Mercedes reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein went quickest on the opening day of testing at the Red Bull Ring as torrential downpours forced the abandonment of running in the morning and the extension of afternoon action into the evening hours.
Wehrlein put in a lap of 1:11.005 to finish 0.187 seconds clear of Force India’s Esteban Ocon. Ferrari Academy driver Antonio Fuoco meanwhile crashed the team’s SF15-T on his debut for the team.
Steady rain was falling across the Red Bull Ring as the green light came on to start the day’s work at 9am local time but soon after Fuoco and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne had completed nervous exploratory laps on the blue-banded Pirelli wet tyres the session was red-flagged as the rain intensified. Running came to a halt after half an hour.
There followed long discussions as to whether the day’s testing would be completely abandoned and the test extended until Thursday but as the outlook improved it was eventually decided that teams would go out in the afternoon and the day’s activities would be extended by two hours until 8pm.
Vandoorne was the first to test the improved conditions, on full wet tyres, and he was soon followed by Fuoco and Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen.
As conditions quickly improved, the wet tyres were soon discarded in favour of intermediates and eventually the field, almost entirely made up of test and reserve drivers save for Verstappen and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean, moved to slick tyres.
With three hours left on the clock Fuoco was the first to make a major mistake. The Ferrari junior got a wheel on the grass at the track edge on the run to Turn One and immediately spun. He hit the wall and damaged the front end of his car.
Wehrlein, meanwhile, was making steady progress and after a cautious start the German gradually picked up the pace and eventually logged the day’s best time before drizzle in the final hour put paid to any further improvements.
His time was just under two tenths quicker than fellow Mercedes protégé Ocon, who got through 73 laps of the Red Bull Ring for a best time of 1:11.192.
Verstappen was the day’s busiest man, however, with the Dutch teen getting through 97 laps for Toro Rosso, which yield P3 on the time sheet, two tenths off Ocon’s time. Fuoco finished up fourth.
Fifth place went to Grosjean, who completed just 45 laps for Lotus, with Pierre Gasly sixth for Red Bull Racing ahead of Ferrari Driver Academy member Raffaele Marciello, who was testing for Sauber.
Vandoorne was eighth for McLaren, while slowest on the day was Susie Wolff, with the Williams test driver also recording the fewest number of laps at 39.
Formula One Testing – Red Bull Ring
- P. Wehrlein Mercedes 1:11.005 67
- E. Ocon Force India 1:11.192 76
- M. Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:11.328 97
- A. Fuoco Ferrari 1:11.331 71
- R. Grosjean Lotus 1:11.509 45
- P. Gasly Red Bull 1:11.757 80
- R. Marciello Sauber 1:11.826 53
- S. Vandoorne McLaren 1:12.530 76
- S. Wolff Williams 1:13.248 39