Snow just a few kilometres from the Costa Brava on the Spanish Mediterranean is not what you expect, admitted Ferrari at the end of an unusual day.
The last time this happened at an F1 test at the Catalunya Circuit was 19 years ago, but the icy blast of the past few days brought in a few snowflakes this afternoon.
Nevertheless, the SF17H, with Sebastian Vettel having his first day at the wheel, reeled off 98 laps, the fastest of which was a 1:19.673, set on soft tyres. The Italian team wasn't in action for all nine hours - one more than usual as even the lunch break was cancelled - but come the end of the day the programme ran to plan.
"The important thing today wasn't the lap time," said Vettel, "but the fact that, in these conditions, we managed to cover almost a hundred laps without encountering any reliability problems. That's what we are concentrating on at the moment, with the search for performance coming later.
"From an operational point of view, everything went smoothly and I'd say the car is working. But today's conditions are not the ones in which you'd normally run an F1 car: today it even snowed and with air temperature around 3 to 4 degrees and the track at 8 to 9, everyone struggled to get the tyres up to temperature. The weather was the limiting factor today: the fact it's been much colder than last year and also that the track has been completely resurfaced, means it's impossible to make any comparisons. For now, we are concentrating on ourselves, without looking at what the others are doing."
During the day, the SF71 used the medium and soft tyres and also did a couple of laps on the Intermediates.
Valtteri Bottas was at the wheel of the W09, the Finn handling the freezing temperatures well, completing a total of 94 laps and clocking in the second fastest time of the day. After poor track conditions limited running in the morning, Valtteri continued to drive for the afternoon to maximise mileage.
With particularly cold temperatures in the morning and snowfall towards the end of the day, the team opted to focus on aero data collection during those times. Rising temperatures in the middle of the day allowed the team to work on its understanding of the 2018 tyres in addition to vehicle dynamics.
"It was very cold on track today," said Bottas, "I don't think I've ever driven in such cold conditions before in Formula One. Testing is always difficult in these temperatures, the tyres are just not made for these conditions.
"But we made the most out of the day. In the morning, we focused on aero work with different aero rakes on the car, running various tests. In the afternoon, I was doing long runs and we also worked on the set-up."
"It was quite tricky in these temperatures, but we managed to get some work done and found some answers to our testing items.
The weather is obviously unfortunate, but there's nothing we can do about it and it's the same conditions for everyone. In these conditions, I would say today was a good day. I hope that the weather is going to get better soon and I'm looking forward to tomorrow and Thursday."
"With the weather conditions being up and down and the loss of track time we had yesterday, it made sense to keep Valtteri in the car this afternoon," added Lewis Hamilton. "Having run in the morning, he was comfortable in the car already and we would have lost about an hour of running time with the driver switch.
"With no real understanding of whether good weather was coming or not, I took the decision to sacrifice that time in order for the team to gain better understanding of the car by going through the run plan."
Given the weather, McLaren 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.
"It was very nice to get back in the car after the winter break," said Vandoorne. "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."
"Today was one of those days where circumstances beyond our control affected our running," admitted Eric Boullier. "Stoffel had a very positive morning, quickly getting acquainted with the MCL33, performing vital checks and collecting essential data that can be sent back to the factory for analysis.
"Due to the weather conditions Stoffel wasn't able to fully stretch the legs of our new package for any length of time, but we adapted our run plan to our advantage and were still able to gather a lot of valuable data that will inform the rest of our test programme.
"It's a shame that a minor issue such as a broken exhaust clip meant that we spent much of the afternoon in the garage doing in-depth checks on the car, but it was the only option we were prepared to take given the proximity to the braking system. We decided that running the car again at the end of the session was not worth the risk given the impending snow, so we are busily crunching the numbers and hope for a better day tomorrow.
"As for tomorrow's running, the forecast looks much the same as today with more snow predicted. We'll make what we can of the situation and adapt our run plan accordingly to glean the data we need."
Day two saw Max Verstappen get his first taste of the RB14, though the Dutchman was made to wait for it. An early morning technical issue saw the car restricted to the garage for most of the morning but with the problem solved in the early afternoon he was able to work through 67 trouble-free laps and claim the day's fourth best time on medium compound tyres.
"My first feeling of the car is positive," said Max. "Of course it's early days but the initial feeling is good. In the end I don't think we lost too much ground in the morning as the track seemed in pretty poor condition early on. It wasn't ideal but we had to check through everything and it took a while. In the afternoon we completed quite a bit of what we wanted to, we tested a few things on the car. It was pretty cold and so it's difficult to switch on the tyres. Basically when you go out of the pits it's flat out to keep the temperatures up and lap by lap you're going faster, it's that cold. It makes it quite difficult but overall it was a positive day."
"It is really tricky," admitted Head of Race Engineering Guillaume Rocquelin. "When teams select tyres for testing, which happened in December, you're always looking for a consistent tyre but a consistent one is usually one that is pretty durable and that means it's been very difficult to get them working. Plus, as Daniel said yesterday, the re-surfacing means there's just very little grip, so it's difficult to learn a lot.
"It's frustrating but every team is dealing with the same issue, so you just have to readjust your goals for the week and try to tick as many boxes as you can. That process wasn't really helped by the technical gremlins we experienced this morning. Max had a decent afternoon and his feedback was consistent with what Daniel told us yesterday so all in all we're still reasonably pleased with progress. Cold, but reasonably pleased!"
At Renault, Carlos Sainz completed 65 laps with a best time of 1:21.21, the fifth fastest time of the day.
"It was even colder than yesterday," said the Spaniard, "and I'm not sure how we managed to complete as many laps as we did! In the end we completed 65, which was good training for my neck and body even if the conditions weren't too useful for developing the car.
"It's difficult to give too many impressions of the R.S.18 as today was not representative of the weather we should face at a Grand Prix. Next week better conditions are forecast so then we can work on evaluating performance."
"It's been particularly cold today which affected our run plan," added sporting director, Alan Permane. "As Nico achieved a good tally of laps yesterday morning, we opted to run Carlos all day today. The cold weather means running is less valuable in terms of working on car set-up as it's difficult to get the tyres to get into and stay in their operating range, but nevertheless we were able to complete a number of other aspects of our programme."
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