F1 Testing: The First Barcelona Test in Review

Day 1 of 2018 Pre-Season Testing

A challenging day for McLaren as the team got an early glimpse of the MCL33’s potential in an interrupted first day of pre-season testing.

Fernando began the session promptly at the start of the day’s running, but only managed to complete six laps before a wheel nut issue led to Fernando being pitched into the gravel minus his rear right wheel.

The associated repairs to what was ultimately a relatively minor issue took some time to complete on the first day of testing where spare parts are naturally at a premium. The car was ready shortly before the lunch break and Fernando managed to get out on track for a couple more laps before the morning’s running concluded.

The scheduled test programme for today included set-up changes and more garage time, after which weather conditions had become less than favourable – the temperature dropping dramatically and the track becoming increasingly wet. The team opted to continue running in order to gather essential data, albeit with a more limited programme than would have been possible in the dry.

Fernando completed a total of 51 laps and clocked the seventh fastest time of the day.

Fernando Alonso:

“The first thing I thought when we had the wheel nut issue was that it was a good day for the media! It was a very small problem, but very obvious when you see a car in the gravel. In testing, there are cars in the garage in pieces and nobody sees that.

“We didn’t plan to run much this morning in our scheduled test programme, and we had planned fundamental changes on the car over lunch, so the lack of morning running hasn’t been a big handicap today. We reverted to our normal programme after lunch, and I’m the one that has done the most laps this afternoon while other teams have had issues.

“For me, I feel that today has been a very good start. The car felt good both here and in Navarra, and there’s definitely strong potential. On the performance side, it’s very early days to make an assessment, but everything seems to be in line with our expectations from the wind tunnel and the data that we had before coming to the test. At the moment, I think everyone is quite optimistic.”

Day 2 of 2018 Pre-Season Testing

An interrupted session for McLaren at the second day of pre-season testing as Stoffel Vandoorne got behind the wheel of the MCL33 for the first time. Conditions all day have been much colder than expected, with track temperatures well below the ideal operating window for both the car and tyres.

Given the weather, the team opted to run a number of installation laps in the morning in order to gather important correlation data and perform systems checks – necessary test items that can still be completed in adverse conditions.

Around lunchtime, the team detected high temperatures under the bodywork, caused by a broken exhaust clip leading to hot air being blown back into the car and onto the wiring loom, which includes the brake line. The team opted to strip down the car to perform further investigations as a precaution.

Once happy with the investigation and subsequent repair, the car was again readied to return to the track, but the team opted not to run just before the flag dropped due to the worsening weather conditions.

Stoffel completed 37 laps and clocked the third-quickest time of the day.

Stoffel Vandoorne:

“It was very nice to get back in the car after the winter break. It felt like I hadn’t left the cockpit so that was positive. What mainly held us back this morning were the weather conditions – it was a very cold and damp circuit which meant it took a while to get the running started for everyone.

“We took the opportunity to do some rake work and gather some aero data, and after that the track started to be in a reasonable condition, so we could do a few proper runs and try to understand a bit more about the car.

“The first impressions were very positive. I felt comfortable, there were no surprises and we got some good learning done. Unfortunately, we had a small issue with the exhaust clip at lunchtime, which detached the exhaust and blew a lot of hot air onto some of the wiring looms – one of which is the brake. The team did some precautionary checks which obviously meant that things took a bit longer than expected. All in all, it wasn’t a big problem and it’s been a positive day with a lot of things learned about the car.

“The snowy conditions are not very representative of what we will get during the season, so it’s very difficult to read into performance at this stage.”

Day 3 of 2018 Pre-Season Testing

Difficult track conditions made for a frustrating third day of testing for the whole pitlane, as poor weather disrupted any opportunity for consistent running.

Due to overnight snow which continued into the morning, the start of the session was delayed by three hours, after which very few cars decided to run as the snow turned to heavy rain. Fernando completed one outlap before the team decided conditions were too wet to risk running any further.

The heavy rain slowly subsided and the team decided conditions had improved enough to warrant further on-track testing. Fernando left the garage shortly after 17:00hrs for a combination of outlaps interrupted by set-up changes, and finished the day with a final flourish, setting two timed laps.

Fernando completed 11 laps and topped the timesheets, although he was the only driver to officially set a time.

Fernando Alonso:

“It’s good to be the car with the most laps on the board today! We all know that timesheets in winter testing are not very relevant, but it’s always nice to be at the top.

“The poor weather conditions made things difficult all day long – we even had snow – so it was definitely not a normal day of testing and many people decided not to run. We still had some checks to do on the car as it’s very early days for us with this new package, and we are learning things with every lap. We opted to do some background checks this morning in the garage – maybe not crucial to the car’s performance, but still good learning for us.

“In the few laps we did at the end of the day we managed to collect some good data for future development, so even with the little running we could complete, the information we got is very positive. I’m happy that despite a difficult day of testing for everyone, we made the best of it.”

Day 4 of 2018 Pre-Season Testing

A very positive and productive day of running at the fourth and final day of the first 2018 pre-season test.

Track conditions started very wet from heavy rain overnight, which made early-morning running tricky and meant a slower-than-usual start to the programme. As the track dried out Stoffel was able to quickly and efficiently run through a comprehensive test plan, which included key correlation, component and aero tests that necessitated all-important mileage.

As the track was kept green throughout the traditional lunch break, Stoffel continued consistent running into the mid-afternoon, when the team handed the reins over to Fernando at around 16:00hrs, giving him the opportunity to make up for some of the lost track time yesterday due to bad weather.

Stoffel completed a solid 110 laps and posted the second-fastest time of the day, while Fernando did 51 and finished fifth on the timesheets, bringing McLaren’s total for the final day of test one to 161 laps.

Stoffel Vandoorne:

“Today was a very productive session for me. The day started off a little bit slowly with the bad weather conditions and it took a long time for the track to dry up, but even with that to deal with we still completed a lot of mileage and got a good understanding of the car.

“It feels good to get a good amount of laps on the board after we missed out a bit over the past few days. When the track started to dry I did some very good running, and completed a lot of set-up changes, trying to understand our package and how everything works together, and the feeling was positive.

“I finished today with 110 laps and it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to do this. We had time to put Fernando in the car too for the final part of the session, so altogether a very productive day.”

Fernando Alonso:

“I’m very happy with what has been an impressive day from the whole team in the garage and at the factory to put that amount of laps on the board between Stoffel and myself.

“The car ran perfectly all day. We did some interesting runs with some set-up changes, and we keep discovering more about the new package each time, especially with the integration of the Renault engine that was previously unknown for us.

“It was a very productive day for all of us and I’d like to say well done to everyone for working hard to get through a very full and comprehensive test programme today.”