2017–18 Formula E champion Jean-Éric Vergne has said that he has been approached by an F1 team over a 2019 race drive.
The former Toro Rosso F1 driver revealed the contact in an interview with crash.net when asked about his chances of returning to Grand Prix racing:
“It’s a possibility. It’s funny how the world of motorsport changes. Three years ago, I don’t think anybody would have called me from F1 and said: ‘Hey, do you have a contract for next season?’.
“When you change your state of mind, when you change a little bit how you work, you see the results straight away. You see it in the results, and you see it in how people look at you and how they speak to you. When you start representing a brand [like Formula E], it changes a lot of things.”
Vergne’s comments have come amid a breakout year for the Frenchman, in which he took four Formula E victories en route to the season four title with Techeetah, as well as an LMP2 class win at Le Mans with G-Drive (although this was later taken away for a team technical infringement).
They also follow a series of surprise announcements in the F1 driver market over the summer, which will see Daniel Ricciardo move from Red Bull to Renault and Fernando Alonso step away from the series in 2019.
Vergne’s previous F1 tenure spanned three years at Toro Rosso between 2012–2014, in which he partnered future Red Bull graduates Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat. He was dropped from the Red Bull programme for 2015 in favour of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz, and spent two full seasons as a simulator driver at Ferrari before leaving the F1 paddock completely in early 2017.
Who might Vergne’s F1 suitor be?
Although Vergne confirmed he had been approached by an F1 team for next year, he gave no clues as to which team was interested in his services.
The most obvious possibility is his former employer, Toro Rosso. The Red Bull junior team is in need of at least one new driver for next year—with Pierre Gasly set to replace Ricciardo—and proved last year with Brendon Hartley that calling back ex-academy drivers is an option when an F1-ready protege isn’t available.
The chances of Vergne wanting to return to the Red Bull fold after the manner of his 2014 exit are slim—although Vergne hasn’t necessarily said he’s entertaining the offer he’s received, for that matter.
Haas were said to have had an interest in Vergne ahead of their maiden campaign in 2016, and may do so again as they weigh up alternatives to Romain Grosjean. Williams may also have been the ones to offer Vergne a 2019 drive, as Lance Stroll’s expected move to Force India will leave a race seat open at the Grove team.
In Formula 1 anything can happen, and it usually does! That was what Murray Walker always said, and it did indeed happen at the Red Bull Ring this weekend. A very hot Sunday played havoc with the field, though someacclimatised better than others.
Max Verstappen: 9.5
This was a great weekend for Verstappen, as he continued his podium form and this time to the top step. Fortune favoured the brave on the first lap with a great move on Raikkonen. One of the first to pit under the Virtual Safety Car, Verstappen made his tyres last in the heat while others struggled with blistering. He is a driver known for his speed, but this weekend Verstappen proved he can drive calmly.
Kimi Raikkonen: 8
Austria was one of Raikkonen’s better races of the year. After a great start (marred slightly by running wide on the first lap) Raikkonen put in a tyre management drive reminiscent of his Lotus days to take a superb second place. With reports saying Leclerc is all set to join Ferrari next year, could this be the beginning of Raikkonen’s swan song?
Sebastian Vettel: 7
After this weekend sees Vettel leave Austria as the Championship leader, he won’t mind too much about the grid penalty he was given for impeding Carlos Sainz in qualifying. Vettel’s race started poorly on Sunday as he fell to 8th, but a good recovery drive put him on the podium.
Romain Grosjean: 8
The Frenchman finally sees the flag in the top ten! Grosjean was very impressive on Saturday when he outqualified a Red Bull, and was one of the better drivers on Sunday at keeping the tyres in good condition. A great result for him and especially Haas, as teammate Magnussen finished behind him in P5.
Kevin Magnussen: 8
Magnussen continued his impressive 2018 in Austria with a great haul of points in P5. Together with Grosjean, Magnussen’s points this weekend helped Haas back up their statement about being the fourth-best team. A great drive from Magnussen all weekend, evening if Grosjean had shaded him on race day.
