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!"
"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."
"Conditions were really tricky today," said the Frenchman, "so we didn't run as much as we could have done. This afternoon was the first time I drove a Formula 1 car in "snow conditions", so it was quite epic! In terms of work, we got some good laps and more understanding about the car and the engine. We had some interesting tests, so overall I'm happy about today.
"The first feeling is positive, I felt comfortable with the car - It's consistent from one corner to another, between the low speed, medium speed and high speed. I still have a lot of work to do and I think we have some good directions overall. We didn't do any qualifying runs or pushing laps, as our aim was more completing many laps and this is what we achieved, even if we changed the run plan because of the weather. This morning we started really late but I think overall we maximised the time we had on track and we did the best we could do with the conditions."
"Like yesterday the conditions have been very cold and sadly as the day went on we lost some running time again with a low temperature and a low-grip track surface," added James Key. "It's the same for everyone in the end, but still frustrating. Pierre did a really good job in the time he did get on track, he took it steady to begin with, just to get a feel for the car, the track conditions and the tyre warm up, which we know in these temperatures is not so easy to judge. Then he worked his way into it, gaining some confidence and an understanding of how the car was feeling and how the tyres were responding. He then built on that through the rest of the morning and into the afternoon.
"Considering how little running we had in the afternoon, he covered a good number of laps. We had a minor delay during the afternoon due to a small chassis related issue - nothing special but it just took a little while to address, the power unit has once again run very smoothly all day. We managed to get through some of the most important items on our test list and we certainly learnt more about the way the car is behaving. That's given us some strong leads on future directions in which to take the setup and possible investigations to look at for the remainder of this test and next week. Having said all that the priority still remains accumulation of mileage and we are not looking too closely at performance levels right now, we will work towards the finer details next week."
"Following light overnight snow, temperatures were very low for the second day of testing, making the track conditions tricky," said Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director. "All the same, we were able to complete a decent number of laps as we continued working through our test programme.
"While the team carried out set-up work and also gathered basic aero data, on the engine side, we continued with function tests that we had started yesterday.
"Pierre did a great job on his first day of testing, keeping out of trouble on the slippery track. Clearly, the cold weather is not ideal, but 82 laps, without experiencing any issues, is a good way of maintaining the momentum from yesterday and we want to continue like this for the next two days."
"A very difficult day weather-wise," sighed Williams Paddy Lowe, "but it is the same for everybody and we tried to make the best of it. The early part of the day was extremely cold with a wet track, and we used this time with Sergey driving to carry out a range of aerodynamic surveys on each of the full wet, intermediate and dry tyres. It was only at about 12:30 that conditions allowed performance running on dry tyres, and Sergey made the best of his limited time with three runs on the soft compound; the final run being cut short by a red flag.
"Robert took over for the afternoon with improving conditions and, managed two performance runs before the temperatures dropped and again became critical for switching on the tyres. We reverted again to data gathering during the light snowfall! With such instability in tyre temperatures this was not a day in which we can learn anything performance-wise, but we gathered good characteristic data and achieved another 100 laps of reliable running of the new car.
"The weather this morning was very similar to yesterday," said Sirotkin, "but it got better around midday. When we started it was very cold, too cold to try and make any use of the runs, so we just spent our time doing the aero checks among other things, which are less dependent on the weather conditions. Around midday, the temperature came back to us and we switched to try to do some proper running, but it was still not ideal. We did 52 laps overall, which is ok, we got a first impression of the car and the first things to pay attention to. Again, it wasn't ideal but it wasn't ideal for anyone. We got the maximum we could so we should be happy with how we reacted to the situation."
"I think we have achieved the maximum we could do due to the weather and general track temperatures," added Kubica. "I got my first feeling for the car, and saw what we were able to do in difficult conditions. It is not easy to jump into a new car with such difficult weather conditions and have the confidence to push, but I think we did some important work, although it was short. However, it gave us, and especially myself, an idea of how to work better for the future to address some areas where we can improve the car.
"The car has some very powerful areas, but, in the meantime, we need to work on some issues which I am sure we will get on top of. If we do that then the driveability, and also the confidence of the driver will be higher."
"It was very cold today so we just had to try and make the best of the conditions," said the Frenchman. "There was even snow at the end of the day, which is not what you expect when testing in Barcelona. Despite the cold weather, I was able to get a good feeling for the car. It's still early days - only day two of testing - and there is a long way to go, but we are making progress and learning lots of things. It was my first full day with the halo and I got used to it very quickly. By the end of the day you don't think about it when you're driving and that surprised me."
"The day got off to a slow start due to the track conditions," added Chief Race Engineer, Tom McCullough, "but when we finally got going, the car ran reliably and we made good progress through the run schedule. We adjusted our programme to do more aero rake runs early in the day, when the track was not very representative, and then picked up where we left off yesterday to continue our work of understanding the aerodynamic characteristics of the new car. We were able to perform some long runs as well, but unfortunately the weather turned for the worse again in the middle of the afternoon, which limited the time we could spend on track."
It was a productive day for Sauber, as Charles Leclerc spent his first day of winter testing in the cockpit of the new C37. Throughout the day, he focused on aerodynamic and mechanical tests, and completed a total of 81 laps.
"First of all, it is great to be back racing after a long winter break," said the youngster. "Overall, it was a very positive first day of testing for me. Although the weather conditions were not ideal, with low temperatures and even some snow in the afternoon, I was able to develop a better sense of what the car behaves like on track.
"We completed a good number of laps, completing aerodynamic and mechanical tests throughout the day. The C37 has potential, and I look forward to driving again on my second day of test 1."
"It was another positive day of testing despite the low temperatures and tricky weather conditions," said technical director, Jorg Zander. "Building on the data we collected yesterday, we continued our programme by doing set-up work and taking aerodynamic measurements. In the morning, we were not able to run as many laps as expected due to the weather. In the afternoon, we focused on long runs while testing different tyre compounds. It was important for Charles to get used to the new car as well as to the team procedures. Overall, a productive day."
Magnussen was the first driver to hit the track when it opened, but he did so carefully, making his reconnaissance lap on the intermediate tire. He returned to the track approximately three hours later on softs, but the track remained slippery, as evidenced by a short trip through the gravel on his out lap.
It wasn't until nearly 2 p.m. that he was back on track, again with softs bolted onto the VF-18. He was able to complete two runs of 12 laps and 14 laps, respectively, before a final drive on intermediates as snowflakes began swirling from the sky. His best lap was a 1:22.727, earned on his 30th lap during his last full stint on softs.
"It was a difficult day for us," said the Dane. "We had lots of time in the garage. I would've loved to have had more laps. I got an early look at the balance and the feel of the car. We're taking everything with a pinch of salt because it is very close to zero degrees and the tires are not performing as they will be when the track and ambient temperatures are more normal. So, we're not really taking anything out of this, but it's good that we're getting all those little problems out of the way early. We're not really missing much in terms of performance testing."
"A difficult day for us today," admitted Guenther Steiner. "We didn't do a lot of running. We had a few smaller issues with big consequences, which meant we couldn't get the running in that we had wanted to today. So, we didn't learn a lot.
"The weather didn't help, as well, because when we were ready the weather wasn't there. We didn't take advantage of the day. We just have to keep on working hard and making it up next week, as it doesn't look like the weather's going to get any better the rest of this week. We've got a few issues to work on, not that we are concerned or worried. That's why we test. We'll keep working."