Max Chilton and Marussia top Day 1 of Barcelona test

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Let’s get started off the bat with this. That headline above? Not a misprint.

“Mighty” Max Chilton and little ol’ Marussia indeed led a somewhat rainy first day of Formula One testing today at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

The British driver finished 19th last weekend on the same track in last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, but threw down a lap of 1 minute, 26.434 seconds that gave him top honors today.

That time was an improvement of more than three seconds from the qualifying time he set on Saturday going into the race.

It may have just been a test session, but driver and team were still delighted by their performance.

Also turning in a strong performance was Lotus reserve Charles Pic, who went second-fastest with a time of 1 minute, 26.661 seconds. The Frenchman is backing up Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado this year after racing with Caterham in 2013.

Lewis Hamilton, who won his fourth Grand Prix in a row last weekend at Barcelona and took over the World Championship lead as a result, was third-fastest in his Mercedes at 1 minute, 26.674 seconds.

Kimi Raikkonen was fourth-fastest but he and Ferrari had a tough afternoon. Shortly after he had begun his work for the day, he was forced to stop his car on course as smoke billowed from it.

He would come back in the afternoon, but a later spin into the gravel forced Ferrari to end his day early.

Jean-Eric Vergne overcame two stoppages early on to round out the Top 5 for Scuderia Toro Rosso. His team and Sauber were charged with tire development this afternoon for Pirelli. Tomorrow, those duties will shift to McLaren and Force India.

Multiple red flags marked the day’s events. In addition to Raikkonen and Vergne’s issues, Red Bull reserve Sebastien Buemi brought one out when he stopped with gearbox problems. Ditto for Kamui Kobayashi of Caterham, who crashed at Turn 3 late.

FORMULA ONE TESTING – DAY ONE, CIRCUIT DE BARCELONA-CATALUNYA
UNOFFICIAL TIMES
1. Max Chilton, Marussia-Ferrari, 1:26.434, 60 laps
2. Charles Pic, Lotus-Renault, 1:26.661, 70 laps
3. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:26.674, 79 laps
4. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:26.965, 21 laps
5. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso-Renault, 1:27.724, 52 laps
6. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India-Mercedes, 1:27.727, 53 laps
7. Felipe Massa, Williams-Mercedes, 1:27.756, 55 laps
8. Jenson Button, McLaren-Mercedes, 1:28.333, 74 laps
9. Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham-Renault, 1:30.101, 72 laps
10. Sebastien Buemi, Red Bull-Renault, 1:31.440, 54 laps
11. Giedo van der Garde, Sauber-Ferrari, 1:31.783, 86 laps

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.