At just over 4 kilometres in length, it requires 71 laps to complete a race distance here and Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz both exceeded that today, as they had their first experience here in a Formula 1 car. So there’s plenty of data to study overnight.
With a short lap, times are usually very close and so it proved today, with the top eleven all just about within the same second come the end of this afternoon’s session. In that eleventh place was in fact, Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Spanish driver, with Max Verstappen a bit less than three tenths quicker than his team-mate in eighth place.
The STR10s feature some updates here, but it might be hard to tell how effective they are in outright performance terms, as currently, the forecast suggests that tomorrow afternoon’s qualifying session could be held in the wet, while the track is expected to be dry during Sunday’s race. That always gives the engineers a headache, as it means car set-up is something of a compromise as the rules forbid any significant changes to the cars from Saturday to Sunday.
Quickest today was Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari, followed by Nico Rosberg for Mercedes, Kimi Raikkonen third in the other Ferrari and a surprising Pastor Maldonado in the Lotus: these four were the only drivers to get under the 1m 10 second barrier.