Testing – Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel set the pace on Thursday morning at the Circuit de Catalunya, setting a new best time of testing and a new, unofficial lap record for the circuit.
The penultimate day of winter testing began with the same weather conditions as Wednesday – bright, brisk but warming, a track temperature approaching 20 degrees – ideal conditions to get started.
It was a busy morning, with plenty of lapping on the board from all, with only Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson staying off the timesheets at the end of the first hour. McLaren, keen to make up for missing most of Wednesday due to mechanical problems, sent Stoffel Vandoorne straight out and his initial times on the HyperSoft Pirellis put him at the top.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel wasn’t far behind though. There’s no questioning his fitness ahead of this season – this if the third consecutive day where Vettel has been on duty after Kimi Raikkonen fell ill on Wednesday. While the Finn did put in an afternoon shift yesterday, Vettel has been pounding around the Spanish circuit for what must feel like an eternity, but he showed no signs of fatigue as he set about unleashing the SF71-H.
First, Vettel put in a 1:18.074 on the UltraSoft tyre, a time that all but matched Ricciardo’s record time from Wednesday, and on a tyre that is supposedly a step slower than the Hypers that the Red Bull driver used to set his. This suggested the Ferrari had more pace to find and, swapping to HyperSofts shortly afterwards, Vettel put in an astonishing 1:17.6 to go 0.4 clear of the already impressive lap record for the circuit in its current layout. This time is the fastest seen at pre-season testing so far.
Moments later, he went again on a fresh set and put in a 1:17.297 and left time on the table in the third sector, before making up some of that time to set a 1:17.182 next time around.
Sebastian Vettel obliterates the unofficial lap record with a 1:17.644! 😮
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 8, 2018
Kevin Magnussen finished the morning P2 for Haas, putting in an impressive 1:18.5 on the SuperSoft tyre.
Nico Hulkenberg finished the morning P3, with a time of 1:18.6 on the HyperSoft tyre. Interestingly, this was 0.2 clear of what Stoffel Vandoorne could manage on the same tyre in the Renault-powered McLaren, although 0.6 slower than Ricciardo’s time in the Red Bull Renault yesterday. Pierre Gasly put in a late lap on the HyperSoft to snatch P4 away from Vandoorne, with the Belgian P5 in the morning.
The afternoon saw attention switch to long runs, and there was very little change in the order. Pierre Gasly did vault up to P3 with a late time on the HyperSoft tyre, while Lewis Hamilton, who took over the wheel of the Mercedes, moved to P8 ahead of Bottas with the team only running Medium tyre long runs.
- Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:17.182 188 laps (HyperSoft)
- Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:18.360 150 laps (SuperSoft)
- Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso, 1:18.363 168 laps (HyperSoft)
- Nico Hulkenberg 1:18.675 79 laps (HyperSoft)
- Carlos Sainz 1:18.725 69 laps
- Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren, 1:18.855 147 laps (HyperSoft)
- Marcus Ericsson Sauber, 1:19.244 145 laps (HyperSoft)
- Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:19.296 84 laps
- Valtteri Bottas Mercedes, 1:19.532 98 laps (Medium)
- Robert Kubica Williams, 1:19.629 73 laps (SuperSoft)
- Sergio Perez Force India, 1:19.634 155 laps (HyperSoft)
- Max Verstappen Red Bull, 1:19.842 187 laps (Soft)
- Lance Stroll Williams 62 laps 1:20.262