Esteban Ocon: 8
Ocon is a name being frequently mentioned in the drivers’ market as a hot talent, and he proved why in Austria. Starting in P11 he had the free choice of tyres, and used that well to finish P6. He had a fresher set of tyres later on than most which helped him too.
Sergio Perez: 7
After dropping out of qualifying in Q1 it looked like Perez would struggle. But with grid penalties ahead of him, Perez started P15 and made up the most places of who took the grid to finish P7—his first points finish since Spain.
Fernando Alonso: 8
Alonso started from the pitlane on Sunday because his car was taken out of parc fermé for a change of front wing and MGU-K. He was on the radio early on calling for a new strategy to get out from behind Hartley’s Toro Rosso, and and an early pit stop allowed Alonso to come back through the field as he kept his tyres from blistering. A much better race for the 2018 Le Mans winner.
Charles Leclerc: 8
Through to Q2 again for the sixth weekend in a row, Leclerc’s Sauber showed great pace on Saturday. A gearbox penalty meant he dropped back to P17 on the grid, but a strong recovery brought him up into the points—and all on the weekend that his move to Ferrari for next year has reportedly been decided.
Marcus Ericsson: 7
Ericsson had a pretty poor Saturday as he said couldn’t find a gap on track in qualifying, but put that behind him to help Sauber to its first double points finish since China 2015. To sweeten the deal, Ericsson only had to wait seven races between his last points finish and this, as opposed to the two whole seasons before. The Sauber is being developed well.
Pierre Gasly: 7
Gasly’s tyres just gave up on him at the end of the race as he suffered from the blistering that affected most of the field. He was running a strong P8 with a few laps remaining but his tyres were past it. For a very power hungry track, Gasly qualified a fine P12 with the Honda power unit. His raw pace is noticeable.
Carlos Sainz: 6
Sainz was only one of two drivers to finish further back from his grid place in Austria. He started P9 and actually got by Vettel for half a lap, but his two-stop strategy didn’t pan out and he dropped to P12 by the end of the race.
Sergey Sirotkin: 6
Out in Q1, Sirotkin struggled to get to grips with his car in the early part of the weekend. However it was a better Sunday from the Russian, as he finished P13 and ahead of his teammate.
Lance Stroll: 6
A great Saturday performance saw Stroll get into Q2 for the first time since Azerbaijan. On the first lap he was running as high as P12 and points were possible, but a ten-second penalty for ignoring blue flags resulted in him finishing P14.
Stoffel Vandoorne: 4
Austria was another poor weekend by Vandoorne, with a Q1 exit on Saturday and a collision with Gasly on the first lap on Sunday. After pitting for a new front wing the Belgian was way down the order and off the pace. He retired lap 66 due to damage, and the pressure to defend his seat for next year is building.
Lewis Hamilton: 7.5
With upgrades on his car Hamilton was the one to beat in the early part of the race. But when the VSC came out on lap 14 he didn’t pit like everyone else, and as a result lost the race lead. Hamilton then retired on lap 64 with a loss of fuel pressure—his first retirement since Malaysia 2016—and lost the lead of the championship to Vettel.
Brendon Hartley: 5
Hartley’s Sunday began with a 35-place grid penalty for changing his power unit, and ended when his gearbox failed on lap 57 and put him into retirement.
Daniel Ricciardo: 6
The Austrian Grand Prix may have been on Ricciardo’s 29th birthday, but sadly it ended in retirement. It was a sour start to the weekend with him being outqualified by Grosjean and an argument with his teammate over slipstreaming tactics. Ricciardo put a trademark late-braking move on Raikkonen early in the race but struggled with tyre blisters later, then retired due to a broken exhaust. He’ll be hoping for a stronger weekend in Silverstone.
