Bottas quickest on final day of pre-season testing

Valtteri Bottas finished top of the timesheets on the final day of pre-season testing, setting the second fastest lap time of the entire winter.

His best time of a 1m 16.196, set on the C5 tyre, put him only +0.073 ahead of Max Verstappen. Verstappen also set his fastest time on the C5 tyres, but his previous best lap – which was set on the medium C3 tyres – still put him a very respectable +0.188 behind Bottas.

Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo was only +0.007 behind Verstappen, with Charles Leclerc, who completed the most laps of anyone with 177, in fourth.

Lewis Hamilton rounded out the top five with 90 laps to his name, aiming to bounce back after his engine failure yesterday confined him to the garage for a significant chunk of time.

Esteban Ocon finished in sixth ahead of four drivers who each completed over 140 laps each: Sergio Perez (153 laps), Carlos Sainz (159 laps), George Russell (143 laps) and Daniil Kvyat (157 laps).

Romain Grosjean in eleventh was the last driver whose fastest lap fell within a second of Bottas’ time, with Kimi Raikkonen behind in twelfth.

Kevin Magnussen suffered a clutch-related issue that saw him stuck in his garage for a few hours. The problem was eventually rectified and he emerged on track for the final thirty minutes of running. He completed just 25 laps.

Alex Albon rounded out the timesheets, +1.607 away from Bottas and with 59 laps to his name.

The Australian Grand Prix is next on the agenda for the teams with the problem of the coronavirus hanging over everybody’s heads. It is scheduled to take place between the 13th and 15th of March.

 

[Featured image – LAT Images]

Vettel fastest on penultimate day of testing, Hamilton breaks down

Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari finished fastest for the first time in pre-season testing this year, as Lewis Hamilton stopped on track due to engine problems.

Vettel set a 1m 16.841 on the soft tyre in the morning session, a time that would not be bested all day. It is the second quickest overall lap set so far during the five days of testing that have already taken place, and the first time that Ferrari have noticeably moved away from the long runs they had been conducting for much of the previous days.

Vettel did, however, also bring out a red flag when he ran though the gravel and span.

Pierre Gasly charged up the standings late on to finish two tenths behind Vettel and just +0.052 ahead of Lance Stroll in P3.

Fourth-placed Nicholas Latifi completed the most laps of anybody with 158, and also posted Williams’ fastest lap of testing so far.

McLaren’s Lando Norris finished in fifth with 112 laps to his name, ahead of Max Verstappen, who caused a red flag in the morning when he beached his car in the gravel at Turn 5.

Bottas nearly suffered a similar fate to Verstappen but managed to continue on his way and finish seventh in front of Ocon, Magnussen, Albon and Ricciardo.

Antonio Giovinazzi in P12 brought out the day’s first red flag when he crashed at Turn 4, but nonetheless completed 91 laps.

Lewis Hamilton completed just 14 laps in the afternoon, having taken over from Bottas, before he lost power and ground to a halt at Turn 6. He had suffered a reported oil pressure anomaly and would not return to the track for the rest of the session.

[Featured image – Scuderia Ferrari Press Office]

Kubica fastest on first day of second F1 test

Robert Kubica has finished fastest on the first day of the second pre-season test, as a late spin from Max Verstappen brought out the red flag and ended the day’s running prematurely.

Kubica set his time of a 1m 16.942 was set in the morning session on the C5 tyres, the softest available, and was not bested by anyone running in the afternoon.

Max Verstappen leapfrogged up the timing screens late in the day but closed only to within +0.4 of Kubica’s time and finished in P2. He also suffered a couple of spins , the second of which coincided with Daniil Kvyat coming to a halt at Turn 9 and brought out the red flag, ending the session for the day.

Sergio Perez continued to highlight Racing Point’s promising pre-season showing and finished third ahead of the AlphaTauri duo of Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly, with Gasly having spent a significant chunk of the morning session confined to the garage for unknown technical reasons. He completed just 25 laps, the least amount of laps of any driver today.

Alex Albon in P6 also had trouble getting out on track and completed only four more laps than Gasly.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas finished in P7 and P9, sandwiching Lance Stroll and completing 179 laps between them.

Sebastian Vettel span early on in the morning at Turn 8 and caused the first red flag of the day, but nevertheless put in Ferrari’s best lap of pre-season testing so far – a 1m 18.113 – and came in P10.

Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz in P10 and P11 were separated by just 0.007, ahead of Charles Leclerc, George Russell and Nicholas Latifi. Latifi caused the day’s second red flag when he stopped at Turn 9 with an engine problem, but the Williams team rectified the problem, allowing Russell to take over in the afternoon.

Romain Grosjean was the only driver to participate in both the morning and afternoon sessions, and completed 107 laps on his way to P16.

Rounding out the timesheets were Lando Norris, Kimi Raikkonen and Esteban Ocon.

 

[Featured image – Mark Thompson/Getty Images]

Bottas leads Mercedes 1-2 on final day of first test

Valtteri Bottas lead a Mercedes 1-2 on the final day of the first pre-season test, posting the fastest lap of any driver across the three days.

Bottas posted his time of a 1m 15.732 in the morning session on Pirelli’s C5 tyre, the softest available. His team-mate Lewis Hamilton also set his fastest lap on that tyre, but wound up almost eight tenths behind in P2.

Both drivers completed over a Grand Prix’s worth of laps each – 65 for Bottas and 73 for Hamilton – underlining the reliability and solid pace shown by the team across the three days of the first test.

In third, and +1.3s off Bottas’s pace, was the Renault of Esteban Ocon. He was followed by Lance Stroll, who completed 116 laps, with Daniil Kvyat rounding out the top five.

Antonio Giovinazzi completed the most laps by a single driver with 116 and wound up in P6 ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, who caused one of the day’s four red flags when he stopped on track on approach to Turn 9. Ricciardo was back out on track for the final hour of running, where a late surge moved him above former team-mate Max Verstappen, who had another solid day and finished P8 on 86 laps.

Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon both took over driving duties from their respective team-mates in the afternoon and completed the top ten.

Sebastian Vettel suffered an engine failure in the morning session, but recovered to complete a century of laps, albeit in P13.

Lando Norris was garage-bound for a while with brake issues before emerging to finish P14 on 49 laps, while Nicholas Latifi also hit problems when his engine also failed not long after the afternoon session began.

Kevin Magnussen finished the day last. He took over from Grosjean in the afternoon but only managed three laps before a puncture sent him into the barriers at Turn 8.

[Featured image – Wolfgang Wilhelm]

Raikkonen fastest on second day of testing as Mercedes cause intrigue

Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen topped the timing sheets on the second day of pre-season testing ahead of the 2020 F1 season, but all eyes were on Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes debuted a new steering wheel system.

Raikkonen posted his fastest time – a 1m 17.091 – during the final hour of the day’s running whilst on the soft tyre, displacing Sergio Perez, who had topped the timing sheets for much of the day. He completed 134 laps, but also brought out the first red flag of the test when he stopped on approach to Turn 9 with less than 15 minutes left on the clock.

The day’s headlines, however, were stolen by Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes, after it was noticed that the German team had introduced a new adjustable steering wheel system – called ‘DAS’ – to the W11. Technical director James Allison said that the FIA was aware of the system and was confident it was within the regulations, but declined to explain for what reason it was added to the car.

Hamilton completed 106 laps in the morning and posted the ninth fastest time before handing over to Bottas in the afternoon. The Finn turned in 77 laps before an electrical problem forced him to miss the final hour of running.

On the whole though, it was another day of noticeably strong reliability and high mileage.

Sergio Perez finished in P2 having been on top of the timing sheets for much of the day, with Daniel Ricciardo a further +0.4s back and Albon and Gasly rounding out the top five.

Sebastian Vettel made his first appearance on track and finished P6 with 73 laps to his name. He had been due to drive yesterday but pulled out at the last minute owing to illness.

George Russell completed a healthy 116 laps on his way to P7, with Charles Leclerc, Hamilton and Lando Norris behind him in P8, P9 and P10 respectively.

Romain Grosjean completed 158 laps and finished in P11 despite a spin at Turn 5 that left him with damage to the rear-wing and floor. Behind him were Esteban Ocon and Bottas.

 

[Featured image – LAT Images]

Hamilton fastest on first day of pre-season testing

Lewis Hamilton has finished fastest on the first day of pre-season ahead of the 2020 F1 season, three tenths ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton set a 1m 16.976 on the hard tyres during the afternoon session, making him the only driver to break into the 1m 16s. He completed 94 laps, having taken over the wheel of the W11 from Bottas – who had led the morning session – after the break for lunch. The pair completed 173 laps between them, the most of any team.

Sergio Perez of Racing Point finished an impressive third with 58 laps to his name, almost four tenths behind Hamilton.

