Sebastian Vettel was quickest on the penultimate day of Formula 1 pre-season testing at Barcelona, while Mercedes had to cut its day short due to a power unit problem.
A scruffy day brought multiple spins and off-track moments – including all three of the top teams – but Vettel recovered from his own spin at Turn 5 to post a 1m16.841s on the C5 compound. Despite using the softest tire overall, Vettel’s lap was only the third-quickest of testing so far, and over a second slower than Valtteri Bottas managed last week.
Vettel’s spin saw him swap ends after getting wide on entry, rolling backwards through the gravel but then managing to rejoin. Although he brought out one of four red flags due to the gravel he deposited on the track, Vettel will be far happier than Lewis Hamilton after Mercedes suffered more reliability issues.
Valtteri Bottas had only completed 47 laps in the morning, meaning Mercedes ended the day with the lowest total of 61, and the Finn also went off at Turn 5. Bottas suffered a snap of oversteer but caught the rear, forcing him wide through the gravel.
Hamilton’s problem was especially frustrating as it ended a direct comparison with Ferrari: both he and Vettel were on race simulations on Thursday afternoon. Hamilton was using a softer compound for the first stint, but was clearly faster initially, before the two cars’ pace closed up later in the simulation until Hamilton’s problem intervened.
Pierre Gasly ended up second with a late lap on C5 tires, capping what was a productive day for AlphaTauri. The Frenchman managed 130 laps, and was 0.225s slower than Vettel and narrowly edging out Lance Stroll, with Racing Point showed more strong pace both on low fuel and during a race stint.
Nicholas Latifi was fourth after Williams carried out its first qualifying simulations, posting a 1m17.313s on the C5 compound, although he also had a trip through the gravel at Turn 4 early on when drivers were struggling with low grip conditions. Running started on a wet track that took around an hour to dry enough for slicks, due to few teams opting to circulate on intermediates.
McLaren showed solid pace in fifth, although a bodywork issue interrupted a long run for Lando Norris after he felt something unusual at the rear of the car. His total of 113 laps ensured the top five all set times within a second of the overall pace and reached three figures in laps completed.
The same couldn’t be said for Max Verstappen, who had a difficult morning. The Dutchman spun at low speed at the chicane when carrying out aero tests, and then had a higher-speed off at Turn 5 that he attributed to dipping two wheels onto a damp curb. Verstappen was beached in the gravel and caused a red flag, and ended up completing just 31 laps.
The biggest off-track moment came for Antonio Giovinazzi, who spun at Turn 4 early on and hit the barrier, damaging the rear wing. Giovinazzi managed to limp back to the pits but left gravel and debris on the track as he did so, causing the first interruption to the day’s running.
There was solid mileage for Haas as Kevin Magnussen completed 111 laps, ending up 0.2s slower than Esteban Ocon on a 1m18.225s. Ocon admitted Renault did not make the progress it hoped for on Thursday morning, while Daniel Ricciardo was then 0.4s slower than his teammate in the afternoon.