Barcelona F1 Test Paddock Notebook – Thursday

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Following on from the first pre-season running in Jerez at the beginning of the month, Formula 1 burst back into life in Barcelona today with the beginning of the penultimate four-day test.

Testing may not be worth much in the grand scheme of things, but as the first race of the year in Australia draws ever closer, it is difficult to not read a little bit more into the results and the pecking order that appears to be shaping up.

That said, the man who topped the timesheets on Thursday was certainly not the one most were expecting. Pastor Maldonado produced a fastest lap of 1:25.011 to displace Kimi Raikkonen at the top of the timesheets with one hour remaining in the day, continuing Lotus’ good start to life with Mercedes engines.

The day was somewhat truncated, with four red flags being shown. Maldonado was responsible for two of them, albeit due to two minor technical problems, whilst Felipe Nasr was involved in the other two incidents. The collision with Susie Wolff was something out of the ordinary, but thankfully both drivers were okay.

Here’s today’s complete Paddock Notebook from the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

SESSION REPORT

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

So that’s day one of the second test over and done with. Once again, Ferrari finished inside the top two, but it was Pastor Maldonado who ultimately took home the spoils by finishing as the fastest driver. Lotus certainly has made a big step forwards over the winter following its switch to Mercedes power units for the new season, and it comes as little surprise that both drivers are far happier with the E23 Hybrid than its predecessor.

The big talking point on Thursday in Barcelona was the on-track incident involving Sauber’s Felipe Nasr and Williams’ Susie Wolff, which took the entire paddock by surprise. In testing, incidents such as these are unheard of, and with no live TV footage to work from, all we saw at first were two cars left stranded in the gravel.

Both drivers gave their side of the story, and both claimed that they weren’t to blame. The only difference was that Wolff had obtained a video of the accident which showed that Nasr was at fault. Wolff was slowing to let Nasr past, and arguably should have stuck to the inside of the corner. Instead, she was on the outside, but stayed on her line and gave Nasr plenty of room. The Brazilian duked his car to the right at the last moment though, causing the crash.

Wolff hasn’t had much luck when it has come to F1 test sessions, suffering issues in Great Britain and Germany last year. However, she was very positive and mature about the incident, and said that she will get another test session in the coming months, most probably following the Spanish Grand Prix in May.

That aside, it was a very regular day of testing. Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen put in the highest number of laps en route to sixth place in the final standings, whilst Daniel Ricciardo showed good signs of pace for Red Bull. He was surprised to hear that Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen had gone second on the medium tire, but has every reason to be pleased with his own display.

McLaren had a day to forget, though, as a problem with the MGU-K on Jenson Button’s power unit meant that he could not complete more than 21 laps. The issue is expected to happen once again tomorrow when Fernando Alonso gets behind the wheel of the MP4-30, and it is unlikely that the team will complete any real running until Saturday now.

Finally, spare a thought for Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton could complete just 11 laps on Thursday until he had to stop, having come down with a fever. Nico Rosberg is due to run tomorrow, but he has reportedly hurt a nerve in his neck that could sideline him tomorrow. Either way, the German marque continues to push on and remains the team to beat.

That’s it for day one in Barcelona. Be sure to return to MotorSportsTalk for complete coverage of day two tomorrow.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III