Watch: Vettel sets the pace, H

Image via @pirellisport

Watch: Vettel sets the pace, Hamilton joins red flag list

Mercedes experienced a fourth engine related issue in testing, limiting Lewis Hamilton to 14 laps on the penultimate day of pre-season testing.

Watch: Vettel sets the pace, H

Image via @pirellisport

Lewis Hamilton brought out the red flags for the first time in his pre-season on Thursday, coasting to a halt at the Circuit de Catalunya.

The British racer’s W11 lost power between Turn 6 and 7, bringing an early end to his day out on track.

It was the works team’s second engine issue, and Mercedes’ fourth overall for testing.

Mercedes PU issues mounting

After Williams was forced to swap to a third power unit on Wednesday, Mercedes was hoping its engine troubles were over.

They weren’t.

Hamilton lost power at the Barcelona circuit on Thursday afternoon, grinding to a halt just after Turn 6.

The Brit had embarked on a race simulation but was instead kept to just 14 laps for the day.

Mercedes revealed it was yet another power unit problem to go with Valtteri Bottas’ issue from the opening test and Williams’ two.

“Lewis Hamilton stopped on track due to an oil pressure anomaly, which made the engine shut down as a precautionary measure,” said the team.

“We will keep investigating further but unfortunately that concludes our running for the day.”

As for Hamilton, the reigning World Champion says it is not ideal, but it is not the end of the world either.

“I only got 14 laps in today, but during those 14 laps, everything was feeling fine.

“It’s obviously not ideal that we didn’t get a full day of running in and we experienced this issue, but there are lots of learnings to take from today.

“Rather than looking at the negatives, we’ve discovered some things we need to work on, and we’ll keep pushing hard to resolve them and keep working away.

“I’m looking forward to being back in the car tomorrow morning and adding to the mileage we’ve already achieved.”

Ferrari breaks Mercedes, Alfa stranglehold

Ferrari finally claimed its first P1 of the pre-season thanks to Sebastian Vettel’s 1:16.841.

Bolting a set of C4 tyres onto the SF1000, Vettel hit the top of the timesheet in the morning’s session before spinning.

He was one of three drivers to fall foul of Turn 5, cutting through the gravel and spewing buckets of stones back onto the track.

That meant a red flag, not for a stricken Ferrari, but for the marshals to sweep up the gravel.

Vettel’s time stood through to the chequered flag despite a late effort from Pierre Gasly.

“We can feel the car is better, I think sector three feels better,” Vettel told Autosport.

“We also know that it does come with a trade. We still have some work to do, we are slower than we want down the straights because we are a bit draggy.

“We are aware of that, but the objective was to put more downforce on the car which I think we did.

“Sector three does feel better, but obviously getting out of sector three and down to Turn 1 doesn’t feel as good as last year.

“Certainly in the corners is where you feel the difference, and where we improved, but it looks like others are even a bit faster.”

Gasly, driving the AlphaTauri, fell 0.225s short while Lance Stroll was a further 0.052s down.

It was a great day out on track for Nicholas Latifi as he not only covered 160 laps for Williams but finished P4 ahead of Lando Norris and Max Verstappen.

Two spins and a red for Verstappen

Although Verstappen finished 0.897s down on Vettel, it was anything but a good day for the Red Bull driver.

He spun early in the day, getting it wrong at Turn 15 as the wind buffetted the drivers, before an even bigger moment at Turn 5.

Joining Vettel and Valtteri Bottas in the gravel down there, Verstappen decided to beach his RB16 and brought out the red flags.

The Dutchman concedes he got it a bit wrong.

“I looked back on the footage and I clipped two wheels on a damp patch,” he explained.

“I tried to use a bit too much road and didn’t see the damp patch so that was the issue.

“There was no damage, but by the time the car is brought back to the pits and all the gravel is removed, you’ll easily lose half an hour.”

Bottas, Esteban Ocon, Kevin Magnussen and Alexander Albon completed the top ten.

The lap times

1 – Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari – 1:16.841s – 145 laps
2 – Pierre Gasly – AlphaTauri – 1:17.066s – +0.225 – 139 laps
3 – Lance Stroll – Racing Point – 1:17.118s – +0.277 – 130 laps
4 – Nicholas Latifi – Williams – 1:17.313s – +0.472 – 160 laps
5 – Lando Norris – McLaren – 1:17.573s – +0.732 – 113 laps
6 – Max Verstappen – Red Bull – 1:17.738s – +0.897 – 31 laps
7 – Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes – 1:17.985s – +1.144 – 47 laps
8 – Esteban Ocon – Renault – 1:8.013s – +1.172 – 37 laps
9 – Kevin Magnussen – Haas – 1:18.225s – +1.384 – 111 laps
10 – Alex Albon – Red Bull – 1:18.393s – +1.552 – 61 laps
11 – Daniel Ricciardo – Renault – 1:18.395s – +1.554 – 59 laps
12 – Antonio Giovinazzi – Alfa Romeo – 1:19.670s – +2.829 – 92 laps
13 – Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 1:22.425s – +5.584 – 14 laps