After two tests in which it largely succeeded in operating under the radar, Williams finally showed its hand on the first of the final pre-season F1 test, with Felipe Massa recording the fastest time seen at any test so far this year.
The Brazilian clocked a time of 1:23.500 midway through the afternoon session, with his FW36 running on soft tyres as the team conducted a qualifying-style run.
That put Massa ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson. The Swede spent much of the day working through aero work and then a race simulation but late in the day he took on soft tyres to claim third spot and then bolted on supersoft rubber to register a time of 1:24.276, just over a second off Massa’s benchmark. Ercisson also recorded the day’s biggest mileage, lapping 122 times.
The day’s third fastest time was set by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. The world champion seized control of the control of the timesheet early in the morning session, registering time of 1:24.881 on the medium tyre compound.
That was as quick a Hamilton would go, however. The morning session was effectively ended when rain began to fall an hour before the lunch break. Hamilton, with Red Bull Racing’s Daniil Kvyat for company, tested the conditions briefly but both returned to the pit lane to wait for improved conditions.
However, after lunch Hamilton made no return to the track and an hour before the chequered flag Mercedes announced that an MGU-K failure on its W05 car had ended their running for the day.
McLaren’s announcement that it was throwing in the day one towel arrived earlier. The troubled Honda-powered team turned just seven single laps in the morning with Jenson Button at the wheel before it announced that a hydraulic leak had cut short their day, as the repairs would mean a change of power unit.
Button is likely to be at the wheel again on day two, with reserve driver Kevin Magnussen also waiting in the wings. Fernando Alonso has been ruled out of the test while he recovers from his crash at last week’s test in Barcelona.
With Hamilton third fourth place went to Red Bull Racing’s Daniil Kvyat, who had a tricky day. The Russian brought out the red flags with his first outing of the day when he stopped at the end of the pit lane, but thereafter he ran without problem in the morning, logging 45 laps. He had been set for an afternoon race simulation but early in the long run he suffered a mechanical problem and returned to the garage where the team adjusted its plan, favouring short runs as it waited on the arrival of new parts.
Behind the Red Bull driver, Lotus’ Romain Grosjean was fifth fastest with a time of 1:26.177. It was an unspectacular day at Ferrari where Kimi Raikkonen completed 80 laps for a best time of 1:26.327 and sixth on the timesheet.
The Finn finished ahead of Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr. The Italian squad have brought a substantially upgraded car to this final test and Sainz andf the team seemed to struggle to get the best from it. The Spanish rookie brought out the red flags midway through the afternoon when he stopped at Turn 10. He returned to the action later on, however, and ended the day with 86 laps under his belt and in seventh place on the timesheet. Button, in the McLaren was eighth.
Force India missed the opening day of the finial test but is expected to debut its 2015 car, the VJM08, on day two.
Barcelona Test, Day 1 – Thursday, 26 February 2015