Valtteri Bottas: 9
Bottas seems to love the Red Bull Ring, and pole and the win last year gave him huge confidence into this year’s event. He managed to get pole again this year but didn’t get as good a start as he got in 2017 and lost the lead to Hamilton in Turn 1. A great double overtake on the first lap saw Bottas recover to P2, although luck wasn’t on his side as the seemingly ever-reliable Mercedes broke again with a hydraulics failure. Two mechanical DNF’s for the Silver Arrows.
Nico Hulkenburg: 6
The first failure of the race came to Hulkenberg, a massive engine failure with smoke and lots of fire. Hulkenberg was in place for reasonable points but lost power on the straight. He had great pace in qualifying and got through to Q3 but reliability caught him this weekend.
Valtteri Bottas has claimed his first pole position of the year, and leads a Mercedes 1-2 into tomorrow’s Austrian Grand Prix.
Of the big-hitters, only Bottas and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen had a truly clean session. Both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel made mistakes early on – at turn three and turn four respectively – and ended up relatively far back after the first Q3 runs had been completed. It took until the last couple of minutes for the pair to pull themselves back up the order – Hamilton ultimately qualified P2, and Vettel P3, with both pushing Kimi Raikkonen down into P4. Vettel was noted as being under investigation for allegedly impeding Carlos Sainz in Q2, but since Sainz did advance to Q3 it is uncertain whether Vettel will receive any penalty.
Red Bull had expected qualifying to be a struggle compared to Mercedes and Ferrari coming into the weekend. Max Verstappen may have qualified P5 but he was still two tenths behind Raikkonen, and Daniel Ricciardo ended up P7 behind the Haas of an impressive Romain Grosjean. Replays of team radio throughout the session indicated a certain amount of tension in the team, with Ricciardo frustrated that Verstappen did not follow orders to lead the Australian for a lap and give him a tow, as Ricciardo had done for Verstappen the lap before.
Kevin Magnussen and the two Renaults of Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg complete the top ten.
Further down the order, Charles Leclerc continues to impress in the Sauber. He qualified P13 but carries a five-place grid penalty due to his gearbox needing to be changed following a stoppage on track in FP3.
Force India’s Sergio Perez had a nightmare of a session. The Mexican complained of running out of battery during his first run and of getting stuck in traffic during his second. He failed to make it out of Q1 and starts P17.
It was also a frustrating session for McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley. Both were looking to pull themselves out of the drop-zone and into Q2, but encountered yellow flags on their flying laps when Charles Leclerc ran through the gravel trap in the final moments of Q1.
Both Mercedes and Red Bull will start tomorrow’s Grand Prix on the supersoft tyres, with all those around them starting on the ultras. Bottas will be hoping to convert pole position into a win, at the circuit where he claimed his second ever victory in 2017.
Austrian Grand Prix Grid
1. Valtteri Bottas – 1:03.130
2. Lewis Hamilton – 1:03.149
3. Sebastian Vettel – 1:03.464
4. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:03.660
5. Max Verstappen – 1:03.840
6. Romain Grosjean – 1:03.892
7. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:03.996
8. Kevin Magnussen – 1:04.051
9. Carlos Sainz – 1:04.725
10. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:05.019
11. Esteban Ocon – 1:04.845
12. Pierre Gasly 0 1:04.874
13. Fernando Alonso – 1:05.058
14. Lance Stroll – 1:05.286
15. Stoffel Vandoorne – 1:05.271
16. Sergio Perez – 1:05.279
17. Sergey Sirotkin – 1:05.322
18. Charles Leclerc – 1:04.979 *5-place penalty for gearbox change
19. Brendon Hartley 1:05.366
20. Marcus Ericsson – 1:05.479
Update – 17:30 – Sebastian Vettel has been given a three-place penalty by the stewards for impeding Carlos Sainz at turn one in Q2. The German will now start P6, promoting Kimi Raikkonen to P3, Max Verstappen to P4, and Romain Grosjean to P5.
Red Bull got their Monaco Grand Prix weekend off to a strong start by locking out the top two positions in both Thursday practice sessions.
Daniel Ricciardo finished marginally ahead of Max Verstappen in each session, and staked his claim as the driver to beat this weekend by lowering the circuit’s unofficial lap record to 1:11.841s in FP2.
