Felipe Massa showed the world that he’s still got it by registering a time of 1.19.726 and putting Williams on top of the first test session of week two.
The team needed mileage as much as a showing of pace after a difficult first week in which the team had a parts shortage due to the amount of damage taken from Lance Stroll’s spins. More importantly, Massa was able to clock the second largest number of laps with 67, giving the team plenty of data to play with.
Daniel Ricciardo and the Red Bull team finished the morning test session in 2nd, the Aussie was just under two-tenths slower on the Ultrasofts than the Supersoft Williams. Hamilton finished the session in 3rd, seven-tenths down on Massa but only on the soft compound. If you were to discount fuel loads, sandbagging and the other variables that skew the pre-season test running order, then it would look very good for the Mercedes to be only half-a-second down on the Red Bull when using tyres two grades harder.
Sebastian Vettel finished 4th but again, his session highlighted that reliability shouldn’t be an issue for Ferrari this season. Another 82 trouble-free laps registered and another impressive run on the medium compound. They’re keeping their cards close to their chests and it will be exciting to see their true pace in FP3 and Quali for the Australian Grand Prix. If they have a car that can challenge for the title this season, two more World Champions will be in contention and the reformulating of Formula One would pretty much take care of itself.
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) March 7, 2017
Esteban Ocon had a good test session for Force India, managing to finish 5th and register 59 laps. The French driver had a late push on the Supersoft compound to keep the improving Haas of Kevin Magnussen behind in 6th. Both Force India and Haas appear to be very well prepared as perceived midfield teams, and on testing’s form so far, both have stated that podiums will be obtainable this season.
Despite the early stories lining up Toro Rosso to be a bit of a surprise package this season, their mileage in testing has been quite poor. Daniil Kvyat managed the 7th quickest time with a 1.21.965, two-tenths slower than the Haas on the same Soft compound. The team managed 45 laps, which is an improvement on last week, but they should be aiming for 60 per session to catch up.
If Toro Rosso’s situation is mildly concerning, McLaren’s continues to be disastrous. Whilst Stoffel Vandoorne did improve on his lap count by clocking 34 smooth laps, the car looks off the pace and yet another issue will hamper the afternoon test session. After the session concluded, McLaren confirmed that they would have to change the Honda power-unit in the back of Stoffel’s car due to an electrical issue. Another hefty job and you’ve got to feel for the drivers and mechanics.
A better story was that Pascal Wehrlein was in the cockpit of the Sauber C36 after recovering from a back injury sustained at the Race of Champions kept him out of the action in the first test but allowed Ferrari reserve Antonio Giovanazzi the chance to impress. Wehrlein managed 47 laps and mixed running, with a medium stint taking up most of the session before a few hot laps on the soft towards the end. He finished the session 9th on a 1.23.336.
Jolyon Palmer had an excellent first week in testing, but week two has started pretty badly for the Brit and Renault. He managed 15 laps before the Renault engine coughed out, the RS17 had to be pushed back into the garage as Palmer tried to bring it back. Renault have confirmed an engine change, which may add caution to the Red Bull and Toro Rosso running for the rest of the day.
The key talking points for this afternoon session will definitely revolve around McLaren, and whether they can get what will surely be a frustrated driver out of the garage before the session ends. Will Vettel show Ferrari’s true pace on a softer compound? Can Williams finish the session on top again? Will anyone break into the 1.18’s?