Nico’s notes from Barcelona - Day 4: A lot to learn as test two starts

26-02-2020 22:00 | Updated: 11-03-2020 14:09
by Nicolás Quarles van Ufford
General
Nico’s notes from Barcelona - Day 4: A lot to learn as test two starts

It was a busy one on the first day of test two at the Circuit de Catalunya, with 18 of the 20 drivers (plus the timesheet topping Robert Kubica) braving the Spanish track across the whole of Wednesday. Luckily, we had a reporter on the scene, and he has more than enough takeaways!

Kubica quickest (with a caveat)

Ironically, the man who isn’t actually in F1 anymore posted the fastest time on Wednesday. Kubica was the only driver to dip into the 1:16’s in his Alfa Romeo C39, which sounds brilliant. There is a pretty big caveat though, I’m afraid.

The veteran set his 1:16.942 on the C5 compound, the softest (and therefore quickest) of them all. He was also running on low fuel, lowering his car’s weight and therefore increasing its speed. Granted he was over half a second quicker than Daniil Kvyat in fifth, a midfield rival, the Russian was on the C2 compound, a difference in tyres which is worth much more than half a second.  While you can argue Kubica’s Alfa probably wasn’t fully dialed up either, I really doubt the Swiss-Italian team will be at the front of the midfield, let alone the front of the grid altogether.

Honda’s synchronised conk-outs

I spoke to Kvyat shortly after his break-down right at the end of Wednesday’s running. The Russian told me no hardware on his car had actually broken, much to my surprise, but that his engineer said something had shown up on the data and that it was best for him to pull over. The session was almost over, anyway. I’m not sure about this way of thinking, but there were hardly any drivers left on the grid, so he didn’t cause a big fuss.

Fantastically or bizarrely, depending on how you look at it, Max Verstappen stopped his Honda-powered car at almost exactly the same time as the Dutchman span out. Rather than driving away again, he stopped his engine and got out, scratching his head as he observed his stalled RB16. Afterwards, like Kvyat, he insisted there was nothing to worry about.

In the morning, both teams had problems at exactly the same time as well, also resolved at exactly the same time. Again, not power unit related, they insisted. Alex Albon had rear suspension trouble while Pierre Gasly’s AT01 had a “loose pipe”. What a coincidence, eh?

Coronavirus concerns grow larger by the day

I’ve been at nearly every press conference or media event on Wednesday, and I don’t think a single one went without addressing the coronavirus concerns.

Not only has the Chinese Grand Prix been postponed, but Italian teams might not be able to travel for the foreseeable future. In the FIA press conference, Mattia Binotto revealed some of Ferrari’s employees have already had their flights to Melbourne cancelled as the virus spread to Italy. Romain Grosjean, president of the GPDA, the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, admitted in his media scrum he hadn't discussed the potential safety hazard as of yet as he, as well as most other drivers, simply stated they'd leave the Health and Safety up to more knowledgeable people.

Still, with Alpha Tauri, Ferrari, and let's not forget Pirelli all based in Italy, and with Bahrain shutting down its airports while the situation in Vietnam worsens as well, the F1 calendar could be seriously impacted by the coronavirus. It was truly palpable across the grid today.

Williams' spirits dampened by Mercedes mishaps

Williams have caused several red flags already, the latest of which came today as Nicholas Latifi was forced to pull over. "That one was an oil systems leak," deputy team principal Claire Williams told us in her media scrum.

She added how all three breakdowns they've had these winter tests have not been because of their own equipment, but rather the Mercedes power unit. The famously reliable Mercedes power unit, normally. Very noteworthy, particularly as the Silver Arrows themselves have done the most laps out of any team without any trouble.

Williams looked frustrated by it all as she pointed out the reduced testing schedule - which she doesn't like - makes a technical breakdown even more significant as every second of track time is priceless, especially for a team like Williams who are looking to get back on the front foot.

Spirits remain high at the Woking-based team, as both Williams herself and Latifi insisted, but there is no doubt the power unit issues have halted their progress and therefore dampened the spirits a little bit.

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