Mercedes pile on the laps in testing

Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas during testing at the Circuit de Catalunya yesterday. He was second-fastest behind Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.
Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas during testing at the Circuit de Catalunya yesterday. He was second-fastest behind Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.PHOTO: REUTERS

BARCELONA • World champions Mercedes pounded out the laps while Ferrari went fastest, and rivals Red Bull and McLaren hit immediate setbacks as Formula One's new crop of cars made their test debuts yesterday.

Valtteri Bottas, replacing retired world champion Nico Rosberg at Mercedes alongside Lewis Hamilton, had completed well over a race distance by lunchtime with 79 timed laps of the Circuit de Catalunya.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel was fastest in the sunny opening session with a lap of 1min 22.791sec and 62 laps to his credit on medium tyres.

The German's time was already close to the fastest lap in last year's Barcelona testing of 1:22.765.

Bottas was second on the time sheets, 0.378 slower on the soft tyres.

The main focus of all teams was on reliability and racking up mileage, however, with some cars sporting intricate aerodynamic devices to measure air flow and performance.

Fernando Alonso failed to set a timed lap on home soil in the McLaren, while Australian Daniel Ricciardo, first to drive the new Red Bull RB13 after its presentation on Sunday, had completed only four.

McLaren's engine partner Honda said the orange and black MCL32 car, which managed just one untimed installation lap, had an oil systems problem.

"We plan to run again today but due to the difficult access location it will take several hours to resolve," a spokesman said.

Ricciardo brought out the first red flag of the morning, stopping on track with a sensor problem between turns three and four.

The car was brought back to the pits shrouded in a tarpaulin on the back of a flatbed truck.

It was craned off and taken back into the garage, where mechanics were working on removing the gearbox.

Force India's Mexican driver Sergio Perez and Williams driver Felipe Massa were third- and fourth-fastest with 39 laps each.

Of the rest, only Sweden's Marcus Ericsson came close to their lap tally with 32 for Sauber, who are using last year's Ferrari engine.

The new cars, wider and with bigger front and rear tyres, are expected to be several seconds a lap quicker than last year's, if not louder. The season starts in Australia on March 26.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2017, with the headline 'Mercedes pile on the laps in testing'. Print Edition | Subscribe