Barcelona F1 Test Paddock Notebook – Saturday

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He may have a far from spotless reputation in Formula 1, but Pastor Maldonado has firmly established himself as the man to beat during this week’s test in Barcelona.

For the second time in this test, Maldonado posted the fastest time on Saturday with a lap of 1:24.348, giving him an advantage of three-tenths of a second over the rest of the field.

Although the Lotus driver did post his time on the super-soft tire, it was still an impressive showing from a driver that scored just two points in the entirety of 2014.

Saturday was a very interesting day of running. Whilst some chose to push for the optimum lap time, others elected to focus on more basic matters such as pit stop practice and race simulations. Interestingly, neither Lotus nor Ferrari has managed a full race sim in testing: Red Bull now has two under its belt.

Here’s all of the latest news from the paddock in Barcelona.

SESSION REPORT

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

Another busy day in Barcelona has come to an end, with just five days of running now left until the teams will be preparing for the long trip Down Under for the first race of the season. Time is precious, and some used it more wisely than others at the track today.

Sleepy Seb lucky to avoid more damage from spin

The day was just two minutes old when the first red flag was shown, with Sebastian Vettel spinning his Ferrari at turn five. Given that he was on his first lap of the day, he really shouldn’t have been pushing that hard, making it a very surprising incident. “This morning I was sleeping a bit and, coming out of the pits on cold tires, I spun. The least I could do was help the guys clean all the gravel out of the car!” It was the first real blot on Ferrari’s testing record, given that the team had been in fine fettle up to now. Vettel finished the day in fifth place, 2.3 seconds down on Maldonado’s time.

Hamilton still not 100% after fever

Lewis Hamilton enjoyed his first full day in the car in Barcelona on Saturday, having completed half-day runs earlier in the week after coming down with a fever. The Briton said that he still doesn’t feel 100%, but still managed to finish a solid third for Mercedes without putting on the soft or super-soft tire. The German marque still appears to be the team to beat as we approach the start of the season.

Red Bull consistent, but perhaps a little too hard on its tires?

Daniil Kvyat followed the example set by his teammate to complete a full race simulation for Red Bull on Saturday, tackling a full 66-lap race just as he will in Spain on May 10. His times on the medium tire were very consistent indeed, but there was quite a drop off during his soft-tire stints, suggesting that the RB11 isn’t yet primed to work for this compound just yet. The Russian was happy with his day of running, though, and will be hoping for more of the same on Sunday.

Verstappen showing great maturity once again

He may only be 17 years old, but Max Verstappen is more than ready to take on the big boys of the Formula 1 world. He topped the timesheets for most of the day in Barcelona, finishing second in the end behind Maldonado, and with over 100 laps to his name had every reason to be pleased with his performance. A clutch problem cut short his running, forcing him to pull over with ten minutes to go, but all in all, the Dutchman is looking in very good stead for his full F1 debut in Australia next month.

More trouble for McLaren and JB

Jenson Button can’t catch a break. After completing just 11 laps on Thursday and then giving up his Friday session to Fernando Alonso, the Briton came unstuck yet again on Saturday as the same problem – a faulty seal on the MGU-K – limited him to just 24 laps in total. Button was disappointed, but remained upbeat about the potential of the McLaren-Honda MP4-30. “In some areas we’re very strong,” Button said, “but there are some areas letter us down.” Fernando Alonso will be back behind the wheel of the car on Sunday.

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That’s all for Saturday in Barcelona. We’ll be back for the final day of the second test tomorrow at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya as the pecking order continues to shape up.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.