By Adam Tate, Associate Editor
Just as many began to doubt Mercedes’ pace, the silver arrows struck back with Valtteri Bottas who set a scorching 1:19.310 lap of Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The new Mercedes man only used the super soft tires to set the best time of 2017 thus far, and looked very comfortable behind the wheel of the W08 where he stayed for 70 laps today.
Williams man and yesterday’s pace setter Felipe Massa kept him honest with a strong 1:19.420 for the ultra soft shod FW40.
Both of their times came in the morning session and no one in the afternoon came close to matching them. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was a second off the pace with a 1:20.406, but it was good enough for third on a day that most teams spent focused on long runs and tire evaluations. Raikkonen didn’t have an easy go of it however, he caused the first red flag of the day when he spun in Turn 3 and damaged the nose of his SF70H on the tire barrier. The damage ended the Finn’s day after 53 laps.
Red Bull also had a difficult day. Forced to change the power unit in Max Verstappen’s RB13 over lunch the team only got their young superstar back on track halfway through the afternoon session. It was enough time for Verstappen to complete a full race simulation, but he pulled to the side of the track at turn 12 with an issue shortly thereafter. It brought out the days’ second red flag and ended Red Bull’s run at a day high 102 laps.
Almost immediately after Verstappen was cleared, Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber lost power and stopped at the exit of turn 8 and brought out yet another red flag which all but ended the afternoon session.
McLaren-Honda had another underwhelming day with Fernando Alonso only able to complete 46 laps, but the team insisted this had been their plan and there were, for once, no faults with the car.
The lowest lap count of the day went to Jolyon Palmer in the Renault, who ran a very short program on the day and completed a scant 29 laps.