The Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time of winter testing so far on the third day of the final pre-season test at Barcelona.
After days of holding back it seemed the Ferrari team finally unleashed the car on supersoft and ultrasoft tyres just before the lunch break, resulting in Vettel posting the fastest time in testing so far. His time, a 1:19.024, was the quickest time around the Circuit de Catalunya for eight years. But still fails to beat the fastest lap ever recorded round the track. Vettel’s time was nearly three tenths quicker than Valtteri Bottas’ previous benchmark on supersoft tyres from day two. It also appeared the German driver backed off several times on his fastest laps in the circuit’s final sector, suggesting a lap in the 1:18s had been easily achievable. The Italian team have now topped the winter timesheets just as many times as reigning champions Mercedes have, but the team have again warned against reading too much into headline lap times.
“Mercedes are still very fast if you look at their long-run pace,” said Vettel. “They are the ones to beat. Historically, look at how slow they go in testing before ramping it up.”
Indeed, the Ferrari team should be watching Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton finished just three tenths of a second behind Vettel in another impressive day for the reigning constructors champions. But it would appear the pace of Ferrari has ruffled a few of the feathers at Mercedes, including Hamilton’s. Despite Vettel’s protests about not reading into the lap times, Hamilton was quick to confirm he feels the Ferrari’s are a genuine threat.
“I think Ferrari are bluffing and that they are a lot quicker than they are showing. They’re very close to us. It’s difficult right now to say exactly who is quicker. But they are very close, if not faster.”
His sentiments about the Ferrari were also shared by team mate Valtteri Bottas, who after watching Vettel top his fastest lap from the previous day seemed apprehensive about underestimating the Italian team.
“We are definitely not confident that we are in front. We should not underestimate them at all.”
Meanwhile, the day after Fernando Alonso publicly savaged the new Honda engine, McLaren suffered two electrical-related breakdowns which limited Stoffel Vandoorne to 48 laps in another terrible testing day for the team. Electrical trouble stopped the MCL32 in quick succession on out laps, first at the end of the pits and then on track, before Vandoorne was able to return for a series of short stints in the afternoon. It was not all doom and gloom though as McLaren finally broke out of the 1:22s that it seemed to be perpetually stuck in. Though the team are still struggling to rack up a decent lap count and have completed the fewest number of laps in testing.
It would appear Honda are not the only team suffering from engine issues however, as Renault have suffered intermittent problems with their power unit across all three teams that run their engine over the past fortnight. Toro Rosso have been particularly affected by these issues, and had completed the fewest number of laps of any team on the first test. Thursday was a great example of the Renault engine problem as Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and the teams own Jolyon Palmer both stopped on track.
Day Three, Test Two Timesheet
1) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 156 laps, ultrasoft tyres, 1:19.024
2) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 52 laps, ultrasoft tyres, 1:19.352
3) Esteban Ocon, Force India, 137 laps, ultrasoft tyres, 1:20.161
4) Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 94 laps; supersoft tyres, 1:20.416
5) Kevin Magnussen, Haas, 119 laps, ultrasoft tyres, 1:20.504
6) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 128 laps, soft tyres, 1:20.824
7) Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, 48 laps, ultrasoft tyres, 1:21.348
8) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, 95 laps, soft tyres, 1:21.819
9) Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber, 44 laps, ultrasoft tyres, 1:22.347
10) Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 53 laps, soft tyres, 1:22.418
11) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 88 laps, soft tyres, 1:23.330
12) Felipe Massa, Williams, 80 laps, medium tyres, 1:24.443
13) Lance Stroll, Williams, 85 laps, medium tyres, 1:24.863
Feature Image Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas Press Release