Verstappen completed the most laps of any single driver with a whopping 168 on his way to fourth in the timing sheets. He suffered a couple of spins on his way into the final chicane in the afternoon, but suffered no damage.

(Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Daniil Kvyat finished fifth in his team’s first outing as AlphaTauri ahead of Sainz and the Renault duo of Ricciardo and Ocon. Ricciardo was delayed in leaving the garage at the start of the afternoon session due to continuing work being carried out on the R.S.20, but eventually completed 54 laps.

George Russell finished an encouraging P9 for Williams, who are looking to recover from a miserable 2019 season, while Lance Stroll rounded out the top ten.

It was a late call-up for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. Sebastian Vettel was originally slated to drive today, but he was feeling unwell and opted to leave the circuit early to recover. Leclerc stepped in in his place and finished P11 on 131 laps.

Williams’s Nicholas Latifi finished P12 in his first official outing as an F1 driver, with Alfa Romeo’s reserve driver Robert Kubica in P13, and Kevin Magnussen and Antonio Giovinazzi rounding out the timing sheets.

In something of a rare occurence, not a single red flag was shown all day. Every team completed over 100 laps and there were no issues or incidents aside from Verstappen’s spins, and a relatively small off for Magnussen.

Testing continues tomorrow morning.

 

[Featured image – Wolfgang Wilhelm]

Problem-free start to second test “a huge relief” for Williams

Williams’ George Russell has described the first day of the second pre-season test as “a huge relief” for himself and for the team, completing all the planned running with no issues.

“It was a good day,” Russell said. “Our plan was to get as many laps on the board, make sure we had no issues and that’s exactly what we did. We have learnt so much about the car on lower fuel and higher fuel which gives us a good indication moving forward into the next few days.

“All in all, it was a huge relief to have a day like today and we completed our test plan as intended.”

Russell posted the ninth fastest time of the day using the C5 tyre – the softest compound available – and also completed 119 laps, the third most of the day.

George Russell (GBR) Williams Racing.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Tuesday 26th February 2019. Barcelona, Spain.

It comes after a less-than ideal first test for Williams, which saw delays with the production of parts for the car force the Grove-based team to miss the first two days of running.

Chief Technical Officer Paddy Lowe added, “It was a good day of testing with George driving the car. We completed 119 laps without any significant reliability issues, so we achieved the entire programme that we had planned from the start of the day.

“Well done to the team, a great job by everybody to get a car that can do the laps without incident to make a solid start to the second test.”

 

[Featured image – Williams F1]

MotoGP Valencia Test, Part 1: Ducati, Yamaha and Honda

Tuesday saw the beginning of the 2019 MotoGP season, as preseason testing started for the premier class in Valencia, following the conclusion of the 2018 World Championship on Sunday.

There was plenty to see: the Ducati GP19 had been highly praised ahead of the test; Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda) would get his first taste of the Honda RC213V; Yamaha had two new engine specs to try in their search for tyre life; Franco Morbidelli (SIC Racing Team ) took to the Yamaha M1 for the first time; Danilo Petrucci moved to factory Ducati; Johann Zarco moved to KTM, as did Tech 3; and there were four rookies getting the chance to try out MotoGP machinery for the first time.

However, things did not go the way the teams would have liked. The first part of the morning was unusable for them because of overnight rain. Zarco was the only rider to go out before the track dried, but only for a couple of laps.

Eventually, the track dried and the riders were able to get their 2019 campaigns underway.  Starting with Ducati, they did not manage to get much of anything done on the first day. Andrea Dovizioso spent the time he had making a base setting with the GP18, since he did not have the opportunity to run in the dry in the weekend. This was the same for everyone, of course, but the time Dovizioso spent on the 2018 bike meant he did not get to try the GP19 until Tuesday. It was the same situation on the other side of the garage, as Danilo Petrucci was acclimatising to his new box, and new team. That said, when they got around to the new bike, Dovizioso was enthused by what his team had discovered, and Petrucci essentially said the GP19 was perfect. Nonetheless, the next test in Jerez will be important for the factory Ducati team to confirm what they found in Valencia, and to determine their direction for the winter before Sepang.

Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) was also highly impressed with the first version of the GP19, saying he couldn’t understand how it was derived from the GP17 he has ridden in the 2018 season. Miller noted that the biggest thing with the new bike compared to the 2017 Desmosedici was the ease with which the 2019 bike changes direction. They have only had one day on the GP19 so far, but already the three factory Ducati riders look strong for the new season.

