F1 2021 Testing Day 2: Bottas Fastest as Hamilton Falters
After a sandstorm-swept first day of pre-season testing, the teams were looking for more representative conditions on the second day in order to collect more applicable data.
The wind was again causing issues for the drivers, with a strong tailwind into Turns 6, 7 and 11. Beyond that, it was business as usual for most of the teams, but some will still have improvements to make going into tomorrow’s third and final day of testing.
Mercedes and Alpine both brought out the aero rakes for some installation laps to ensure correlation with CFD and wind tunnel data. Tellingly however, Red Bull bucked this trend and sent Sergio Perez straight out for the first part of his full day of running in the new car.
Aston Martin had Vettel at the wheel for all of six laps including a lock-up at Turn 4, a trend for number of cars, before a gearbox gremlin forced them out the session until 15 minutes to go.
Given the Mercedes gearbox change that hampered their running on Friday morning, this could be more than just a one-off. Whether it’s the same gear shift issue the works team found or a new one, he could only end the session with 10 laps completed.
Technically speaking, the rest of the teams had a relatively trouble-free morning but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t issue free for the drivers. The aforementioned wind was playing havoc, with Sainz and Latifi, with both going off after catching oversteer at Turn 4, overheating the rears and it catching up with them in T6 to T8. Latifi in particular caught the worst of this, with a heavy slide flat spotting his tyres, ending his run.
Turn 11 was also a source of difficulty for the drivers as Perez, Tsunoda, and again Latifi had small wide moments. While most caught the slides, one Sir Lewis Hamilton was the only driver to bring out the red flags in the morning. Oversteer through Turn 12 carried him into a wind assisted spin towards the gravel trap, delaying running for 15 minutes while they brought the car back.
Following the delay, Haas’ Russian driver went out on some flat spotted tyres, raising some eyebrows. The less than ideal rubber did nothing to hinder him in completing the most laps of the morning with 76. He did however have couple of near-misses with Hamilton, commenting later on his surprise at the loss of downforce while following other cars. The reigning champ looked a little spooked after his big spin and was caught going slowly on the racing line as the Russian approached.
Ricciardo set the pace for McLaren in the end, perhaps due to a controversial diffuser featuring an ambitious interpretation of the new regulations. A 1:32.215 was the fastest he could go over 52 laps.
An early venture was made by Lando Norris after his teammate’s timesheet-topping runs from the morning. He spent a good portion of time performing a series of out-in laps, seemingly having issues to fix. The most spectacular of these was a shower of sparks from the undertray, as a suspected suspension damper failure forcing a trip to the garage.
Following the setback, Norris was then spotted on-track with a set of C3 medium tyres and a highly unusual driving style. In a style reminiscent of 2005/2006 Alonso, Norris was turning very aggressively into corners on the circuit, while maintaining 130kph on straights. This seemed to precede a race simulation as though replicating a formation lap as safely as possible on a live track.
Bottas’ Mercedes surprised many by taking nearly an hour to emerge after the lunch break. This was then compounded by a run wide at T11 on his first flying lap, delaying his consistent running by another 30 minutes.
We were all treated to a many-holds-barred ‘battle’ between Pierre Gasly and Nicholas Latifi after around 90 minutes, as a race-running Gasly came up behind the Williams just leaving the pits. Despite DRS usage for Gasly, the Frenchman couldn’t ease past as expected. The action culminated in a stellar practice overtake into Turn 1, both drivers escaping without incident.
The next half hour passed with no real incidents, before Giovinazzi and Norris traded fastest laps as the lights came on. Clad in C4 tyres, both put in low 1:31s, the Englishman edging out 1/4 second on the Italian.
Bottas seemed to struggle on a high fuel run, the rear wing daubed in ample flow-vis paint and the rear end still lively. The Finn appeared to grasp hold of the car with some set-up work by the silver arrows, particularly in the hot laps later in the session.
It seemed the session would pass without an incident worthy of a stoppage, before pictures appeared of debris across the main straight. Replays confirmed Perez’s Red Bull engine cover had disintegrated when emerging from the Williams’ wake. A short 10 minute delay was brought to running while the carbon was collected before the pitlane was re-opened.
Latifi then found his car on yet more replays as he locked the rear tyres during braking, spinning into Turn 1.
Rookie Mick Schumacher also failed to be incident free during the session, clocking a decent amount of laps for Haas, but not without collecting the front jack of his pit crew while being released from his pit-stop. He would complete 88 laps in total.
Stroll made good on his team’s dreadful morning, completing 70 laps without major incident.
The last hour of the session was chance for all teams to practice qualifying runs. Bottas used the C5 to take him to the top of the timing screen with a decent lap, 1:30.289, but fans and critics of Brackley alike will wonder what the true potential of the car is as the team still has work to do.
Who were the winners from day 2?
McLaren. The Woking team looked to have a solid turn of speed while also completing the day without major issue, completing 104 laps across their two drivers.
While not topping the times for the whole day, the team looked well ahead on its run plan compared to other teams down the pitlane.
Who were the losers from day 2?
Aston Martin. Gearbox issues hampered their running in the first session of today, and numerous teams went so far as to almost double their mileage. The team need strong running in the third test-day to start the season flying.
80 laps total isn’t the end of the world, but in comparison to other teams, it’s an unfortunate state of affairs.
Grid Talk Podcast
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Steph Wentworth hosted panellists Owain Medford, Steve Jackson and YouTuber Lucas Raycevik in Grid Talk’s review of the F1 2021 Car reveals: