Feb.20 (GMM) Nearly three months after the chequered flag waved in Abu Dhabi, it was a pair of rookies who had pulses racing on Thursday.
The press room at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya buzzed when images of Felipe Nasr’s Sauber with heavy rear damage, and the similarly-stricken Williams of female tester Susie Wolff, depicted the pair in the travel trap.
Wolff later showed to reporters video footage on her mobile phone of the moment Brazilian Nasr, on a flying lap, was hit from behind by the Briton.
“I went straight over to him and said ‘what the hell went on?'” Wolff recounted.
“He was a bit speechless and to be honest with you I was also a bit speechless. It’s stupid,” she added.
Predictably, Nasr also denied the blame, claiming that Wolff confessed to him after the crash that she had not seen him.
“I was clearly in the braking zone already, a few metres after the braking zone, and suddenly I felt a big hit,” he said.
It was an exciting diversion in an altogether revealing day of action in Barcelona, as the second of just three official winter tests before Melbourne began in sunny Spain.
The most impressive performance belonged to Kimi Raikkonen, whose fastest time on hard tyres was almost as quick as the soft tyre-shod Lotus of Pastor Maldonado.
“The Ferraris are fast early,” Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport, “and they’re setting the pace.
“But I’m sure Mercedes could do that (time) as well. They had a difficult day.
“We are lagging a bit behind,” said the Australian, “but the picture is not clear yet. It’s still early.”
What is clear, however, is that Ferrari has made obvious progress since 2014.
Veteran journalist and former F1 team manager Peter Windsor agreed: “I think Ferrari has reached Mercedes’ level of the end of last season,” he is quoted by the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat.
“But Mercedes has not yet shown their 2015 level,” he insisted.