 

Valentino Rossi during Testing in Valencia. Photo curtesy of Movistar Yamaha Factory Racing

 

The factory Yamaha squad’s entire focus over the course of the test was on the two new engine specs they took with them. On Monday, the focus was on an engine which they had already tried at Aragon. Both Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales were happy with the engine, especially Vinales who was particularly enthusiastic about the engine braking. Rossi reflected Vinales’ opinions, but was more realistic in insisting that there is still work for Yamaha to do before they’ll be in a position to fight consistently. A newer engine spec on the second day seemed indifferent to the one tried on Monday. Vinales could not decide which he preferred, whilst Rossi didn’t seem too happy with either of them. Whilst both of these engines helped in the engine braking, they were still not helping with the acceleration or the tyre life either. However, both riders were happy with the direction after a 2018 season plagued with technical issues.

Yamaha also had Jonas Folger out for his first MotoGP experience since September 2017. Whilst the German’s work in these two days was perhaps not so important, he could be critical for Yamaha come the middle of 2019.

 

Marc Marquez during the Valencia Test. Photo curtesy of Repsol Honda Team.

 

Honda face a difficult winter, and Valencia was the beginning of that. Marc Marquez is injured, as is Jorge Lorenzo (who is new to the bikes) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) who may still be unfit come the Sepang tests in 2019. Stefan Bradl was on the LCR Honda on Tuesday, but was just testing different suspension, whilst Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda) got his hands on 2018 HRC machinery, and was somewhat taken aback by the progression made from 2017 to 2018. Marquez was limited in his track time, due to that injured left shoulder, but had three bikes to test. One was the 2018 spec, there for comparison, and then he had two black bikes, which were 2019 prototypes. Marquez couldn’t say much of his testing, but it seemed as though at least one new engine spec was there for him to try. There was also a new chassis for Marquez to try, but because of limited track time, he and Honda will need to use the Jerez test next week to confirm their feelings from Valencia.

 

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Is Lando Norris a future Formula One star?

Until recently, Lando Norris was a name relatively unknown outside of junior categories. This is all set to change.

The seventeen year old is no stranger to success. Bursting onto the scene in 2014, he finished a respectable third in the Ginetta Junior Championship, taking four wins from twenty races. Norris had his first taste of success the following year at the 2015 MSA Formula Championship, where he took the title by sheer consistency. Last year, he enjoyed a similar run of success, dominating the 2016 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 championship as a rookie. It was a strong showing for Norris and a clear indication of his potential as he took six poles and five wins from seven rounds. He commanded the 2016 Formula Renault 2.0 NEC Championship, taking an impressive ten poles and six wins. Norris also won the 2016 Toyota Racing series in a domineering fashion, his closest rival a massive 135 points away.

Credit: Zak Mauger/LAT Images

His success last year caught the eye of one of Formula One’s most successful manufacturers. In February 2017, McLaren announced that Norris was joining it’s Young Driver Programme in wake of Stoffel Vandoorne’s graduation into the racing seat. It seemed like a good match. McLaren seemed the perfect choice to nurture Norris’s career through junior categories, having done so with Lewis Hamilton and Stoffel Vandoorne to great success.

Norris moved into the Formula 3 European Championship with Carlin in 2017. He faced tough competition from the might of Prema, the defending champions and Maximilian Günther, the runner up to Lance Stroll in 2016. Norris’s career in Formula Three got off to a strong start. He secured pole and the win in the opening race at Silverstone. However, in the second race, his Achilles heel became evident. He was slow off the start, hindered by the damp track and lost positions, finishing ninth. Norris’s bad luck with starts continued in the third race of the round and he was unable to challenge Günther and Callum Ilott ahead.

In Monza, however, he returned to his winning ways, scooping a win and two second place finishes in the three rounds. In Pau, Norris continued to look strong, taking two pole positions. However, he was unable to convert these into race wins. In the second race, he was jumped at the start by Günther and in the third race, he led comfortably, his poor start jinx was seemingly behind him until a front-suspension failure pitched him into the barriers.Again, in Hungary, Norris was plagued by bad starts. He lost positions in the races and only scored one podium finish. At the Norisring, Norris showcased his hunger to win by starting in a lowly fourth and hunting down his rivals to secure his third win in the championship.

Norris seemed unbeatable at Spa. He snatched two pole positions, taking a light to flag victory in the first race. His demons of a bad start seemed forgotten, even when he came under pressure from Ilott. The second race, however, saw the youngster swamped by his competitors, eventually picking up suspension and bodywork damage that ruled him out of the race. He seemed to put that disappointment behind him in the third race of the round. Starting in fourth, Norris surged through his rivals with ease, seemingly motivated by his failure in race two. He showcased some excellent overtaking manoeuvres, securing his fifth win of the season. Norris’s performance in Monza showed what he was capable of, that he could produce results and he wasn’t afraid of reaching the top.

Norris tested for McLaren in Hungary earlier this week, collecting the prize for winning the 2016 McLaren Autosport BRDC award. In previous years, familiar names such as Jenson Button and Paul di Resta have won the award, taking place in testing in older machinery. Interestingly, Norris was able to drive the most current car, showing how much faith McLaren already had in the teenager. He did not disappoint either. Norris completed a sensational run in which he closely challenged the two Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen for the top spot. Clocking 91 laps, Norris treated Formula One to a mastershow as he produced a fantastic lap of 1.17.385, just 0.271 seconds off the pace of Vettel’s Ferrari. Norris also proved invaluable to the McLaren team as he gathered valuable aero data, long-run pace and set up adjustments. Éric Boullier in particular, was singing his praises at the end of the test. Norris showed that he could get to grips with the mechanics of a Formula One car and that he was a force to be reckoned with.

So could we see Norris in Formula One anytime soon? Norris certainly has the potential to be a contender for the McLaren seat in a few years time. Fernando Alonso’s contract is due to expire at the end of this season and seeing Norris’s raw pace and ease with the controls of the McLaren could certainly make him a strong contender to stand alongside Vandoorne. His strength in Formula Three, a series that has produced many F1 drivers in recent years, coupled with his exceptional testing certainly have made McLaren take notice. They seem to be the perfect fit for Norris, being a team with an extensive driver’s academy who have moulded Lewis Hamilton and Kevin Magnussen into F1 drivers, both of whom still compete in the Championship today.

Norris currently lies in second position in the Formula Three Championship. The strong showings in Formula Three show that Norris has something special. He is performing well in the face of tough competition. Norris is still inconsistent at times, particularly in his race starts but he seems to be overcoming his demons. And as Lance Stroll and Antonio Giovinazzi show, drivers don’t often come into Formula One polished. If Lando Norris does manage to make it into Formula One, he is likely he will be the same to begin with. Fortunately, for Norris, McLaren are a team that are patient and allows their junior drivers to develop at their own pace. This is clear from Vandoorne’s recent performances, blossoming after a shaky start at the wheel of the McLaren.

Credit: Mark Sutton/LAT Images

It seems unlikely however, that with Alonso’s departure, that Norris would be filling the vacant seat next year. Although, Norris could potentially acquire enough points for a 2017 FIA Super Licence next season and he would be eligible later this year when he turns 18, McLaren may not want to take on another rookie driver so soon after working to develop Vandoorne’s ability. McLaren may desire a bigger name and a more experienced driver to work alongside the team for the 2018 season, one that could potentially bring in more sponsorship deals. They may bring Jenson Button back for a season and send Norris to Formula Two or another series, in a situation similar to Vandoorne’s, to hone the teenager’s race craft and prepare him for Formula One. His status also depends on how successful the Formula Three season is for him. He needs to showcase his talents and prove to McLaren that he is a winner in all aspects and worthy of taking Alonso’s position away. His status as a British driver, and one that could follow in the footsteps of Lewis Hamilton could certainly improve his prospects of driving for McLaren in later years. Norris is capable of producing results when qualifying doesn’t go well for him and he is experienced at carving his way through the field to reach the top step. It’s a hunger that undoubtedly, would be welcomed in Formula One.

It still remains to be seen what will happen next year at McLaren. It is dependent on Norris’s results and whether McLaren are ready to take a chance on a driver from Formula Three, as Toro Rosso and Williams did before them. Norris has proved so far that he is a diamond in the rough. He can produce sensational results both in his own series and in F1 testing, and he has the drive and hunger to succeed. The way he conducted himself within the test shows clear maturity and work ethic, factors that are critical to success in Formula One. There are elements of his driving that could be improved, but these can be honed as he continues to develop in his career. If McLaren are willing to shape him into the driver they need, he could well be a commanding force in years to come.

All images courtesy of McLaren.