On lap times alone, neither Mercedes nor Ferrari seemed to have an answer to the RB14 on Thursday. Championship protagonists Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel were Red Bull’s closest challengers in FP1 and FP2 respectively, but despite their best efforts on the hypersoft tyres neither came any nearer to the pace than a 1:12.4s.
Last year’s Monaco poleman Kimi Räikkönen could get no higher than fifth fastest in either session, and at best was seven tenths off Ricciardo in FP2, while Valtteri Bottas was the slowest of the top teams’ drivers, finishing seventh in the morning and sixth in the afternoon.
Ferrari’s deficit to Red Bull was particularly surprising, given the Scuderia’s control of last year’s Monaco Grand Prix and the expectations that they would be in front again this weekend.
However, this does come with the caveat that Ferrari rarely shows its hand on the opening day of practice, and is likely to turn up the performance of the SF71H on Saturday.
Thursday’s running gave a confusing picture of how the midfield teams will line up this weekend.
Force India and Williams were surprising stars in the morning session, with Sergio Pérez and Sergey Sirotkin ending FP1 in eighth and tenth respectively, while Esteban Ocon was just bumped to eleventh in the closing stages.
But in the afternoon, despite all four of their drivers improving on their earlier times, the two Mercedes customer teams were kept out of the top ten by Renault and McLaren.
And although that restored some normality to the midfield order, one team was conspicuously absent from the best-of-the-rest battle: Haas.
Apart from a late charge to ninth for Romain Grosjean in FP1, Haas spent most of Thursday struggling to get off the bottom of the timesheets—in FP2, they were indistinguishable from the Williams’ and Saubers.
In their absence, Toro Rosso quietly impressed. Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly were regular features in the top ten throughout the day—especially during the more representative second session—even if they did get bumped down to a best finish of eleventh by the end of play.
The STR12 also looked like one of the most comfortable cars around the Monte Carlo circuit, and its performance in the opening practice sessions should put Toro Rosso in a good position to pick up some more points if anyone else is caught out in front.
The Monaco Grand Prix—jewel in the crown of the F1 calendar, and the sixth round of the 2018 season.
It’s been a topsy-turvy season so far. Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel had the early advantage, winning the first two races on the trot and taking a firm hold on qualifying. But in the last two rounds in Baku and Barcelona, they have been pegged back by the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, who now leads the drivers’ championship by 17 points over Vettel.
That deficit means Monaco is a must-win race for Vettel. With the next few rounds from Canada through to Germany likely to favour Mercedes, he’ll need to come away with maximum points from Monte Carlo if he is to keep the title from slipping away during the European season as it did last year.
But although Monaco is expected to be another Ferrari track as it was in 2017, Vettel cannot afford to be complacent this weekend. His lost victories in China and Azerbaijan are proof enough that even with the quicker car, nothing is assured.
Perhaps most importantly, Vettel will have to make sure he avoids any more “red mist” moments if events in the race do turn against him. A clumsy attempt to retake the lead, like the one Vettel launched at Valtteri Bottas in Baku, will be much more costly here in Monaco than settling for second.
With Monaco typically not suiting Mercedes, Vettel’s strongest challenge for the win this weekend is expected to come from Red Bull. The RB14 was quick through the twisting final sector in Barcelona—generally a reliable indicator of Monaco pace—and Hamilton has tipped it rather than the Ferrari as his biggest concern on Sunday:
“If you look at Daniel Ricciardo [in Spain] he was much quicker in the last sector, and the last sector is all about downforce,” the championship leader said. “They’re going to be rapid in Monaco, and very hard to beat.”
If Red Bull is as fast around Monte Carlo as Hamilton fears, then Ricciardo is almost certainly going to be a contender for the win. The Australian’s four Red Bull starts in Monaco have so far yielded three podiums, as well as his infamous pole and near-win in 2016.
