Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton finished neck-and-neck on the final F1 Testing timesheet as Ferrari and Mercedes produced a compelling end to the winter action at Barcelona.
Just 0.003s separated F1’s biggest two drivers and teams at the end of eight days of running with Hamilton closing right up on Vettel’s pacesetting Ferrari in the final hour of track action before the season-opening Australian GP.
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Vettel had set the benchmark of 1:16.221 during the morning session on the fastest C5 tyre, a time Hamilton’s Mercedes later all-but matched on the same compound.
Hamilton predicts Mercedes-Ferrari gap
But Ferrari’s impressive winter finished early when their SF90 stopped on track with an electrical problem – the third reliability glitch to hit the winter pacesetters in as many days.
Valtteri Bottas, who drove the Mercedes during the morning, was third on the final-day timesheet ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, who surged to fourth late on with their best time of testing.
But Red Bull completed just 29 laps on the final day after a gearbox problem kept Max Verstappen in the garage from mid-morning.
“Ferrari are the fastest,” said Hamilton. “This is going to be the toughest battle yet.
“I think the gap is potentially half a second.”
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The fastest laps at F1 Testing
Most observers have consistently placed Ferrari ahead of Mercedes in analysis of short and long runs, but Mercedes’s late surge may have complicated the picture.
While effectively matching Vettel’s pace on the fastest tyre, Hamilton earlier posted a lap time of 1:16.628 on the slower C4 tyres which was quicker than Ferrari managed.
Vettel, however, clocked an impressive 1:16.7 on the next hardest tyre, the C3, which tyre-corrected stands as the most impressive of the winter.
Teams rack up the miles…but Red Bull miss out
Impressively, eight of F1’s 10 teams have racked up over 800 laps during the eight-day testing programme and most teams took full advantage of the final session to complete both qualifying-style practice and race simulations.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz completed the most laps for one driver, 134, with Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo and Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso also running particularly long.
The same could not be said for Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, with the Dutchman missing the whole afternoon after a gearbox problem struck his RB15.
He had earlier posted his best time of testing, but finished down in 11th place having not completed a qualy-style run. It was an unfortunate end to an otherwise encouraging programme for Red Bull-Honda, who lost the final hours of Thursday after Pierre Gasly crashed heavily.
“The guys already did an amazing job to get the car turned around after yesterday,” said Verstappen, confirming the gearbox issue. “But unfortunately we were a bit limited with the parts we had so we couldn’t get out [in the afternoon].”
He added: “I think we had a very strong winter test. [Ferrari and Mercedes] always going to be quick and I don’t know where we’ll be exactly, but looking at the long-run pace I’m optimistic.”
Compound 1 is the hardest tyre, Compound 5 is the softest.
F1 Testing: Day Four, Test Two Timesheet Driver Team Total laps Fastest lap tyre Fastest lap 1) Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 110 Compound 5 1:16.221 2) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 61 Compound 5 1:16.224 3) Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 71 Compound 5 1:16.561 4) Nico Hulkenberg Renault 51 Compound 5 1:16.843 5) Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 131 Compound 5 1:16.898 6) Carlos Sainz McLaren 134 Compound 5 1:16.913 7) Romain Grosjean Haas 73 Compound 5 1:17.076 8) Daniel Ricciardo Renault 52 Compound 5 1:17.114 9) Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 132 Compound 5 1:17.239 10) Kevin Magnussen Haas 94 Compound 5 1:17.565 11) Max Verstappen Red Bull 29 Compound 3 1:17.709 12) Sergio Perez Racing Point 104 Compound 5 1:17.791 13) Robert Kubica Williams 90 Compound 5 1:18.993
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