As teams and drivers woke up to grey skies this morning, the outlook did not suggest a productive day was imminent. On the basis of a morning in which just two installation laps were completed before a rain-induced red flag ran into lunch, this forecast seemed to be coming to fruition. However, as the rain abated in the afternoon, condensed programmes saw the smattering of fans in Spielberg entertained, as teams completed substantial mileage this afternoon, aided by a two hour extension to the session. Pascal Wehrlein topped the timesheet in the W06 Mercedes.
Wehrlein’s presence on the timesheet may come as a surprise to some, given that the German was not scheduled to run today. However, given the adverse conditions, the team decided to postpone Nico Rosberg’s running until tomorrow. It was the latest schedule switch for the world champions, after Lewis Hamilton had asked to be excused from his testing duties this week.
While the circumstances are unclear, Hamilton’s absence has afforded an opportunity to Nico Rosberg to gain an advantage over his chief title rival. While what a driver can learn during testing is limited, Rosberg will have the luxury of heading to Silverstone having experienced the latest additions to the W06 package and while I have no doubt that Hamilton will soon catch up any with any deficit of information, any advantage is an advantage worth taking, given the close nature of the duel.
While Mercedes topped the timesheet, it was Max Verstappen who sat at the head of the all-important mileage charts, with an impressive total of 97 laps. To even approach the century mark on a truncated day marks an excellent achievement from the guys and girls at Toro Rosso. Plenty of data, therefore, achieved by a team which are enjoying a promising campaign thus far.
McLaren also recorded excellent mileage. The day saw GP2 star Stoffel Vandoorne experience driving an F1 car in the wet, and in recording 67 laps, completed one of McLaren’s most fruitful test days since the reforged partnership with Honda first took to the track in the Abu Dhabi test in November last year. The only drawback for the Woking based squad, was that following Fernando Alonso’s crash on Sunday, they were without update parts such as the new, shorter nose.
Elsewhere, Force India debuted some of the new aero parts which have been developed at the Cologne wind-tunnel. The team have sacrificed performance in the early stages of the season in order to use the facility and on the basis of today, it has provided some interesting results, as the VJM08 ran for part of the afternoon with an intriguing nose concept, featuring what can only be described as “nostrils”. The legality of the idea remains to be announced, by it certainly has split opinion regarding its aesthetics thus far.
For a full round-up of the day’s action, check out my report for F1 Connection: http://www.f1connection.co.uk/wehrlein-tops-rain-affected-opening-day/