The same cannot be said of Max Verstappen, however. The Dutchman has a far-from-stellar record around Monte Carlo, finishing there for the first time only last year after crashing out in 2015 and ’16. Verstappen will need to conquer whatever Monaco issues have been holding him back in the past if he is to stay on Ricciardo’s level this weekend.
Fernando Alonso has been upbeat about returning to race at the principality after missing last year’s event for the Indy 500, and understandably so: Monte Carlo has always been a strong venue for McLaren, and became a trusty source of points during their troubled Honda years.
However, qualifying is key in Monaco and so far in 2018 that has been McLaren’s weakness. The team will need to replicate last year’s Saturday performance, which saw Jenson Button and Stoffel Vandoorne qualify in the top ten, or they may find themselves too far back to challenge for more than a handful of points.
Renault will likely be McLaren’s biggest rival this weekend. The Enstone team overtook McLaren for fourth in the constructors’ standings in Spain and has every chance of increasing that gap come Sunday—especially as Carlos Sainz has finished in the points in every race he’s contested around the Monte Carlo circuit, even dating back to his Formula Renault 3.5 days.
Haas should also be quick enough to pose a threat to both Renault and McLaren, given the mechanical pointers the VF-18 takes from last year’s race-winning Ferrari. But even if the American team qualifies well on Saturday, their race is set to be much harder as Romain Grosjean comes to Monaco weighed down with a three-place grid penalty for his first lap collision in Barcelona.
Outside of the three “Group B” teams, there are a few wildcards who might scrape into the points on Sunday.
Toro Rosso has perhaps the most realistic chance. The Red Bull junior team’s high-downforce designs have served them well around Monaco in recent years, with points finishes in every year since 2015, and the lack of emphasis on engine power will help Honda close up to those in front.
If Toro Rosso is competitive in Monaco, that will please Brendon Hartley enormously, with the Kiwi in need of a good performance as rumours about his future continue to swirl.
Also in the mix with Toro Rosso is Sauber. The C37 has been a surprise points-scorer this season, and with an on-form Charles Leclerc looking to impress on home soil it would be unwise to bet against Sauber adding to their 11 points total in Monte Carlo.
And then there’s Force India and Williams. With Monaco’s downforce demands not suiting either team’s 2018 aero designs, both will be hoping some traditional Monte Carlo madness can bring them into the lower reaches of the top ten.
Sebastian Vettel secured his second consecutive victory of the season, after a dramatic finish in Bahrain Grand Prix. The German, four time world champion, withstands Bottas pressure on the final ten laps of the race and scored 25 points for Scuderia Ferrari.
Ferrari missed the chance to have two drivers on the podium, because an amateur mistake forced the Finn to stop his car and retire in the pit lane. The left-rear tyre hadn’t changed, Kimi pulled away, injured the leg of one of the mechanics and immediately Ferrari told him to stop his car. It was the second unsafe release from the Italians this weekend.
The mechanic was taken to the hospital, Ferrari confirmed a broken leg, a shinbone and fibula fracture.
Valtteri Bottas had a very good start, he placed his Mercedes between the two Ferraris and was trying to pressure Vettel for the first position. Lewis Hamilton, recovered from ninth place, which he started after a five place grid penalty, and finished third.
The British champion, passed three cars at the same time in one corner, a move that we will surely remember for many years.
With 10 laps to go, Bottas was second behind Sebastian Vettel, the gap between the two drivers was about six seconds. The Finn, had fresher set of tyres, he was on medium tyres, whilst Vettel informed by his team to change his strategy and go from two stops to one stop strategy. The German, pitted two laps earlier than the Finn, he was on the softs for 39 laps.
Mercedes assumed that Vettel will pit again, they informed Hamilton that when the German will re-join will be behind him. Ferrari took the risk to let Vettel on the track until the end of the race and Bottas received an order to push as hard as he could for the first place.
The gap between those two was dropping rapidly, Bottas entered DRS rang with two laps to go, he attempted to attack Vettel but he was not close enough.
Lewis Hamilton, was not able to be close to the two drivers, finished third 6.5 seconds behind Sebastian Vettel.
