While there is no prize for being quickest in testing – though it’s an idea that Chase and the crew are no doubt considering – Daniil Kvyat‘s 1:17.704 in the final moments of today’s session will have made a lot of people sit up and take notice… particularly in Woking.
Between them, the two Honda powered cars completed 246 laps today, which compares with the 425 laps posted during the whole of pre-season testing in 2017 and the 822 laps in 2018. To think that the Japanese power unit was then able to power the Toro Rosso to the fastest time of the day, is something that will leave a lot of people in Milton Keynes (and Faenza) feeling very happy tonight.
Though the time was posted on the softest tyre in the range, the fact is that Honda has finally found pace and reliability.
While Kvyat completed 137 laps, Verstappen posted 109, lost track time for the Dutchman leading to claims that the RB15 is encountering vibrations courtesy of the Japanese power unit… and not the good sort.
While Christian Horner has dismissed the claims, we have yet to see Max Verstappen really push the car, and when he finally did, around an hour before the end of the session, the RB15 looked ragged.
Having posted the quickest time this morning, this afternoon, like most of his rivals, Kimi Raikkonen focussed on longer runs, the Alfa continuing to impress.
With an impressive 137 laps on the board, the C38 looks good and stable on track, and must be among the favourites for the ‘best of the rest’ title this year.
Following yesterday’s DRS failure, the French team opted not to run the device for the opening part of the day, Hulkenberg instead concentrating on short runs assessing the soft compounds.
In the afternoon Ricciardo took over, and with twenty minutes remaining went second on the C4 rubber, only to be demoted when Kvyat posted his flyer moments later. That said, like Raikkonen, the Russian was on the softer C5 compound.
With 143 laps completed by its two drivers today, Renault will have every right to feel a lot more confident following yesterday’s scare.
Interestingly, twice this afternoon, the German shadowed rival drivers in what appeared to be a distinct attempt to discover the impact of the new aero regulations.
Shadowing Kvyat, and later Carlos Sainz, for a few laps, in both instances the German found himself unable to follow at close quarters and eventually dropped back.
At a time we were noting how reliable the cars are – the thirteen drivers on duty completing 1,140 laps – there were three red flags today, and all caused by the Haas.
While Pietro Fittipaldi stopped on track this morning, Romain Grosjean stopped twice.
“An ignition-coil related issue is the reason for our lack of track action,” said the team. “Bits to fiddle with and change – same issue as this morning ultimately.”
However, the final stoppage, which saw Grosjean inspecting the rear of the car, which was subsequently sprayed with foam after smoke began emerging, looked to be a little more serious. Between them the two drivers completed just 117 laps.
It was another anonymous day for Racing Point, where Sergio Perez was on duty. The Spaniard completed just 67 laps and was 2.3s off the pace, however, there is talk of a step forward as early as next week and a major update for the start of the season proper.
While having both its drivers over 2.9s off the pace would have some teams extremely worried, it’s clear that Mercedes is sticking to its own agenda.
When Hamilton did appear to let loose, a lock-up meant a pit stop to change his flat-spotted tyres. The Briton having previously told reporters that he was impressed by Ferrari‘s pace and reliability, also suggesting that he will not be losing any sleep.
The Briton completed an install lap before heading back to the pits and over the course of the remainder of the afternoon added another 22.
With the British team awaiting various spare parts, which should arrive overnight, today was pretty much a shakedown. Fact is, everyone was glad to see the Grove outfit make it, even if it remains to be seen whether the multiple world champions have finally turned a corner.