a steady first lap on C3 tyres with a 1:37.5, before picking up the pace and putting in a 1:22, and a 1:21 shortly after. Giovinazzi puts in a 1:24 and continues to improve, achieving a 1:20 after 22 laps.

Like Hamilton, Ricciardo was also back in the driver’s seat this morning following yesterday’s afternoon session. Ricciardo’s Renault matched the pace of Red Bull and Gasly lap after lap, as both cars achieved a respectable 1:21s.

Meanwhile, it looked to be yet another slow start for Racing Point this morning after yesterday’s arguably disappointing session. The team managed to rack up a meagre 30 test laps across the whole day. Performance Engineering Director Tom McCullough summarised the day; ‘We had some teething problems, which caused us some downtime across the day, and a small oil leak, but nothing overly concerning’.

McCullough explained the teams aim for today’s session, focusing on aero data collection and giving Lance Stroll an opportunity to experience his new car, however by 8:50am, Stroll had only managed two installation laps. By 9:05am, Stroll had achieved his first timed lap, managing a 1:29 on C3 tyres. His pace improved quite quickly with a 1:21.6, coming second on the timing sheets over Hamilton’s 1:24.6. Stroll surpassed his teammates efforts yesterday, completing 45 laps before lunchtime.

Perhaps a little dubious to appear on track too early this morning, Kevin Magnussen and Haas finally ventured out to do an installation lap on intermediate tyres, before returning to the pits. Magnussen was back on track after 35 minutes in the garage, putting in his first flying lap of 1:23.4. He continued to build on this by following it with a 1:21.9, and a 1:21.6 moving ahead of Albon’s Toro Rosso.

Magnussen spent a further 20 minutes in the garage; the Haas social media team describing it as an ‘extended stay’, offering no indication of why the team have put in so few laps this morning.

Ricciardo’s Renault decided to spice up the morning by parting ways with its rear wing while using DRS, causing him to spin off track and into the gravel. Miraculously he managed to get the car out without causing a second red-flag in the session.

The lunch break came and went with some teams opting for a driver change, namely Mercedes and Renault. Bottas was the first man on track, followed closely by Charles Leclerc for Ferrari. Leclerc was the first man to break the 100-lap benchmark, followed by rookie Alex Albon for Toro Rosso.

Nico Hulkenberg settled down to test his Renault for a race distance and continued to knock out lap times in the 1:20s. Hulkenberg didn’t manage to top the timesheets, however Renault seem to have found consistent timing and distance of greater value than fastest car on track. He did eventually break free of the monotony and started pushing the car just a little bit, managing a personal best of 1:20.3 which put him in 8thposition.

Pierre Gasly spun out going in to turn 12 with only an hour and a half left on the clock. Though the damage didn’t look overly disastrous, it was a sorry end to Gasly’s otherwise smooth and steady session.

Pietro Fittipaldi took to the wheel in place of Kevin Magnussen who was forced to retire from the race early due to a seat-fit issue, which could explain the frequent ‘extended stays’ K-Mag was having in the morning session. Fittipaldi managed a total of 13 laps before the end of the session.

Sadly, we heard very little from Williams today. It is thought they will be arriving with the car very early tomorrow morning, with a view to joining in the testing tomorrow lunchtime.

McLaren are continuing to play the come-back kid by coming second only to Ferrari on the timing sheet. It’s an extremely positive start for the team, but ultimately Ferrari stole the show once again, taking fastest lap for the second day in a row (a 1:18.2) along with a healthy distance on track. With 157 laps under his belt, Leclerc has taken thorough advantage of his opportunity to get used to his new car.Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Testing continues tomorrow.