Nico Rosberg set the fastest time of the opening day of the final pre-season test as Mercedes started to show its pace.
With the team continuing with its programme of running both drivers for half a day each, Rosberg was in the W07 in the morning and completed some qualifying simulations on soft tyres which saw him set the pace with a 1:23.022. While Rosberg was 0.2s slower than the quickest time of testing so far, Sebastian Vettel needed ultrasoft tyres to set the current benchmark.
One driver using the ultrasofts on Tuesday was Valtteri Bottas who went second fastest for Williams during a productive day for the team. After a morning of aero and tyre testing, Williams used the purple-marked tyres in the afternoon and duly closed the gap to Mercedes to 0.2s, still being unable to beat Rosberg despite going a full two tyre compounds softer.
Third fastest was Fernando Alonso in the McLaren, who also set his best time on the soft tyre. Alonso’s lap came at the start of a relatively long run – compared to only a three-lap run for Rosberg – but fuel loads are always unknown in testing. Of more significance for McLaren was a day of almost 100 laps despite causing a red flag late in the morning session due to a telemetry problem.
Kimi Raikkonen suffered reliability issues in the afternoon as he stopped on the pit straight with gearbox concerns, bringing out the second red flag of the day. Ferrari managed to get the Finn back out on track late on, with him finishing the day fourth fastest with 71 laps to his name. Raikkonen’s best time came on medium tyres, leaving him 1.8s of Rosberg’s pace.
A number of teams struggled with reliability in Tuesday, with Daniil Kvyat completing just 22 laps in the morning session after returning to the pits in a smoking RB12. The afternoon saw Kvyat add another 47 laps to his tally including some long runs on medium tyres, but he remained over two seconds shy of the lead Mercedes.
While Rosberg carried out qualifying runs, it was Lewis Hamilton who was in the car during the afternoon and carried out a race simulation. As a result, Hamilton was over two seconds slower than his team-mate as he ran the soft tyre on higher fuel, but a total of 90 laps in the afternoon – and 172 in total for the team – further added to Mercedes’ impressive mileage.
The driver to complete the most laps in one day was Max Verstappen who racked up 144 in the newly-liveried STR11, heading a group of four cars to completed more than 100 laps. The slowest of those – Kevin Magnussen, who stopped at Turn 3 late on – was still just a second off Alonso’s time in third place as teams started to look at race set-ups and tyre degradation.
The two teams at the far end of the pit lane both endured difficult days, with Haas ending its running after just 23 laps. Esteban Gutierrez was forced to pit due to a fuel system problem which ultimately proved terminal for the new team on Tuesday.
Rio Haryanto was slowest and 4.6s off the pace in the Manor but was also hit by misfortune as an oil leak limited him to just two laps in the morning session. A more productive afternoon followed, but the Indonesian driver still only managed a total of 45 laps on what is likely to be his penultimate day in the car.
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Tyres : US = ultrasoft, SS = supersoft, S = soft, M = medium, H = hard.
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