Marcus Ericsson defied the loss of almost an hour's running on day one of the first in-season F1 test to again push Sauber into second place on the final timesheet.
The Swiss team had performed similarly well and, while subsequent race weekend performances have – as expected – not lived up to the hype, Ericsson again gave it hope for the future after a productive day in Barcelona.
The Swede produced a best lap of 1, 26.624s to edge Ferrari protégé – and current Sauber test driver – Raffaele Marciello into third spot, and reported that, while his best run had come on the softer Pirelli rubber, the day had been productive in many other areas.
“[The main focus] was car set-up really,” he reported, “We're always trying to develop the package that we have and we tried some different stuff on the car to improve it. Obviously, here in Barcelona, we had a bit of a difficult weekend as a team and, today, I think we found some stuff that made the car feel better than it did at the weekend. For me, it was really positive to see that. We had some changes planned which we thought could potentially be better and they were better, so it's nice.
“It is difficult [to develop in Friday free practice] as you don't really have the time to try and explore back-to-back things, so you have maybe one item you can test. If that maybe doesn't work, you go straight back to what you know, so that's why a test like this, in the middle of the season, is really good. For us to do almost 100 laps and be able to really take our time and test different stuff is really good for the rest of the season.”
While a lot of attention was paid to general development, Ericsson also revealed that some of his workload had targeted the next round of the calendar, despite little of the Circuit de Catalunya resembling the streets of Monaco.
“We tried some stuff where we focused on the last sector - not pushing too much in the first two sectors but then really pushing in the last sector to try and get information for Monaco,” he confirmed, “Some of the stuff we tried today will benefit us there as well, which is good, but other things were for the general balance of the car, for the 'normal' races coming up.”
It wasn't all plain sailing for Ericsson and Sauber, but a morning interruption proved problematic only for the time that was lost.
“We had some minor things, although there was actually nothing wrong,” the Swede explained, “It was just showing up that there could potentially be a problem, so we wanted to be on the safe side and make sure nothing broke on the car. I think we lost one hour in total but, after that, it was really smooth and we managed to catch up the lost time this afternoon and, in the end, we completed all the test items that we wanted and we've got some really interesting results that I think will be good for us for the future.”
And, although he used the soft tyre for his fastest run, Ericsson admitted that the rubber probably wasn't ideal for either testing or use over the grand prix weekend.
“We put a set of softs on, but it was not really a performance run,” he insisted, “We did five-lap runs even on the softs, just to see the degradation on them as well - which was quite high. I think it's a nice tyre for one lap around here, but I don't know how that would suit for a race. It's difficult to say but, for one lap, it's nice to have that extra grip.
Otherwise, for the rest of the day, we just ran mediums all of the time. I think that's a good tyre for testing items round here.”