Disaster for Red Bull, a dreaming race for Gasly
Both Red Bull cars retired early in the race, Max Verstappen had an incident with Lewis Hamilton at the exit of Turn 1, after passing him, Max damaged his left-rear wheel, which caused a puncture. The Dutch, managed to go to the pits but retired a few meters after he re-joined the race.
Daniel Ricciardo retired shortly after Verstappen’s puncture, Daniel’s car shuts down at the exiting of Turn 8.
A race to remember for Pierre Gasly, the French finished fourth behind the Ferrari and the two Mercedes. Gasly, resisted Magnussen’s and Hulkenberg’s pressure, he secured a fantastic result for Toro Rosso at their second race with a Honda powered engine.
Second double points finish for McLaren, Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne finished seventh and eighth respectively.
Kevin Magnussen scored the first points for Haas with his fifth position in Bahrain. A good race for Ericsson and Sauber as well, Marcus finished ninth and scored two points for Sauber.
It looks that this season will be different than the others, not only because Ferrari won the first two races, but mainly because the middle teams are looking very competitive. Williams and Force India are not as strong as they used to be, whilst Haas, McLaren and Renault are looking quicker and able to fight between each other for the fourth place in the championship (if not the third!)
The Australian Grand Prix failed to give observers much of a concrete answer as to this year’s exact running order despite Sebastian Vettel’s second successive win at Albert Park.
Yes, Lewis Hamilton had a clear pace advantage in qualifying and wasn’t uncomfortable in the race, but the Red Bulls were hamstrung while it is understood that Ferrari haven’t unlocked the full potential of their new car design just yet.
Unlike last year, Ferrari won when they weren’t the fastest, something Hamilton did on multiple occasions last season. However, the Scuderia were not without a huge slice of luck.
The Virtual Safety deployed midway through the race to recover the stricken Haas duo (more on them later) of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean slowed the race down as drivers were not to exceed a certain speed.
That meant that the impact of a pitstop lessened significantly. Where it would have cost Vettel 25 seconds to pit at normal racing speeds, at VSC speeds the cost was 11 seconds.
Vettel was 12 seconds clear of Hamilton. Ferrari had judged the maths perfectly, and a software glitch confused Mercedes.
Since then, there have been calls to ban pitting under the VSC.
This is not the first time that the VSC has changed the game during a race, if not quite to this extent.
Other beneficiaries include Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso, both of whom had not pitted and as a result made net gains. Ricciardo was fourth, with Alonso fifth.
The VSC adds a potential variable to a sport that is currently desperately lacking in those at present. It turned what was fast becoming a predictable race into one that had a battle for the lead…..until Hamilton was restricted by the lack of spare Power Unit elements and had to turn the wick down.
It was a case of what might have been for Haas in Melbourne, as the team emerged as early contenders for best of the rest but ended up plum last in the Constructors’ are two catastrophic pitstops.
Magnussen was fourth, just a second clear of teammate Grosjean as the two promised much for a team intent on building upon a solid first two seasons in the sport.
Grosjean commiserated and rallied the pit-crew member with what appeared to be the faulty wheelgun, and should Haas maintain their pace this will not hurt as much as it should.
Their task in staying fourth will get harder as the season wears on.
McLaren secured a double-points finish despite running nowhere near full wick because of (you guessed it) reliability worries from testing.
Due to the late switch to Renault Power Units, there’s still more to come from their chassis too, and in Fernando Alonso they have a man on the front foot.
It has not been difficult to notice a change in the Spaniard’s demeanour, encapsulated perfectly in his “speak up, don’t lose energy” and “now we can fight” messages on Sunday.
In a few days’ time, F1 will be back for 2018 and racing around the streets of Albert Park for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
After a fortnight of pre-season testing confused by rain and snow, this will be the first chance to see who’s settled where in the pecking order over the winter.
Much of the focus will of course be on Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, as both drivers are gunning to become the first of their generation to win a fifth world title.
