Valtteri Bottas ended the first pre-season test on a strong note while Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel lost time with an engine failure on the third day in Barcelona.
In the morning session, Bottas used the softest compound of tire and went comfortably quicker than the rest of the field. The Finn posted a 1m15.732s to get within 0.4s of his pole position time from last year’s Spanish Grand Prix, a lap that is the current track record for a Formula 1 car.
That suggests that record is likely to be beaten next week when teams start to work more on performance, but on Friday there was no threat to Bottas’ time, as teammate Lewis Hamilton could only register a 1m16.516s on the same C5 compound. Nearly 0.7s of the deficit came in the final sector, where Hamilton was scruffy compared to his teammate in the lower speed section.
It was also a quieter day for Mercedes in terms of mileage compared to the first two days, although that is relative, with a combined 138 laps completed.
Esteban Ocon was third – 1.3s off the pace – after a strong morning for Renault, but there was a more incident-filled afternoon for teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who caused one of four red flags on the day when he stopped on the run to Turn 9. Ricciardo did make it back out on track later on, but suffered a spin at the chicane, finishing with 93 laps to his name.
While Ricciardo’s stoppage was a short one, Ferrari lost significant running when Sebastian Vettel suffered an engine failure 90 minutes into the day. The team confirmed it will send the power unit back to Maranello for investigations, and Vettel did not return to action until the afternoon session.
Team principal Mattia Binotto insists that Ferrari is not yet doing any setup or performance work, but Vettel’s final position of 13th – some 2.6s off Bottas – will be a concern even if it just managed to reach the 100 lap mark.
Racing Point remained quick with Lance Stroll fourth-fastest and one of three drivers to exceed 100 laps. Antonio Giovinazzi’s final total of 152 was the highest; the Alfa Romeo driver ended up sixth.
Sandwiched between them was Daniil Kvyat, leaving AlphaTauri to finish all three days with a car in fifth position on the timing screens. Kvyat posted a 1m17.427s on the C4 compound, this time ending up as the lead Honda-powered car as Red Bull split running. Max Verstappen was eighth and Alexander Albon 10th, the pair combining for 169 laps – the most achieved by one team on Friday.
Honda had changed a power unit during Thursday’s running but reverted to the one that was removed on the final day, so will have been encouraged by its reliability.
The bottom two positions were taken up by drivers who hit trouble, with Nicholas Latifi 15th after suffering a loss of drive when crossing the finish line in the morning session. That was the second red flag after Vettel’s problem, and cost Williams a fair chunk of running, leaving the team with just 72 laps in total.
Things were worse for Kevin Magnussen, who suffered a puncture on just his fourth lap after taking over from Romain Grosjean in the afternoon session.
The issue caused Magnussen spin at Turn 8 and slide into the barrier, damaging the front wing and preventing the team from running again, with Grosjean’s best lap some 2.5s off the pace and 1.2s adrift of Ocon in third.