Sebastian Vettel put Ferrari back on top in the penultimate day of the final Formula 1 pre-season test at Barcelona.
The four-time world champion set a new test benchmark by recording a 1:19.024s, which was 0.3s quicker than the previous fastest time set by Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas yesterday.
Vettel’s effort arrived in the morning session on the ultra-soft compound tyres.
The time was never threatened with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton 0.3s adrift on the same specification tyres.
Despite the effort, Vettel is refusing to declare Ferrari as the favourites heading into 2017 season opener at Australia’s Albert Park later this month.
“The car is much better than last year because the nature of the formula has changed, so far things are making sense – but it’s still early days,” said Vettel.
“If you look at the amount of laps Mercedes has done, if you look historically how slow they go in the testing, how much they were able to ramp it up for the races its clear.
“They’re very fast if you look at their long-run pace. They’re the ones to beat.
“For us it doesn’t really matter where exactly we are now, we are growing, we need to work hard, we know that we have to improve
“That’s why it’s important not to get distracted right now.”
Force India’s Esteban Ocon was third fastest albeit 1.1s shy of Vettel’s pace.
Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat was fourth although the Russian caused the first red flag of the session when he stopped at Turn 5 in the early stages.
Kevin Magnussen put the Haas F1 into fifth on ultra-soft tyres ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo on the soft tyres.
McLaren’s struggles continued as electrical issues restricted Stoffel Vandoorne to just 48 laps.
The Belgian was seventh fastest on the ultra-soft tyres just in front of Bottas, who clocked his best time on the soft in the afternoon.
The top 10 was completed by Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein and Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, who stopped on track at Turn 10 after undergoing a power unit change.
Williams split its running between Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll as the pair evaluated medium and soft compound tyres.
The duo occupied the final spots on the time sheets.
The final day of pre-season testing begins this evening.
Result: Formula 1 Second Pre-Season Test Day 3, Barcelona
|3||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||1:20.161s||+1.137s||137|
|4||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Renault||1:20.416s||+1.392s||94|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||1:20.824s||+1.800s||128|