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

Williams confirms Kubica and Sirotkin for Abu Dhabi F1 test

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Williams has confirmed that Robert Kubica will enjoy his third Formula 1 test outing with the team at the end-of-season running in Abu Dhabi next week as rumors grow regarding a possible race seat for 2018.

Almost seven years after his last F1 start, Kubica’s remarkable return from severe injuries sustained in a rally accident saw him enjoy two private tests with Renault before completing running with the team in a 2017-spec car in Hungary over the summer.

Reservations over Kubica’s capabilities prompted Renault to pass on giving him a seat, instead opting to hire Carlos Sainz Jr. for next year, only for Williams to become an alternative for the Pole.

Kubica tested a 2014-spec Williams at both Silverstone and the Hungaroring in recent months, and will now sample a 2017 car when he tests at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Kubica will share track time with regular Williams racer Lance Stroll and Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin, who has worked with Renault over the past two years but also missed out on a 2018 seat.

“Williams Martini Racing is pleased to confirm it will run Robert Kubica and Sergey Sirotkin for the Abu Dhabi Pirelli tire test, alongside current race driver Lance Stroll,” a statement from the team reads.

“The Pirelli tire test will take place over two days at the Yas Marina circuit during the week following the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“On day one Robert Kubica will drive the FW40 in the morning session, before Lance Stroll takes over in the afternoon.

“On day two Sergey Sirotkin will drive in the morning and afternoon sessions before handing over to Robert in the late afternoon.

“The test is aimed at evaluating 2018 candidate tires on behalf of the Formula 1 tire supplier Pirelli.

“Williams is excited to have this opportunity to assess the new tyres across such an interesting range of drivers: Lance, as confirmed race driver for 2018, Robert with his huge experience, and Sergey as a very promising young talent in Formula 1.”

Williams denied earlier this week it has signed Kubica to partner Stroll for 2018, but indications are the deal looks very likely to go ahead, subject to the relevant paperwork and contracts being finalized.