After testing many are tipping Hamilton as having the advantage again, with Mercedes’ focus on long runs in Barcelona hinting at a daunting degree of race pace.
But that’s not to say Mercedes will have the race all to themselves this weekend. The record-breaking lap times set by Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen in testing may have been a little flattered by low fuel loads, but still suggest there’s enough speed in Ferrari’s SF71H to give the Silver Arrows a real challenge in qualifying.
And then there’s Red Bull, whose RB14 looked dependable on track and much closer to the top two than its predecessor. The Austrian outfit hasn’t won in Melbourne since 2011, but could Max Verstappen or homeboy Daniel Ricciardo have the machinery to buck that trend this year?
Add that to the paddock talk from Barcelona that Mercedes is once again finding it difficult to unlock pace on the softer tyres, and the reigning champions could be facing a real headache on a weekend favouring the soft, supersoft and ultrasoft rubber.
Nor is it just the top three who might be in for a tough scrap in Albert Park—the race to take first blood in the upper midfield battle looks to be equally tight.
At present, Renault looks favourite to be best-of-the-rest in Melbourne. The Enstone team has been one of the most-improved this winter, judging by a consistent presence high up the time and mileage leaderboards in testing, and their two drivers have a history of delivering good results in Australia.
But Renault aren’t the only ones expected to make a solid start to their 2018 campaign. Haas made a big impression in pre-season testing and have been tipped by champions Mercedes to be this season’s dark horse. And the hype isn’t without good reason, either—Haas ended testing as the fifth fastest team, and with Kevin Magnussen as the sixth-fastest driver.
And speaking of surprising testing performances, Honda will be hoping their respectable showing in Barcelona translates to their first points finish in the season opener since 2006.
Together with new partners Toro Rosso, the Japanese marque ended pre-season testing with the third-highest number of laps per team as well as setting some decent midfield times.
But form in testing is one thing—the true proof of Honda’s 2018 campaign will come when the STR13 takes to the race track this weekend.
Kimi Räikkönen kept Ferrari on top for the final day of 2018 testing, leading by half a second from McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.
The Finn set his best time during the morning session, using hypersofts to post a 1:17.221s—just 0.039s slower than Sebastian Vettel’s record-breaking lap from Thursday.
Although Räikkönen’s focus turned to long runs in the afternoon as he notched up a total of 153 laps, his time was strong enough to remain fastest even as a flurry of hot laps came late in the session.
Fernando Alonso made the most ground on the leaderboard during that period, setting a pair of hypersoft-shod 1:17s that brought him within 0.563s of the Ferrari in the final 15 minutes.
The Spaniard did briefly top the leaderboard following that run with a 1:16.720s, but this time came by cutting the final chicane and as such was deleted.
As well as rising to second-quickest, Alonso’s afternoon was also spent recovering from yet another interrupted morning. After teammate Vandoorne logged 151 laps on Thursday, Alonso’s final session with the MCL33 was halted after just seven laps this morning, when a turbo problem prompted a five-hour engine change.
However, once that was completed Alonso had no further issues on track and ended the day with a respectable 93 laps.
Alonso’s P2 was the first in a trio of Renault-powered cars to slot in behind Räikkönen, as the French marque continued to show signs of improvements in its power unit performance.
Carlos Sainz’s works Renault was three tenths down on the McLaren in third. Like Alonso, he too was making up for lost track time in the final hours, following a gearbox problem that halted his RS18 after just four installation laps in the morning.
Fourth was Daniel Ricciardo, who set a supersoft lap of 1:18.327s—only three tenths off the hypersoft lap that put the Australian on top of Tuesday’s session.
Romain Grosjean was fifth, putting in another strong showing of speed for Haas with a 1:18.412s. The Frenchman also posted the most laps of the day at 191.
Valtteri Bottas—who set his best time on the medium tyre—was the highest-placed Mercedes in sixth. Once again, the Silver Arrows split its day between Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, with the duo putting in a combined 201 laps on Friday to bring Mercedes’ testing total up to 1,040.
