Sebastian Vettel suffered a heavy crash during the final pre-season test in Barcelona, while Carlos Sainz kept McLaren atop the timesheets.
A suspected mechanical failure on the front left corner of Vettel’s Ferrari caused the German go straight on at the entry to the high-speed Turn 3, hitting the Tecpro barrier on the outside of the circuit and causing significant damage.
Testing was delayed by 40 minutes while the car was recovered and the barrier repaired, with Vettel being checked over in the medical center and quickly released.
The incident occurred after Vettel had completed 40 laps in the morning session. Ferrari spent the rest of the day rebuilding the car and investigating the cause of the crash, meaning Charles Leclerc did not emerge until the final 10 minutes and completed just a solitary installation lap.
At the time of Vettel’s crash, Sainz had already set the fastest time of pre-season so far, the new McLaren MC34 showing an encouraging turn of pace. Two one-lap runs on the soft C4 compound tire saw Sainz post a 1m17.144s best, meaning McLaren has topped both days of the final test.
Asked by RACER how close to qualifying specification he was, Sainz replied: “It’s not for me to comment on that, but if you are clever enough to see our kind of running, then you would guess that it was a good try.”
His teammate Lando Norris set the pace yesterday but stopped twice on track as McLaren was limited to a total of 80 laps, meaning there was a sense of deja vu today as Sainz caused the first red flag of the day shortly after registering his fastest time. The Spaniard stopped on the exit of the pit lane with a loss of water pressure, but lost only 20 minutes before returning and finished with a total of 130 to boast the joint-highest individual mileage of the day.
That was the first of three red flags. Max Verstappen triggered the next, his Red Bull shutting off as he tried to leave the pits and needing s push back down pit lane. That short stoppage was then immediately followed by Vettel’s crash, but after that was cleaned up, running carried on uninterrupted to the end.
Despite his incident, Vettel’s morning time on the middle C3 compound looked set to finish second to Sainz until a late lap from Sergio Perez put the Racing Point ahead of the Ferrari. Perez was still 0.7s adrift of Sainz while using the softest C5 tire, although in warm temperatures the softest compound is not well suited to the Barcelona circuit.
Kimi Raikkonen was fourth for Alfa Romeo but ended the day stopped in the middle sector with less than 60 seconds remaining dues to what apparently a successful fuel run out test. It was another productive day for the former Sauber team, with Raikkonen managing 113 laps and ending up just 0.014s adrift of Vettel on the C4.
A number of teams carried out race simulations, with Red Bull one of those on Wednesday, Verstappend continuing what had been a strong pre-season for the team. A full pit wall and live pit stops marked out the simulation, during which the Dutchman racked up 128 total laps despite his brief morning stoppage.
Verstappen’s best lap of 1m 18.395s came on the C3 tire, leaving him 0.065s slower than Romain Grosjean as Haas ran the softest compound.
Both Honda-powered teams broke the 100-lap barrier on Wednesday, with Daniil Kvyat posting a 1m 18.682s on the C4. Kvyat admitted after the session that his running was hampered by a number of “small issues”, without going into specifics.
Mercedes bounced back from a difficult opening day — when Valtteri Bottas missed out on significant running due to the need for a power unit change — to amass 176 laps in total. Bottas and Lewis Hamilton were separated by just 0.002s as both used the C3, and Hamilton carried out a race simulation in the afternoon session.
Renault evaluated a number of new parts as Daniel Ricciardo’s long running in the morning session limited him to a 1m 22.597s on the hardest tire compound, while Nico Hulkenberg took over after lunch and spent time running a front wing sensor.
Robert Kubica ensured Williams continued to make up for lost time with another strong day in terms of mileage, matching Sainz’s total of 130 laps. Kubica’s best lap of 1m 19.367s came on the softest tire but was 0.3s quicker than George Russell managed on Tuesday and ensured there was just 1.5 seconds between nine of the ten teams, McLaren, though, enjoying a 0.7s advantage.