Yas Marina, Day 1: Bottas fastest on opening day of test

Bottas tops as McLaren Honda flops

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By Olivier Ferret

25 November 2014 - 16:46
Yas Marina, Day 1: Bottas fastest (...)

Valtteri Bottas topped the timesheets in both morning and afternoon sessions for the first day of post-season testing at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit on Tuesday.

The day got off to a quiet start, with times set by only three drivers in the first 90 minutes of running. The highlight of the morning was expected to be the first real running from the interim McLaren-Honda, known as the MP4-29H/1X1, but electrical issues delayed the car’s debut. Speaking to the press in a mid-morning briefing, McLaren team principal Eric Boullier explained that caution was the Woking racers’ priority in this early stage.

“We are triple-checking some electrical issues we may have with the ground, particularly, which is a part we have built as McLaren and we just want to be very careful,” he said. “The minimum is you may burn the harness but you could also damage any ECUs or this kind of thing. So we just want to make sure we triple-check. Leaving the garage at nine or ten or twelve or one doesn’t change anything.

“We’ll try to see if we can go through the mileage and all the runs. In the end we will definitely not try to check the lap time because we have not worked at all on the car, it’s just to try to maybe push the recovery and the engine systems.”

While McLaren were completing their checks there were two red flags that brought a halt to the action on track. Not long into the day’s running Max Verstappen suffered a suspension failure in his Toro Rosso that led to the Dutch racer crashing at Turn 19; Jolyon Palmer later stopped on track when his Force India suffered unspecified problems with the power unit.

At the end of the morning’s running it was Bottas who had set the fastest time, a 1m43.884s effort that saw him top of the standings in a session where the focus was on aerodynamic and tyre tests, not out-and-out pace.

Sebastian Vettel spent the day in the Ferrari garage, getting to know his new team and keeping tabs on Kimi Raikkonen’s progress over the radio. The quadruple champion remains under contract to Red Bull until the end of the year, and will not have a chance to drive for his new employers until the 2015 pre-season tests get underway in Jerez.

After the mandatory lunch break testing resumed, and the McLaren-Honda was able to break cover. But it was an unsatisfactory session for test driver Stoffel Vandoorne, who was unable to set a time and instead had to settle for a number of incomplete installation laps as the team attempted to get to grips with the new power unit. Vandoorne’s first installation lap saw the Belgian coast into the pits without power, while his second attempt led to the penultimate red flag of the afternoon when the MP429H/1X1 stopped on track.

Another man who saw reduced running on Tuesday was Palmer, who completed a scant 37 laps following his morning power unit problems. Force India were able to get the Briton back out on track in the last hour, and when the car was working Palmer was able to show decent pace, his 1m44.516s lap making him the fastest driver without a full-time F1 seat.

Nico Rosberg completed an epic 144 laps of Yas Marina over the course of the day, with the German taking the opportunity to begin his 2015 campaign as early as possible.

“I started my 2015 season today,” he said. “It was a good learning day - we tested the tyres for next year, so there was a lot to learn. We had an amazing season, but it´s always possible to improve the car and even myself as a driver. That´s the beauty of the sport and next year I’m going to be even stronger.

“It has not easy to be back on the car after Sunday, but after about 20 laps I found my rhythm again and it was fun. We have so few tests in F1 nowadays that every day counts, so there was no point in not testing today even after the disappointment of Sunday. It was good because when we go to winter testing the team has its own programme to follow, so I cannot use the time for myself and for the things I need to learn.”

Pos.DriverTeamTimeLaps
01 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 1:43.396 80
02 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:43.888 81
03 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG 1:44.512 114
04 Jolyon Palmer Force India Mercedes 1:45.516 37
05 Carlos Sainz Jr Red Bull Renault 1:45.339 100
06 Will Stevens Caterham Renault 1:45.436 102
07 Charles Pic Lotus Renault 1:46.167 89
08 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:46.253 95
09 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso Renault 1:47.194 55
10 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda -:—.--- 3

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