Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was fastest on the final day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya. The German outpaced his title rival Lewis Hamilton by just three-thousandths of a second, as the teams started preparing for the opening race in Melbourne in a fortnights time.
Mercedes hadn’t really unleashed the car but as expected the gap between the two manufacturers as close as ever. However, Ferrari still encountered reliability issues following Vettel’s crash on Wednesday, the team has confirmed that an “electrical issue” had caused Vettel to stop and the fix would take too long for him to return to the track.
Vettel and Hamilton both set there fastest laps on the C5 tyre, which underlines the feeling that Ferrari held a clear advantage. Mercedes, however, hadn’t really focused on outright pace until Hamilton headed out on the softest tyres to do the fastest lap of the eight days.
Both times cannot be compared properly, as Vettel’s times were set at the hottest time of day before lunch, and Hamilton’s were set as the temperature cooled in the final hour of the session. The heat of the track will have impacted the performance of the tyres in different ways.
However, there are no clear answers to whether both teams continue to lead and who has the advantage that will not be clear until qualifying in Melbourne. Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas was third and three tenths off Vettel on the same compound of tyre.
Vettel told BBC News, “Last year they arrived with a car working well but they have done even better this year. It’s OK. We don’t mind the challenge, it just means we have to work harder. I’m not worried or disappointed or anything. We have a hill to climb but we know how to do it.”
Hamilton told Sky Sports, “Ferrari are the fastest. This is going to be the toughest battle yet. I think the gap is potentially half a second.”
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg was best of the rest doing most of his running on the harder compounds before a late switch to the C5’s allowing him to move into fourth. That put the German five-hundredths faster than the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat.
As at the front, the midfield group remains tight as Hulkenberg, Kvyat and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz were all within a tenth of each other. The Spaniard was the outright leader in terms of mileage with one hundred and thirty-four laps.
One of the biggest stories of the last two week has been reliability with nearly all the teams avoiding major reliability issues. However, Red Bull lost a day running after Pierre Gasly’s crash on Thursday afternoon.
Despite the overnight work, the team were unable to send Max Verstappen out for most of the day. This makes the Red Bull team a bit of an unknown in terms of pace over a single lap.
An unlucky end to what had otherwise encouraging programme for Red Bull-Honda. Verstappen told reporters, “The guys already did an amazing job to get the car turned around after yesterday. But unfortunately, we were a bit limited with the parts we had so we couldn’t get out [in the afternoon].”
Romain Grosjean made up for lost time completing seventy-three laps going seventh. But that wasn’t the same for Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen, although he completed more laps his winter ended when the car stopped on track bringing out the red flag in the final quarter of an hour.
Renault Daniel Ricciardo and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen spilt both the Haas’s.
Sergio Perez ended testing twelfth fastest, however, Racing Point, formerly Force India, are expected to have an upgrade in Melbourne.
Testing resumes in Barcelona on 14th of May following the Spanish Grand Prix.
- BARCELONA TEST TWO DAY THREE – Charles Leclerc breaks lap record going fastest by six tenths
- BARCELONA TEST TWO DAY TWO – Carlos Sainz sets the pace early on to end day fastest by half a second
- BARCELONA TEST TWO DAY ONE – Lando Norris sets the pace by six-thousandths of a second
- BARCELONA TEST DAY FOUR – Nico Hulkenberg ends the first test fastest as Mercedes show their pace
- BARCELONA TEST DAY THREE – Daniil Kvyat sets the pace by half a second over Kimi Raikkonen
- BARCELONA TEST DAY TWO – Charles Leclerc keeps Ferrari on top by three tenths
- BARCELONA TEST DAY ONE – Sebastian Vettel sets the pace and leads mileage as McLaren show progress
- Prixview – Barcelona Testing