That’s 56 fewer than the team achieved during 2017 testing, but still leaves Mercedes comfortably top of this year’s mileage charts, setting 111 laps more than next-best Ferrari.
Slotting into third on the teams’ lap count was Toro Rosso-Honda, their total of 822 laps including the 156 logged by Brendon Hartley on Friday. The New Zealander was seventh-fastest in the end, one tenth down on Bottas and less than 0.020s quicker than Esteban Ocon’s Force India in eighth.
Charles Leclerc was ninth, and the first driver outside of the 1:18s. The reigning F2 champion’s final day was hampered when he span into the gravel trap in the morning—the delay limited Leclerc to 75 laps, the third-lowest total of the day.
Lewis Hamilton made a rare appearance towards the bottom of the leaderboard, as his 1:19.464s (good enough for fourth in the morning) tumbled down the order while his teammate drove the afternoon session.
The defending champion eventually settled in eleventh place, splitting the two Williams’ of Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll. During his morning in the FW41, Sirotkin recorded a century of laps to help Williams to fourth in overall testing mileage.
However, his teammate added only 27 laps of his own in the afternoon running, and with a best time of 1:19.954s Stroll made it the sixth time in eight days of testing that a Williams has been slowest.
McLaren suffered another day of limited mileage on Tuesday as F1 testing resumed in Barcelona, finishing the day bottom of the lap charts and with the second-slowest time.
After minor mechanical faults cost the team valuable track time last week, McLaren was left again on the back foot when Stoffel Vandoorne’s MCL33 broke down twice in the morning with a pair of battery failures shutting down his Renault engine.
And although McLaren seemed to resolve those issues in time for the afternoon, Vandoorne was not out for long before this session was also cut short—this time, owing to a hydraulics problem.
In total, Vandoorne completed just 38 laps across the whole of Tuesday, and finished last-but-one on the timesheets with a best of 1:21.946s.
While McLaren struggled, their rivals took advantage of the prime conditions in Barcelona to embark on the long run programmes traditionally seen in the second week.
Sebastian Vettel recorded the most individual mileage of the day with 171 laps, as well as ending the day fastest by two tenths from Valtteri Bottas.
However, Mercedes ran the furthest of any team on Tuesday, surpassing Ferrari by six laps by combining Bottas’s 86 laps in the morning with Lewis Hamilton’s afternoon total of 91.
Max Verstappen—who split Bottas and Hamilton to be third fastest—lost running in the final hour of the afternoon when his Red Bull stopped on track, but nevertheless logged 130 laps to be Vettel’s closest challenger.
Sauber, Renault and Williams also broached the 100-lap mark (the latter two teams splitting running between both of their drivers), while Haas and Force India came close with 96 and 93 laps respectively.
In an unexpected turn, Toro Rosso and Honda endured the first difficult day of their new partnership on Tuesday. After accomplishing a respectable 53 laps in the morning session with Pierre Gasly at the wheel, an unknown issue kept the STR13 confined to the garage for most of the afternoon, with Gasly adding only a single lap to his total after lunch.
But despite those troubles, Gasly still managed to end the day fifth fastest and best of the rest with a 1:20.973s, putting the Frenchman less than six tenths off Vettel’s benchmark.
Kevin Magnussen was sixth and the last of Tuesday’s drivers to be within a second of the pace. He finished ahead of Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz, who were separated by just 0.023s despite setting their laps on different tyre compounds.
Sergey Sirotkin enjoyed more profitable running than his first week of F1 testing, and was the highest-placed Williams in ninth. Two tenths separated the Russian from Sergio Pérez in tenth and Marcus Ericsson—who notched up 120 laps for Sauber—in eleventh.
Lance Stroll was Tuesday’s slowest runner behind McLaren’s Vandoorne, even though his 1:22.937s was set on the hypersoft tyre. However, with the Canadian making it to 86 laps despite sharing his day with Sirotkin, it’s likely Stroll’s programme was focused more on distance than outright pace.