Vettel’s time of a 1 minute 19.673 seconds, set on a set of soft Pirelli tyres, was over three-tenths faster than Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport‘s Valtteri Bottas with Stoffel Vandoorne ending the day a promising third for the McLaren F1 Team – a further three-tenths behind Bottas.
Another day of cold conditions at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya saw several drivers experience major problems with grip as air temperatures started the morning below freezing. Snow fell late in the day, putting an end to the serious running with over an hour left. The day also saw the removal of a determined lunchbreak due to the time lost yesterday, again through cold weather.
Bottas, Vettel and Vandoorne trade early blows
At the back end of the morning, Bottas became the first man to set a serious time, a 1:20.806 that was quickly beaten by Vandoorne on hyper-softs by half-a-second. The Finn responded just shy of midday on soft tyres, with a 1:20.270 – it was good enough to see him end the effective morning session on top.
Briefly, the red flags put a halt to proceedings. Rookie Charles Leclerc put his Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team car in the gravel at Turn 4 whilst struggling for grip. Fourteen minutes later, the green flags reappeared, Vettel overthrowing Bottas at the top on mediums, a fraction away from breaking into the 1 minute 19 barrier.
Moments later, Vettel pushed a little too hard at Turn 2, with the track requiring a quick sweep of any detritus. Fortunately, the German escaped with no damage and trundled back to the pits.
No one could trump the improving Vettel, who did get into the ’19’s’ before four o’clock. A 1:19.964 was swiftly lowered to the fastest time of the day, a 19.673.
With the aforementioned snow bringing track temperatures below 8°C, the final hour lacked any serious running.
Max Verstappen took fourth for Red Bull on medium tyres, completing 67 laps in the process; taking the team’s tally over the first two days to 172 laps.
Toro Rosso enjoy another promising day
His former Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. affirmed the belief that the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team do have pace in the new R.S.18, whilst Pierre Gasly ran trouble-free over 82 laps for Toro Rosso; Honda seem to have a decent base reliability this winter.
In his first winter testing period for seven years, Robert Kubica clocked the seventh fastest time of the day for Williams Martini Racing on soft tyres, a 1:21.495 was four-tenths faster than team-mate Sergey Sirotkin who settled behind the Pole in eighth. Williams completed 100 laps – split 48-52 in the Russian’s favour.
The two tail-enders both suffered incidents. Leclerc went off again at Turn 4 as he pushed the limits but carried on, whilst Kevin Magnussen did superbly well not to end the Haas F1 Team‘s day in the barriers at the same spot.
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