Sebastian Vettel may have topped the timesheet on the final day of Formula 1 pre-season testing, but Mercedes claimed the day four headlines.
After two weeks of disciplined data gathering, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas unlocked performance from the W10, ending up second and third on the timesheet – Hamilton just 0.003s adrift of Vettel’s benchmark.
Here is a round-up of all the main storylines from the final day of pre-season testing.
McLaren rookie Lando Norris was fastest on the first day of the second Formula 1 pre-season test at the Circuit de Barcelona, despite finding reliability issues.
Equipped with the C5 tyres – the softest compound in Pirelli’s range – Norris posted a 1m17.709s time to edge Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly off of top spot.
Soon after vaulting to the top of the times, Norris stopped on track for the second time in the day. The first was caused by a hydraulic problem on the MCL34 before lunch.
Both Ferrari and Mercedes’ mileage was hampered, as the Scuderia completed cooling checks in the morning, while Valtteri Bottas stopped on track with an oil pressure problem after just one lap at the start of the afternoon session.
Here is a full round up of how all 10 teams fared on the first day of the second test.
“I need more power” – quite an admission from a driver who has been at the wheel of Formula 1’s most complete package for the entirety of this era.
Since the dawn of the V6 hybrids in 2014, Mercedes has blown away the opposition and claimed four consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championships. Last season, Ferrari mounted the biggest challenge to the Silver Arrows’ supremacy, only to run out of steam at the end of the season.
However, this year looks set to be different and after the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, Mercedes has found itself in rather uncharted territory.
Scorching temperatures were matched by red-hot track action at Silverstone, as the 2018 British Grand Prix delivered the race in which the 2018 title fight was truly ignited.
Sure, this was round 10 of the season and chief title protagonists Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel had already exchanged top spot in the drivers’ championship on three occasions in 2018.
However, the billed ‘Fight for Five’ – in which four-time champions Vettel and Hamilton would fight each other in a duel to secure a fifth crown – had somewhat been lost in other storylines. Valtteri Bottas has starred, only to be hampered by misfortune. Red Bull has won three races with it’s strongest package since 2013.
These distractions dissolved at Silverstone, replaced by what felt like the first gloves off duel between Vettel and Hamilton. It highlighted and potentially foreshadowed some of the themes that will define the outcome of the championship.
When watching Formula 1 races, I steer clear of Twitter. It’s for the same reason as for why it’s best to avoid reviews of a film before watching it for the first time – it’s better not to have someone else’s opinion impeding on your own impressions.
My first reaction when the chequered flag fell on Sunday afternoon – ‘what a brilliant race.’ Safe to say, it was rather surprising to see that the Twitter machine had fired into a frenzy to the contrary, with fans lamenting what they believed to have been a boring race.
Even Fernando Alonso powerfully described it as “the most boring F1 race ever.”
While the top six may have finished in the same positions that they started and overtaking was at a premium, the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix was far better than the critics would lead you to believe.
The 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix was a modern classic. It had elements of soap opera, late-braking bravery, inter and intra-team anguish and plenty of unexpected heroes. The ’18 edition of the race was, as a result, in danger of being over-hyped.
In the end, the race lived up to the blockbuster billing with a finale that would have earned a ‘fresh’ rating from Rotten Tomatoes.