Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was fastest on the penultimate day of the second pre-season test at the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya. The German set his fastest time before the lunch break and completed over 150 laps of the circuit meaning he reached over two race distances.
Vettel beat the best time of the winter which was set by Mercedes Valtteri Bottas on Wednesday by three-tenths, nearing a 1:19 dead. Lewis Hamilton also hung on to his fastest time from the morning for second, three-tenths down on the German.
Mercedes Lewis Hamilton also retained his second place, as he also set his fastest time during the morning session being three-tenths of a second down on the Ferrari. While, Force India’s Esteban Ocon was third, ahead of the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat.
Vettel has been trying to play down Ferrari’s pace, telling Sky Sports “Mercedes are still very fast if you look at their long-run pace. They are the ones to beat. Historically, look at how slow they go in testing before ramping it up.”
Valtteri Bottas focused on his long runs after taking over from Hamilton. The Fin set a 21.8 putting him eighth ahead of Pascal Wehrlein in the Sauber, who also took part in the afternoon session after teammate Marcus Ericsson completed 88 laps in the morning.
A later improvement saw Kevin Magnussen slot the Haas in between the Toro Rosso and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. Things were not going any better for McLaren, as Stoffel Vandoorne broke down twice in an hour on the penultimate day of testing.
The Belgian first came on an out lap towards the end of the morning and his other on track during the afternoon. Before his woes, Vandoorne had given encouraging signs clocking their fastest time of the winter.
However, McLaren’s track running was still limited, with just 48 laps, the second least of all drivers who were doing the full day. Valtteri Bottas took over from Hamilton after lunch, completing ninety-five laps and finishing eighth.
McLaren focused on short runs in order to make as much progress through its testing check-list as possible. Vandoorne did, however, move McLaren off the bottom of the combined timesheet for testing, although the MCL32 has still completed the fewest laps of any car in the field.
However, for a change, engine woes were not only Hondas issue. As Renault suffered two engine failures on track as Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and the French manufacturer’s own Jolyon Palmer both stopped on track.
There were some indications of how the midfield battle could be, with Esteban Ocon in the Force India, Kvyat and Palmer all running within .3 of a seconds of each other.
Palmer’s issue prevented team-mate Nico Hulkenberg from doing any running during the afternoon.
Williams gave away no indications of their potential as they focused on their long runs. This gave Lance stroll another trouble free morning completing eighty laps before handing over to Felipe Massa who completed eighty-five laps.