Dan Istitene/Getty Images
March 9, 2017
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel set the fastest lap time of Formula One pre-season testing so far in Thursday’s morning session in Barcelona, Spain, as there were further woes for struggling McLaren.
On the penultimate day of the winter action at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Vettel posted a blistering lap of one minute, 19.024 seconds on the ultrasoft tyres having impressed on the soft compound earlier in the session.
Stoffel Vandoorne enjoyed a decent start to proceedings as he set McLaren’s fastest lap of testing so far, a 1:21.671 on ultrasofts. But he then drew two red flags late on as he broke down twice—first on the pit straight—to continue a miserable few days for his team.
Here is what the timesheet looked like after the early action in Catalonia on Thursday, per the FIA:
#F1 After the morning session of the penultimate day of #F1Testing, Vettel is fastest for @ScuderiaFerrari https://t.co/FiotsCrFoG
3/9/2017, 12:07:54 PM
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was very quick out of the blocks as he posted an early 1:20.686 on supersoft tyres.
He later registered his fastest time of pre-season testing with a 1:19.352 on ultrasofts as he tried to better Vettel’s time, but it was only enough for second place on a morning that was all about the Ferrari driver.
A 1:19.341 for the four-time world champion three-quarters of the way through the session was a huge statement from Vettel given it was on the soft-compound tyre, per Sky Sports’ Rachel Brookes:
Rachel Brookes @RachelBrookesTV
Wow what a lap from Vettel! Definitely softs! Watching trackside and it looked quick…. #skyf1 #ssnhq https://t.co/zqy4qIBNJW
3/9/2017, 10:40:56 AM
He then donned the supersofts and improved again before breaking out the ultrasofts and setting his 1:19.024, taking a big chunk out of Valtteri Bottas’s benchmark 1:19.310 lap from Wednesday’s action.
As noted by Autosport Live, the Ferrari also looked to have plenty more to give as Vettel eased off in the final sector:
Autosport Live @autosportlive
Vettel: 1m19.024s. But he’s coasting up to the line. Ferrari in full tease mode. #F1
3/9/2017, 11:41:05 AM
Ferrari have enjoyed an impressive seven days of testing so far and proved their pace on Thursday morning, setting a benchmark that may not be beaten before close of play on Friday.
Conversely, McLaren have endured a torrid couple of weeks as their Honda engine has caused a multitude of problems.
Indeed, Fernando Alonso criticised the Honda for having “no reliability and no power” on Wednesday, per BBC Sport’s Andrew Benson.
However, the session started positively for Vandoorne on Thursday, as he got some laps under his belt and produced McLaren’s fastest time so far in 2017.
Even after the first breakdown, the team were able to get the car back out on track for the end of the session.
However, moments later, the McLaren again drew to a halt, this time at Turn 10, prompting another red flag and effectively ending the morning’s action.