Vettel leads opening practice day as McLaren woes continue

Vettel leads opening practice day as McLaren woes continue

Formula 1

Vettel leads opening practice day as McLaren woes continue

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Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time on the opening day of the second pre-season test in Barcelona as McLaren suffered another day of poor reliability.

With teams keen to make the most of good weather following cold conditions during the first test, Ferrari enjoyed a near-perfect day as Vettel set the pace on a 1m20.396s lap and led the way in terms of mileage for one driver. The German completed a mammoth 171 laps on Tuesday and was exactly 0.2s clear of Valtteri Bottas despite having set his fastest time on the medium tire compared to the Mercedes on the soft.

While Vettel spent the full day in the Ferrari, Mercedes split its running between its two drivers – as it has throughout testing – and Bottas’ 86 lap total was followed by Lewis Hamilton amassing a further 91 laps in the afternoon session. Hamilton ended up fourth quickest – 0.412s adrift of Vettel – on the soft tire, with Max Verstappen splitting the two Mercedes drivers.

Verstappen posted a 1m20.649s on the medium tire and recovered from a poor end to the first test to complete 130 laps on Tuesday, although he did stop on the pit straight in the afternoon to bring out the red flag.

The Red Bull issue was one of four red flag stoppages, with one for debris and the other two due to Stoffel Vandoorne’s McLaren. The day started ominously as Vandoorne coasted into the pit lane at the end of his installation lap with what later turned out to be an electronics issue, and the same problem again caused the McLaren to shut down on track after just four laps and stop exiting the final corner.

Although the team got Vandoorne out for a couple of laps at the lunch break as part of a Virtual Safety Car test, he had reached just 38 laps when he stopped at Turn 3 with a hydraulic issue that ended the day prematurely and left him 12th out of 13 drivers on the timing screens.

At lunchtime, it appeared there would be another strong day for Toro Rosso to rub salt into McLaren’s wounds but Pierre Gasly failed to emerge after lunch as a result of a brake system issue and ended with a total of 54 laps. The Frenchman did still set the fifth-fastest time – just over half a second off Vettel’s pace – having used the soft tire for his quickest lap.

On a competitive day as no driver dipped below the 1m20s mark, Kevin Magnussen was also within a second of the overall pace in sixth place. Then came the two Renaults of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz, although Hulkenberg only managed 48 laps in the morning session.

Sergio Perez gave Force India some much-needed mileage after it struggled in the opening week, but an off-track moment at Turn 4 – which caused a red flag – caused some light damage to the floor that prevented the Mexican from reaching 100 laps.

Lap times were a little more comparable courtesy of the top ten all using soft or medium tires to set their best times, with Marcus Ericsson in 11th – 1.3s off the pace after 120 laps – the first supersoft runner.

While there was an hour-long lunch break on Tuesday, Wednesday’s running will be uninterrupted in order to help teams make up for some of the track time lost in the opening week.

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