McLaren’s Carlos Sainz held on to stay top of the timesheets in pre-season testing on Wednesday, after setting the pace during the morning session.
Sainz used the C4 tyre to set a 1:17.144, the fastest time seen in testing so far, during a brisk morning session at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The morning wasn’t all plain sailing for the McLaren driver, as he broke down on track leaving the pitlane shortly after and needed a red flag period to be recovered. However, he was quickly back on track and racked up over 120 laps by the end of the day. His early morning time was never beaten.
The closest man to get to him was the Racing Point car of Sergio Perez. Using the C5 tyre, the Mexican driver left it until the closing half hour of track time to put in a 1:17.842 to slot it 0.7 seconds behind the McLaren. This laptime was enough to knock Sebastian Vettel down to P3; the German having only driven for the first half of the morning.
Vettel’s morning was the big story of the day, as he suffered an apparent mechanical failure going through the long sweep of Turn 3 and went off into the barriers. After a precautionary check-up at the medical centre, Vettel was back in the garage but unable to explain what exactly had failed on the car. Ferrari confirmed a mechanical issue but, with the front of the car badly damaged, couldn’t confirm exactly what went wrong. With Charles Leclerc scheduled to take over the SF90 for the afternoon, the driver change became largely irrelevant as Ferrari only managed to get back out on track with five minutes remaining – this outing serving as a shakedown before a more normal schedule on Thursday.
Behind the top three, Kimi Raikkonen clocked up 110 laps for Alfa Romeo and finished P4. After having a quiet day at the wheel of the C38, Raikkonen kitted out with the C4 tyre with half an hour remaining and set a 1:18.209.
Romain Grosjean was next up, in P5 for Haas. On another solid day for the team after their electrical gremlins during last week’s test, he was another driver to achieve over a century of laps. His best time, on the C4 tyre, was 1:18.330.
Max Verstappen was P6 after a quiet afternoon. He did around 50 laps of the track after lunch, but never beat his morning time of 1:18.395, set on the C3 tyre. He was another to briefly bring out the red flag on Wednesday, stopping as he left the pits during the morning.
Daniil Kvyat used the C4 tyre to go P7 for Toro Rosso and a best time of 1:18.862; this was 0.3 clear of Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes. The Finn was on duty for Merc during the morning and did 74 laps and his best time on the C3 tyre. Astonishingly, teammate Lewis Hamilton, who took over the W10 for the afternoon, was just 0.002 seconds off Bottas’ time on the same C3 tyre.
Nico Hulkenberg, taking over the Renault from Daniel Ricciardo at lunchtime, was P10. He did 58 laps and his best time was 1:19.056 on the C3 tyre.
Williams had another strong day in terms of mileage as Robert Kubica managed 130 laps over the course of the day. However, pace was less encouraging. His best time was 1:19.367 and was set on the fastest C5 tyre. This was still well clear of Daniel Ricciardo’s morning time of 1:22.597. The Australian did 72 laps and his best time was on the hardest C1 tyre.
Propping up the timesheets was Charles Leclerc, who managed just a solitary lap right at the end of the day.