Barcelona F1 2nd Test Paddock Notebook – Friday

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Just when we started to think that 2015 could see the chasing pack put up some kind of challenge to Mercedes AMG Petronas, the German team decided to turn up the heat.

Nico Rosberg’s lap on the second day of the final pre-season test in Barcelona was nothing short of sensational, smashing Felipe Massa’s time from Thursday by over 0.7 seconds and appearing to end any ideas of a crusade against the Silver Arrows.

And to make matters worse, it wasn’t even a perfect lap. Rosberg had been struggling all day with the setup on his car, and although things were better come the afternoon, the German driver still felt frustrated. Essentially, it is Mercedes saying that it has time in reserve – yes, it can go even quicker.

This was in fact the first day of pre-season testing that has been topped by either Rosberg or world champion teammate Lewis Hamilton. Is it a case of Mercedes only now waking up? Not really. The team was still up towards the top of the timesheets in the earlier tests despite not completing a qualifying sim; what you saw today is what happens when it does try out its one lap pace.

Another busy day at the track, then. Here’s a complete round-up of all of the news and reports from the second day of the final pre-season test.

SESSION REPORT

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

Mercedes finally starts cooking with gas

The very fact that Mercedes had not topped a single day of winter testing gave a shred of hope to the F1 community that the German team might just face a challenge this year. That shred of hope was left in tatters following Friday’s running, with Nico Rosberg setting a very impressive lap time indeed. What’s more: he wasn’t even entirely happy with it. Mercedes is the team to beat once again, and at this rate, it could well emulate its record-breaking exploits of 2014. An ominous pace indeed.

A breakthrough for McLaren

If McLaren was looking for its “eureka!” moment with the MP4-30 and Honda power unit, then Friday may just have been it. The British team enjoyed its most productive day of testing so far, completing 100 laps before Jenson Button’s car cried enough and ground to a halt with just 20 minutes left in the day. The pace that the Briton laid down was also quite good, finishing fifth with a best time of 1:25.590. McLaren may well be on the back foot heading to Melbourne, but definite progress is being made.

Force India’s first foray goes well

Talking of being on the back foot: Force India. Some 26 days after the majority of the teams rolled their cars out in Jerez for the first time, Force India finally got its new car, the VJM08, out on track. As first laps go, it wasn’t a very good one as a problem with the wheel rim caused a left-rear puncture, but Nico Hulkenberg rallied to finish the day with 77 laps to his name. Few teams are able to get their cars out of the box and pounding around the track so quickly, so it is a good sign for Force India – even if it has come about three weeks too late…

Age is just a number

Max Verstappen may only be 17 years old, but there is little doubt that he shaping up to be one of the most exciting prospects in F1 in recent years. The Dutchman enjoyed yet another successful day behind the wheel of the Toro Rosso car, looking comfortable on his laps and make good headway with the upgrades that had been applied until an electrical issue cut his day short. He is a refreshing and impressive talent that is quickly proving his doubters wrong; let us see if he can continue to do so in Melbourne next month.

Marussia’s comeback takes another step forwards

Formula 1 may have a habit of shunning and snubbing the smaller teams in recent months, but the story of Marussia’s revival is quite remarkable. After appearing to be dead and buried, the team has since come back to life and is now preparing to return at the Australian Grand Prix. Today saw the FIA confirm that it has a place on the grid in 2015 with the release of the updated entry list, meaning that all that stands between the team and a comeback is a car that complies with the 2015 technical regulations. As good news stories go, this is a big one.

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We’ll be back tomorrow in Barcelona with all of the coverage from day three of the final pre-season test.

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.